Can India pull off an opening ceremony like this?

MADHU GOPINATH RAO writes from New York City: Communist China at 1.3 billion people, has a fifth of humanity living within its borders. The Olympics in its capital Beijing that kicked off last night, at 8 minutes past 8 pm on the 8th day of the 8th month of the 8th year of the new millennium, is arguably the most important event in modern Chinese history.

The curtain raiser to this sports gala  had the world amazed and enthralled, but it also had in it an element, that to me, made it so meaningful.

No, I’m not talking of the eclectic yet elegant ’Bird’s Nest’ stadium or its amazing lighting, imagery or  pyrotechnics—all of which showcased eye for detail, diligence and mastery in executing to a plan.

What impressed me the most was the sheer number of people in its acts!

What better way to showcase the most populous nation in the world than to be proud of its numerical might? 15,000 artists enthralled the 91,000 strong packed stadia for 50+ minutes in choreographies that skillfully showcased ancient history and modern might alike.

The amazing mass of humanity choreographing with such precision, fluidity and control talked volumes of the Chinese determination in making a mark on the world; despite the bludgeoning populace. No matter what your disposition to the Chinese, this was their moment and they seized it.

The opening act with 2008 drummers in a  rhythmic drumming that included a countdown to the opening, amid changing lights was a great curtain raiser. The drummers made way to a group of school children who passed the flag to soldiers underlining China’s hope and strength. The unfurling of the Chinese flag and passionate singing of the national anthem, Hu Jintao included, exuded pride of a confident and prepared host.

The next acts paid tributes to ‘The Great Wall’, ‘The Huns’, ‘Buddhism’ among other things. Be it with the number that had people tucked beneath boxes to produce a piston effect or the one that paid tribute to China’s maritime with flowing sailboats and churning seas or the one with traipezing artists around an illuminated globe, it was a pageantry in grace and effortless flow.

Mind you, it involved thousands of people….

The ‘Parade of Nations’ followed and the 204 participating nations were welcomed with warmth by the gracious hosts. Given that 87 of the 204 countries have never won a medal and some like India get one or two, the opening ceremony was a crowning moment for quite a few people participating.

The parade ended to a thunderous entry of China with Yao Ming of NBA fame being the flag bearer. As if to juxtapose a stark contrast to the affluent 7 footer Yao, a 4-year-old earthquake survivor from the recent mishap marched alongside Yao, symbolizing unity and triumph of spirit.

Nothing could have conveyed China’s dichotomy better.

Over the next 17 days, the communist republic will play host to the biggest games ever. People can disapprove the force China used to get to this grand finale. People are furious—rightfully—at China’s blind eye toward human rights and free press.

People have criticized the Chinese handling of Tibetan protesters—and they richly deserve it. But, in the same vein, they do deserve credit, praise and congratulations for pulling this magnificent feat off. Few can deny the effort, preparations and commitment that went into making this such a spectacle of a pageantry that would put a first world nation to shame.

Well done neighbor! Could we dare dream of India playing host one day?

Photograph: courtesy Flickr, 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony, originally uploaded by k-ideas

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72 Responses to “Can India pull off an opening ceremony like this?”

  1. Thalaeharatae Says:

    Impossible is nothing

  2. Dileepa Prabhakar Says:

    I doubt if any other country can pull of something like that. As far as India is concerned, the 2010 Commonwealth Games Opening ceremony in Delhi will prove to be long and boring.

  3. Krishnan Says:

    We Indians lack Chinese commitment and dedication. The day we imbibe those ideals passionately, we will be ready to host Olympics.

  4. Aditya Says:

    2 decades from now..

    and looking at the current pace, that could well be 10 years :D

  5. Raghu Says:

    Why should we attempt any such thing?

    “Can India pull off an opening ceremony like this?”

    Which India? Madaraasi India? BIMARU India? East aka Naxal/commie infested lands? North East – alienated fringes? Modiland? Senaland?

  6. dharma Says:

    All the organisers and the ruling political party members will become Multi-Milliners! Better than being MP/MLA for 2 terms!

