Making India a sporting nation

Source: The Hindu

Relevance: Improving India’s performance in Olympics

Synopsis: Factors behind India’s sporting performance in Olympics, why it lags and steps to improve it.

Factors governing performance

There are many factors which are important in determining the performance of a nation in various sports.

  • Beyond a threshold level, the average standard of living in a nation and the country’s population size may be important determinants for its performance at the Olympics.
  • Genetic factors are also no less important. This is clear from the following examples:
    • Height matters: The U.S., Australia and the Netherlands are powerhouses in swimming, but not China. Perhaps, taller people have an advantage in swimming or basketball but height is not important in shooting or gymnastics.
    • China excels in shooting along with the U.S. and Germany.
    • East Asian nations do better at table tennis than Western nations.
    • Russia, East European nations and Central Asian countries do well in amateur boxing whereas China and Central Asians countries do better in weightlifting and wrestling.
  • Mobilization of resources for athletes and sportspersons also impacts their performance by giving them an edge over the others. Such infrastructure makes the U.S. the superpower in athletics and gymnastics, Germany in equestrian, and the U.K. in diving, sailing and cycling. For poor nations, creating such infrastructure is a luxury.
GDP vs performance in sports

The size of total GDP is hardly important in countries like India where a sizable segment is fighting hunger. A person of poor health can never be a good sportsperson. In countries where there are high levels of stunted growth, malnutrition and anaemia, we cannot expect good athletes. Thus, South Asian countries and countries in Sub-Saharan Africa don’t fit in the econometric models built on total GDP.

Why smaller countries win more medals than India?
  • India is moderately good but not good enough: Asian countries such as Kazakhstan, Singapore and Malaysia may stand below India in the medal’s tally at the Asian Games, but are ahead of it at the Olympics. This is primarily because India is moderately good at many sports but not good enough to be the best at any of them. In contrast, Jamaica does well at the Olympics in sprinting and Kenya gets medals in long-distance running. They perform better than India though they are not great sporting nations.
Suggestions 
  • India needs to concentrate more on sports where the physical build of an average Indian will not stand as a disadvantage.
  • One state, One sport policy: States need to be integrated in a bigger way in India’s sports policy.People of different States have different food habits and build. We should develop training infrastructure for different sports in different parts of the country depending on the inclination of people of that area and their habits and build.

 

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