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Is India's lack of Olympic gold 'mystifying' or are we thinking about global sporting success all wrong?

beijingwalker

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Average number of medals won per capita at the Summer Olympics from 1896 to 2016


Finns, Hungarians and Swedes are looking very mighty.
Per capita wise Jamaica could be the best.
 

nahtanbob

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Emma Mckeon, Brittany Elmslie, Bronte Campbell and Cate Campbell after winning the Women's 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay at the 2016 Olympic Games.(Getty Images: Odd Andersen/AFP)


Just what makes a country a global sporting success?

Is it Olympic medals? Winning the FIFA World Cup? Is the answer instead in a strong domestic competition — even if it's a sport virtually no-one else in the world plays?

Or is all this chasing glory distracting us from where our money should really be spent?

Let's look at India.

It has a population of more than 1.3 billion, one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and more than 100 billionaires.

But at the last Summer Olympics it won just one silver and one bronze. It's only won two gold medals in the last 50 years.

Australia won 29 medals at the last Games. Aussies have picked up 96 gold in the last 50 years.

The two countries have in common a colonial past and dominate in cricket. Both have massively popular domestic competitions in sports few other countries play — in Australia, AFL. In India, kabaddi — but more on that later.

India's Virat Kohli yells in celebration as in the foreground Aaron Finch walks away.'s Virat Kohli yells in celebration as in the foreground Aaron Finch walks away.

India and Australia share success in cricket.(Getty: Darrian Traynor/Cricket Australia)

The post-colonial hangover

Simon Chadwick, the director of Eurasian sport at business school emlyon, says given how increasingly powerful and outward looking India is, its Olympic record is puzzling.

"I'm often left mystified by India's relative lack of success in global sport," he tells ABC RN's Sporty.

"In terms of population size alone, that's a very poor Olympic medal return."

He argues while the country could be a major player, it's too inwardly focused.

Bangalore-based sports journalist Sharda Ugra says India's lack of success at the Olympics hurts.

"For a long time, Indians were very apologetic about what we were — they had self-esteem issues, let's say. It's a post-colonial hangover," she says.

"Once the Indian economy opened up in the 1990s that changed public perception of themselves, but you want to see that represented at a global level."

Indian Olympian Pusarla V. Sindhu kisses her silver medal.

India's Pusarla V. Sindhu won a silver medal in women's singles badminton match at the Rio Olympics in 2016.(Getty: Goh Chai Hin/AFP)

She says poorly managed sports governance in India is largely to blame — the exception being the juggernauts of cricket's India Premier League (IPL) and the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL).

But she says people are finding pride and self-confidence in those massively successful local competitions.

"Maybe there's a generational shift in the kind of sports watchers and participants, that there are spectators and people who invest money in Indian sport," she says.

"Maybe there is a change, that they are now far more confident about saying 'It's OK'."


Matthew Nicholson heads the Centre for Sport and Social Impact at La Trobe University.

He says Australia's focus on domestic sports that are either Commonwealth only (cricket and netball) or unique to Australia (AFL) hasn't hurt our international performance too much.

"There were a series of events in Australia's history that perhaps allowed us to capitalise on our sports performance and punch well above our weight."

He says the poor performance at the 1976 Montreal Olympics — which lead to the creation of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) — spurred the country into action.

"Had we have perhaps not had that failure, then maybe we would have just gone along, and not participated in international sporting landscape in the way that we have. The 2000 Olympics were clearly the crowning glory."

What is India's kabaddi?
In the game — described as a mix between tag and wrestling — a team of seven sends one of their players (the raider) into the other team's side of the court to tag other players and make it back to their side without getting trapped.

A kabaddi player wearing red leaps over a competitor as other players and an arena crowd watch on.

The Pro Kabaddi League has leapfrogged other codes to earn a following second only to cricket.(Getty: Sam Panthaky/AFP)

The raider does this while chanting "kabaddi" — they're not allowed to take another breath while on their opponents' side.

There's a lot of strategy and agility, tackling and dodging.

Ugra says the creation of the PKL has shaken off the sport's "yokel image" — it's now India's second most popular competition, behind cricket's IPL.



"It has just thrown everything else off the chart," she says.

"Literally that was created out of just a television broadcaster and an entrepreneur who saw the potential and the simplicity of kabaddi — how easy it was to understand and how easy it was to televise."

Ugra says the sport, which underwent some rule tweaks to better suit TV, now has a broadcast package more expensive than the country's football league.

Chadwick says kabaddi is India's "best kept secret".

"I think kabaddi over the next five to 10 years is going to be really interesting to observe," he says.

"Internationally and globally Indian influence in the global sporting environment I think may well rest upon the success of kabaddi.

"Huge amounts of money are now being invested into kabaddi and there are some interesting developments around TV rights for example."

Win at what cost?
Statues outside the Australian Institute of Sport

Funding both elite sport through the AIS and programs to encourage physical activity is a balancing act, Nicholoson says.(ABC News)

Chadwick says while other countries may win more Olympic medals, it comes at a cost

"There's no rule out there in the world that every country has to be globally successful at sport," he says.

"Within Scandinavian countries governments are much more focused on health and lifestyle and the participation of their populations in sport.

"You may not have those kind of big Norwegian sports stars that you would normally associate with say, the United States, what you do have is a very fit very active population."

He says the UK's government has created a sports system that's essentially a medals factory — only the US won more gold at the Rio games.

But that "win at all costs mentality" is creating some serious issues.

"A lot of professional athletes are coming out and say, hey, there's a bullying culture, there's a culture of discrimination."