  7. BNB Says:

    The very same discussion happened on some TV channel yesterday. And as someone pointed out, this question is putting the cart before the horse. The real concern should be about improving India’s performance in the olympics.

  8. Prabhjot Says:

    If each and every individual joins hands together then yes we citizens of Incredible India can really show that,”Our nation is not too behind”.
    So we should not only critize government only….Yes we should start putting our efforts also to make the upcoming Commonwealth Games a successful event.

  9. Subbulakshni Says:

    not just India,NO ONE can pull off such a grand, spectacular and precision show. Not even America with all its money and technology. What made it so good was that China showcased itself with out making anyone feel left out. Compare it to America’s show. It was a show by the America for the America. China made all feel at home. dont ask me how but it just did!

  10. Alok Says:

    We can…

    It is a three step programme actually

    1. Try Suresh Kalmadi and all the heads of all the “sporting associations” for criminal breach of trust, misappropriation of funds, fraud and treason. Keep them in jail without bail till convicted.

    2. Put any one of India’s best entrepreneurs in charge of the planning and getting funds.

    3. Put any one of India’s top Bollywood directors in charge of the direction (just make sure that they have a good script.. and that they stick to it).

    and a fourth “condition”:

    Shoot any politician who comes within a mile of it.

    Can be done folks. We have the money, we have the talent, and we have the capability in planning and execution.

    Just need to remove a few roadblocks along the way, that is all.

  11. Ramesh Gowda Says:


  12. Another One Says:

    China stands No2 in the olympic medals tally before they host this 2008 olympics.

    The question How many olympic medals should we have before attempting to host olympics?

    I understand that sharjah hosts cricket matches in spite of their position in world cricket.. but they are rich we are neither rich nor good at sports so stop dreaming.

  13. babuds Says:

    “Can India pull off an opening ceremony like this?”

    Madhu Gopinath Rao,

    Yesterday I sat before my Idiot box to watch the Chinese show. I was simply flabbergasted by their great performance and precision. Just fifteen minutes into the show, the power went off and it came after one hour, thus making me miss the rest of the show.

    For the first 15 minutes (when the TV was on) I was thinking like you, that how and in what manner we from India will be showcasing ourselves to the world, in a future Olympics, even if hypothetical. The sudden darkness imposed by the KPTCL, showed my place as an Indian among other nationals of the world and brought me back into the real world, from the Alnascar’s dream.

    What I would like to say is; right now, we really can’t dream of attempting anything of the sort the Chinese showed the world that they can do.

    On the other hand we should be happy and content on the day when we can proudly say ” What? power cut? In Bangalore? No chance!”

    After that we can start dreaming of staging a world class show like the Chinese did yesterday. Bravo neighbor!

  14. Gaby Says:

    We will have adequate opportunity to make asses of ourselves again in 2010 at the Commonwaelth Games to be held in Delhi- what else with our Kalmadis and the abysmal attitude towards sports.

    But we will also have some foolish Bollywood Tamasha that will get passed off as reflection of our National culture. I remember with shame the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games where at the closing ceremony the likes of Aisharya Rai and Rani Mukherjees and Saif Ali Khans invaded MCG !!! I would have thought the best thing to do if we wnated even a barely decent opening /closing ceremony in 2010 was to lock up the Kalmadis and Gills and ban the Hindi Cinema Industry from any official paricipation.

  15. tarlesubba Says:

  16. Poli Hudga Says:

    I hope India will never waste money like china does, for good. It was nothing but a spectacular waste of 1 Million dollars. It was done with just one intention of diverting attention towards “affluent” china and to hide mass murders, atrocities and crimes of its leaders.

    MIT prof Yasheng Huang at gives some very thoughtful insights.

    Consider the experiences of the following two Asian countries. In 1990, Country A had a per capita GDP of $317; Country B’s stood at $461. By 2006, Country A, though 31 percent poorer than Country B only 16 years earlier, had caught up: It enjoyed a per capita GDP of $634, compared with Country B’s $635. So, if you had to guess, which of these two Asian countries would you assume is a democracy?

