By Manisha Malhotra
A short while ago, the sports ministry announced that it has earmarked Rs 258 crore to prepare athletes for the upcoming Olympic Games next year. While this is a positive step, it's well recognised that the countries that really want to win medals start planning years ahead rather than with just 12 months to go. India, as it tends to on most occasions, has waited till the last moment.
It must be acknowledged that sport in the country is not where it was seven years ago. The athletes do get adequate exposures and we have enough athletes to compete at the continental level, so they all get foreign trips too. The money also given to sport is far more than it was in the past.
However, as the results have shown, money alone will not significantly improve our standings in the medal tally.
At this point of time, India doesn’t lack the funds, but lacks the expertise needed to get us to the top. We don’t have any forward planning and don’t have the necessary know-how to groom our athletes and the sport, along with them.
We are always turning to foreign experts and even the ones we bring in still don’t give them any decision-making power and end up getting frustrated and leave -- Ric Charlesworth is a good example. Neither do we have the administrators who are planning each sport to achieve its best results and keep improving.
While camps and preparations started for the Commonwealth Games two years in advance, the preparation for the Olympics only gets 13 months. The fact of the matter is that the people advising the decision makers themselves have limited knowledge.
The government observers in most of the sports have no idea of the international levels and have not left the country in years. Why can’t experts of repute and no bias be hired as “observers” on behalf of the government?
The money allocated now can still make some sort of difference if it's spent more methodically and serve the exact needs of the athletes? The question is who is going to be directing that flow. We expect athletes to know what they need and while some of them might, a majority have no clue. Again, the issue is that we need experts to come in and tell us how to do it.
Unless we can get a system tailor-made for our athletes by someone who is from the country and understands the various facets of our culture and psyche, we will never get sustainable results. Medals at the Olympics cannot be won by just spending money. There has to be a combination of money, expertise, talent, planning and even then there is no guarantee.
Manisha Malhotra is an ex-professional tennis player who is now the CEO of the Mittal Champions Trust where she spends her time nurturing sportsmen and tries to extricate them from the mess called Indian sport.
Published Date: Jun 21, 2011 01:09 pm | Updated Date: Jun 21, 2011 05:10 pm