Nicholson says Australia's struggled to strike the balance between striving for international success and promoting physical activity.

"We have aimed for Olympic success, and world championship success, perhaps at the expense of participation and the expense of the general health of the population."

He says elite sport policy and the AIS have had essentially unchallenged bipartisan political support for 40 years, whereas participation policies are at the mercy of election cycles and can change every three years.

"Australia has struggled to balance that priority and has a childhood obesity problem and an adult obesity and overweight problem as a result of not quite being in the Norway or Scandinavian camp," he says.

"The peak being, the 2000 Olympics, really trying to focus on trying to get soft power outcomes through its events and its sporting successes."

Kim Brennan smiles as people wave flags to welcome the team.

Channelling sporting success into 'soft power' outcomes is a strategy used by many countries, Chadwick says.(ABC: Jennifer Browning)

Chadwick says that's a game he's increasingly seeing nations playing — using sport to exercise soft power.

"Hard power is very much about conflict and intervention. Soft power is about using the power of attraction to engage different audiences around the world."

He says Qatar is one country trying to turn sporting success into nation building, trying to use it's FIFA World Cup to build "brand Qatar".

"I think it's very important to see sport not just as: we're kicking a ball or we're throwing a discus or we're hitting a six," he says.

"It's about money, it's about politics and it's about influence around the world."


wouldn't Pakistan and bangladesh be in the same boat ?
 

KurtisBrian

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Per capita wise Jamaica could be the best.
it is on the list, ranks 8th. 78 medals 2.96 million people. So 26.34 medals per 1 million people. But how many Jamaicans ran for the US, UK or Canada?
Finns rank 1. 54.69 medals per 1 million people how man blond Finns compete for others?
lowest are India at 0.03 then Vietnam and Pakistan at 0.04

It is meaningless info. It still doesn't show the capabilities of the nation and people. Plus, we have machines and phones so don't need people to run fast or strong.
People who can focus on tasks are wanted/needed. Chinese and Indians can focus and endure. Really good for construction, programming, factories, food services......

Heroes, warriors, even Lords or Gods......doesn't matter if a people exist only because of your ancestors. If you are not useful NOW you are attacked and destroyed, imprisoned or tossed in the trash. Sort of like Soldier (1998), BladeRunner and I, Robot.
 

Leishangthem

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Indians are not well known for bodybuilding, weightlifting, MMA, gymnastics, basketball or other feats of physical strength.

Meanwhile some of the strongest people in the world are Chinese.
Not true.

Saikhom Mirabai Chanu (@mirabai_chanu) | Twitter







Dr. Ngangbam Shantikumar Meetei wins runner up in Natural Mr. Universe 2015  - Sports Tract


Indians are not well known for bodybuilding, weightlifting, MMA, gymnastics, basketball or other feats of physical strength.

Meanwhile some of the strongest people in the world are Chinese.



Here's some of the the world champions in weight lifting and body building from India,though they from manipur and not your typical Indian south asian that you'd expect and comparing with. It's kind of sad that a former nation with much potential in human resources and culture wouldn't ever reach its potential and getting eroded under the yoke of Union of states.

Though he(dr.ngambam shantikumar meetei) represents taiwan & manipur now ,instead of india ,since taiwan is his new country and manipur homeland.
 
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Leishangthem

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Medals tally is indeed an important assessment about the competence of the nation and its human resources quality.
A nation has to have good human resource stock with decent IQ and domineering physical trait to churn out world champions.
A medal represents the quality of training, discipline in the system ,the amount of effort, and the procedure devised and initiated by the gov ,also the local culture that complements it. You need an extremely competent & efficient administration to produce multiple world champions.
It's a long haul process that needs meticulous planning and grassroots effort .
A fundamentally lacking nation can't produce multiple world champions like china does.
 

KurtisBrian

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Medals tally is indeed an important assessment about the competence of the nation and its human resources quality.
A nation has to have good human resource stock with decent IQ and domineering physical trait to churn out world champions.
A medal represents the quality of training, discipline in the system ,the amount of effort, and the procedure devised and initiated by the gov and the local culture that complements. You need an extremely competent & efficient administration to produce multiple world champions .
It's a long haul process.
A fundamentally lacking nation can't produce multiple world champions like china does.
bs. Jamaica is a mess. Bahamas not much better. Sport is nothing but entertainment to keep the minds of the masses occupied. Reward the athletes who serve the bankers and merchants while looting the populace.
 

bahadur

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what about thing happened in 1962 and 1999 sir ? you lost land in those years too . for example point 5353 ? in 2020 you loss more land in laddakh too .
we care about pakistan only , we divided you in two halves that is sufficient for us .
 

Leishangthem

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bs. Jamaica is a mess. Bahamas not much better. Sport is nothing but entertainment to keep the minds of the masses occupied. Reward the athletes who serve the bankers and merchants while looting the populace.
In how many different types of sports does jamaica wins gold?
Their natural physical deposition advantages are the core reason for that in sports like sprint,which's mostly determined by raw force of the human body .Though the Jamaican sports body isn't even one of the less efficient ones.
Just like how Kenyans do well with long-distance running.
 

KurtisBrian

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In how many different types of sports does jamaica wins gold?
Their natural physical deposition advantages are the core reason for that in sports like sprint,which's mostly determined by raw force of the human body .Though the Jamaican sports body isn't even one of the less efficient ones.
Just like how Kenyans do well with long-distance running.
in the Olympics, most events are the similar. Master a few simple basic techniques and the person who has been provided with greater strength, reflexes, agility, endurance, durability, ..... or that special something wins.

They are all really going to regret stealing. :)
 

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