  17. Bevu Bella Says:

    I would not go as far as this show. Modestly, could Indian athletes return with two gold, two silver and two bronze medals. there was a solitary silver medal in Athens Olympic where the state and central offialdom outnumbered the ahtletics. Could they complete Mysore airport at record time. In a venture such as Olympics if held in India, the kickbacks paid to politicians and officials will be so much that very less fund will be left to the actual function itself.

    India lags behind China at least by a couple of decades. Talkng about democracy in India, look at machinations in state and central elections and shenanighans recently the parliament no confidence motion.

  18. Sandesh Says:

    Just reading your post makes me dread that day of commonwealth opening in delhi :(
    I am sure the bolly copy cats will be all over the stage dancing to stupid hindi songs and making big fools of themselves (and India, for such an opening ceremony)
    God save us from hindi movie s**t

  19. Govinda Says:

    “can india pull off…an opener…..”

    ahahhahhahahahhah stop day dreaming guys!

  20. Bhindi Says:

    If only world class sportsmen could change countries like our politicians change parties, then India coiuld have sent her fixers to Beijing for waving notes from the stands to the top athletes. With a strong blackmarket economy operating in India for donkey’s years, our “progressive” business heads would have not minded funding the new “team india”.
    That could take care of our medals.

    Or introduce events like “speed money”, “corruption”, “politics”, “langauge chauvinism” , “cultural intolerance” & “general vandalism” ; where all the states of India will win hands down without any training.

    For the opening ceremony, get Speilberg to handle it. Since Dreamworks, his company has recently been bought by Chota Ambani, his services could be used by India.

  21. Anonymous Guy Says:

    First a few medals.

    Hosting and shows can come later.

  22. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Deal All,

    No doubt the show was spectacular. But boys and girls, this is nothing. Give our Bollywood guys and girls a chance! We will put on a far better show with much better music! I watched parts of the show and it was excruciatingly lame ass in certain bits: like Le Ming doing a ‘Hanuman’ with a crane swirling him around the stadium. The mechanical faces of the torch bearers. The silly ink-daubing gymnasts writing out ‘pictograms’ which meant good health, peace and shit. But then again you are talking to someone who spent 14 years in China. Sure the show would impress you lot and I sympathise with that…only the fireworks were very good. THat is China’s great skill. Rest was routine more torturous shit!

  23. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Also, can we get a 1/20th of medals like China? Well that is possible:)

  24. Hiker Says:

    Agree with Anonymous Guy. We should first work towards winning at least 10 Olympic golds before even thinking of bidding for hosting the event.

  25. nijavaada Says:

    Yes – if we outsource it to the chinese! why not?!
    (Come to think of it, are we building our recent “greenfield” airports around?)

    Remember, not everyone in the world can (and needs to) have the “Chinese commitment and dedication” – what we have, they dont, and vice-versa.

    But I do agree we may have to seek avenues of making this possible. But before all that, I think India needs to understand itself fully first, and then accept any such offer as hosting olympics; even the asiad for that matter.

  26. nijavaada Says:

    I feel hosting and participating need not have anything to do with one another.
    One is about ability to lay the track, and the other is the ability to run on it.. if you can run well on a track, doesnt mean you can lay that track well, and in time! simple :)

  27. Tarlemaga Says:

    Corruption is institutionalised by the Govt and as well as the Corporates. Endorsements are generously carried out for Cricketers and it has a hidden agenda.

    Though Cricket Crazy Indian fans call it as their religion. It’s a Fake again only “ONE WORLD CUP IN 1983). The remaining are Individual batting records.

    10000 runs
    500 wickets etc.

    We have guyz who have been filling their pockets for last 60 years being Chairman and President of various sports associations. The culture of Sports is a far cry to sink in the Indian Psyche.

    We are nothing but United States of India but Divided in our thoughts. The pulls and pressures of politics and corruption has ruined the foundations of Secular democracy.

    Sports is a victim of this fallout.

  28. Anonymous Guy Says:


    Thee is another thing besides hosting and participating – winning.

