After a dreary first week at the Olympics where strong contenders from India fell by the wayside, the second week produced unexpected winners and medals for players, who did not start out as favourites to win any. There have been a lot of very positive outcomes from the recently concluded games at Rio in Brazil for us Indians:
This time around, India had sent the largest ever contingent to the Olympic Games. Simply qualifying to participate is a significant achievement so the 120 Indian athletes who took part in 12 different sports were already achievers even before they left for those distant shores.
Dipa Karmarkar, the gymnast from Tripura was the first Indian woman ever to make it to the Olympics in gymnatics. The Indian women’s hockey team, Avatar Singh in Judo represented the country after several Olympics with no Indian representation. Dattu Bhokanal also qualified for rowing; the first and only Indian for his event.
This cricket mad nation for once, was watching sports other than cricket and was cheering for men and women not wielding a willow; praying for players other than cricketers. Does this mark an interest in other sports and the tapering off of cricket mania in India? Time will tell.
For once, Indians were watching sports other than cricket on the TV. Viewers were waking up early or staying up till late to catch not only Indian performances but other headline events at Rio. Though viewership was predictably higher for tennis and hockey, other events also found significant viewership.
While the medal winners received all sorts of monetary awards from associations and government bodies, it was the welcome from the public that was most indicative of how happy the hoi polloi was to welcome the athletes.
Thousands lined the streets in Hyderabad to greet silver medal winner P V Sindhu and there was a tumultuous turnout in Agartala for Dipa Karmarkar as well.
Experts are busy debating the best way to give the proper impetus to sport in India. People are looking at ways to identify talent early, develop proper infrastructure and facilities and ways to make funding and coaching available to promising individuals so that we fare better at Tokyo in 2020.
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