  29. Mysorean Says:

    India has made such poor impact in terms of medals count for decades that
    it will never get to host Olympics even in the distant future. India’s influence in the world is not that impressive (despite thousands of NRIs in America, India’s lobby is weak over there where it matters for example clearing the nuclear hurdle. Would it have happened for example to China?) and in the Olympics Committee it is non-existent. It is best to leave India gaping at the sides. I agree with the suggestion that it should first improve its basic needs like energy, water, transporat and health.

  30. Tathagata Mukherjee Says:

    Firstly, China should not be called “Communist” country- its playing nationalist politics to the core. Visit any blog where Chinese frequent and you will see more outpouring of nationalism amongst them than (say) average BJP supporters here in India.

    Its said, since ancient time, China is good in planning, executing projects that are grandest in scale.

    The ONLY STRUCTURE THAT CAN BE SEEN FROM MOON, “the Great Wall of China”, was conceived there. Though it was a GRANDEST FAILURE as it could not stop the tribes to invade china, the basic purpose of buidling the structure. China was ruled by the tribes from North West for many many centuries.

    Under a dictatorship, one party rule, with no basic free speech/free media, or judiciary independence, eleborate planning can be made to make an event successful. It could be 3 Gorges Dam, or an Olympic inaguration.

    I am sure, when Hitler organized Berlin Olympics in 1936, it was grandest at that time. Today’s inaguration is similar to that 1936 Berlin olympics.

    Can we do it in India? Yes, we can. But the if, a BIG IF is, will our politicians, NGOs, civil society be ready to pay a fraction of the cost that chinese paid for organizing this Olympics?

    It takes infinite cycles of litigation, court trial, media trial, NGO involvement, politicians involvement, Rasta-Roko, Bandh, agitation, Vote….. to get land for a stadium, or a Posco, or Nandigram.

    Lets enjoy the Beijing Olympic 2008. Also understand the cost average Chinese pay vis-a-vis how ‘lucky’ we are in India.

    There should be a thorough cost benefit analysis. And a soul search in every patriotic Indians how to make our system better.

  31. raja Says:

    What nonsense. If we are a dictatorship (with censorship so that the likes of this site is not allowe), if we can close our eyes and divert 45 billion dollars for a sporting event, india can make it even bigger and better. remember asiad? we did it much better and with lots less money. (in comparison London has got ‘only’ $9 billion to host the olympics four years later, in 2012) no one will ever question Hu why he spent so much money. maybe a billion dollars could have gone to the quake hit

  32. Faldo Says:

    Let us applaud the opening for what it is. We need not view somebody’s success through a prism of our ability or inability to do likewise. The success of the opening ceremony was a tribute to China’s centralized organization process, which is their strength. I am optimistic that when we are given the opportunity to host the Olympics (which might be a long long time away), we would make it successful in our own way. Of course, before that can happen we need to have developed more as a country and have better medal winning capability. Till then let us work on the basics of getting there.

  33. Quizman Says:

    Actually, yes.

    When India produced the opening ceremony of the 1982 Asiad, it was then the best Asiad ceremony of its kind. No one, including we Indians ourselves, had placed any bets on it being pulled off.

    Indians have the habit of pulling off surprises when one least expects us to. We may bicker, argue and protest, but from a simple ceremony like a Diwali Nite at a US college to a mega show, we manage, somehow, after a series of heart stopping moments, to stage events successfully (and in time) to leave folks gasping. :-)

  34. tarlesubba Says:

    i think we should turn communist like china the land of milk and honey. where the buildings are taller and shows grander. whose people are more civilized and whose workers are more efficient.

    all we have is a bunch of religious nuts for civil society, greedy pigs land grabbing delusional pigs for industrialists and moon faced south indians for atheletes. people here who would rather buy gold in dingy streets on that newly minted auspicious day rather than win it. what a bunch of superstitious nuts.

    i have great hopes on Prakash Karat.

    khoon sein khelenge holi ‘gar vatan muskhil mein hein
    sarfaroshi ki tammanna ab hamare dil mein hein

    workers unite.

  35. nijavaada Says:

    @ anonymous guy,
    I meant winning when I said participating. Cant afford to think otherwise in this context!

  36. Mysorean Says:

    India getting Olympics to hold with its dismal record. Only Indians should believe this!! Comparing India to China, no comparison! China heading as the second superpower while India will be ready to crown Rahul Ghandi and bring on more bollywood crowd.

  37. Manvantara Says:

    “But we will also have some foolish Bollywood Tamasha that will get passed off as reflection of our National culture” –well said Gaby!

    And this is a real pity since every region of our country has so much to offer to our rich cultural fabric and yet….everything gets drowned in Bollywood crap!

    Quizman, I disagree: ‘but from a simple ceremony like a Diwali Nite at a US college to a mega show, we manage, somehow,…”

    –yes, “we manage, somehow”….but that is not the point. We are
    no longer like a bunch of 11 year olds asked to produce a show for a campfire! (for which we can manage!).
    I have seen too many hopeless Diwali Nites (or “India Night”s) at US institutions that are outstandingly badly organized.

    No, a well produced ceremony is beyond us right now. Let us focus on other important things, like quality food, clothing and shelter for the 70% of Indians who do not have them.

  38. Nationalist Says:

    I agree – If (and when) it happens in India, it would be all bollywood crap – It would be just another parade of our Bollywood stars.

    I can still stomach it if…..Indian team can win at least 10 medals in total. Oh, Am I dreaming or what?

  39. Mysorean Says:

    India getting at least 10 medals? Are we thinking of Sun setting in North and
    nepotism and corruption a thing of the past in India? Delirium is what I would call!

    In Athens, if my memory serves me right, India got 1 medal-1 Silver in total. India will be lucky to repeat that feat now!

  40. kaangeya Says:

    Can India put up a show like this – just a show – nothing else? Sure. We have enough people who can be trained to march around like robots, it will take maybe a year or so. Fireworks? That’s automated machinery, and can be done. Large scale choreographed dances? We certainly have great themes for that. And there have been very pretty ones before – public memory must be short, because everyone seems to have forgotten the Barcelona Olympics opening ceremony that was choreographed and staged by a local group. Stadiums are mere detail. Throw money at it and you will have it.

    It is not easy but not impossible either for India to pull off a ceremony like that given the good project management skills at its disposal. But a competitive performance in the sporting events is another matter. We may get there in about 50 years if we start today.

  41. Alok Says:

    I think this post, and its response have shown that no matter what you accuse Indians generally of, you can’t accuse them of being proud of their country.

    Glad to know.

  42. Gaby Says:

    It isnt about not being proud of India- it’s about acknowledging reality!

  43. Mysorean Says:

    Olympics is not the fantasy world of Bollywood. It is appropriate to do a reality check of India in 2008.

  44. shameonpeeps Says:

    Shame on people saying India should be like China,so why don’t you idiots go and stay in china for a year ,try to stage some darnas and see what happens.

    The chinese people are systematically brainwashed they don’t even have the courage to speak politics,the chinese people can be compared to dogs and work like slaves.

    India shouldn’t even bother taking lessons from the China,yeah its no longer communist but its more like a fascist nation since 1990’s.China thinks it has a right to some places in South Asia what it calls the traditional China they are just good at antagonizing.

    Don’t forget what they did in 1962 and recently they even want to establish a naval base in coco islands in bay of bengal with the help of Myanmar.

    Did you guys see the olympics opening ceremony all the countries were cheered by the chinese people except India.

  45. Anonymous Guy Says:

    Maybe the proud ones can escape reality by watching a bollywood crap movie where Shahrukh Khan coaches Indian athletes to victory in several events.

  46. Quizman Says:

    Agreed Alok. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. As the saying goes: “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right!”

  47. Basu Says:

    If the government is serious on organizing such a sports even anytime in the coming 30 years, it has to start building the infrastructure now. An indian birds nest. Preferably in Karnataka, so that we can project our culture and our places and… If in the north it will just become a bollywood tamasha.

    Action a program which assures jobs for all the athletes, and provide all the security. Then the nation will stop producing singers and start giving athletes. The word athlete looks very alien… Athlete…

  48. Madhu Rao Says:


    If not being an ostrich and accepting reality begets a questioning of pride/patriotism, it reeks of Bushism — if you do not support the Iraq war, you are unpatriotic. By any yardstick if anyone considers India’s abysmal show something to be proud of, it’s pathetic.

    The other way of looking at it, introspectively, is that a vast majority of the people, labeled lacking in pride by you, are criticizing their country’s performance as they are pained by its sad state of affairs. Forget winning medals, many in our women’s contingent did not have the decency to turn up in something better than training jackets for the curtain raiser; that speaks volumes. Sure, let’s be proud of these heroes..

    On the article-comments, it would be a lot easier to be indifferent or mask the reality with a pseudo-patriotic facade than to speak up? Accepting ground realities does not make one unpatriotic(or unproud), it just makes you self-aware..

  49. Gokulam 3rd Stage Says:

    I couldn’t care less about India winning any medals in the Olympics or hosting that thing. That doesn’t make me less proud of India. It just makes me indifferent to that event. I am also indifferent towards the market price of aluminum in the commodities market. We are generally an unathletic culture, and I am quite unapologetic about that.

    Do I watch and follow that event with interest? Yes. I like being a spectator.

  50. Sandesh Says:

    Olympics…. who cares!

  51. Pankaj Mohan Says:

    “Can India pull off an opening ceremony like this?” We can’t the author knows it well. It’s not about carrying out some kind of illusion or a magical trick. It’s about decades of relentless efforts, commitment to development and ability to meet deadlines at the national level. Remember, India and China had many similar woes half a century ago (even though China was always ahead). But, the civil liberty without any accountability has taken its toll in India’s case. We confused democracy with the habit of pulling down each other. We have been assigned voting power in India to do so. Parties have MPs and MLAs to further the same goal. It will be many more years before we got tired of living the way we are. May be the next generation can hope to see a la Beijing stuff. But, Beijing would be flying in space by that time remember.

    I have noted similar views about Indian sports, based on my personal conversation with sportsmen in my hometown, below.

  52. Faldo Says:

    Talking of illusions and magical tricks, there is news that some portions of the ceremony might have been faked.,99745

  53. Alok Says:

    In response to all those who believe I am not “realist” enough, or too ostrich like, I have a few questions.

    Do we want to accept reality or change it?

    Or is it that we are too afraid to try for fear of failure?

    Or are we so comfortable in our failings that we refuse to get out of our “comfort zone” and do the hard thing by trying to win.

    Thankfully there are still sportspersons in our country who don’t think anything like all of you, as Abhinav Bindra has shown us today, and Leander, Malleshwari, Rajvinder have shown us before. There are more like them fighting it out in the Olympics despite everything else going on around here, despite the snideness and despair pouring out on blogs.

    Are they delusional in believing that they can win a gold medal in their events? Maybe.

    Yet there is something to be said for trying your damndest and failing than moping on blogs and trying to convince oneself that we are a nation of losers.

  54. Doddi Buddi Says:


    Heal thyself! The rest will follow:) Thanks.

  55. Gokulam 3rd Stage Says:


    Accepting what we are is the first step towards happiness. It is in the nature of people to strive to be happy.

    Seriously, I would accept that we should change only if our current situation is not OK. I reject that presumption, as it seems do many Indians. I don’t particularly find anything wrong with it.

    Oh, accepting what he have is not the same as being losers. I am sure you know that though.

  56. suniti Says:

    India can’t even dress uniformly or appropriately when some one else puts on a great show. And later make hundred and one excuses for the lapses.
    The Indian group looked shabby to put it mildly. And Sania darling had joined the stroll as an afterthought :P

  57. Anonymous Guy Says:


  58. Madhu Rao Says:

    Abhinav Bindra is a saving grace and something India and Indians will be proud of. Period. But that does not change the reality that a nation of a billion plus could garner just a sole gold ? It is shameful. If we are OK with it, for decades, it adds insult to the injury..

    The lament is that, we do not have enough of people of Bindra’s ilk. We have more of morons who have sabotaged the programs and sapped the competitive spirit. I’m sure no one here is saying Bindra, Leander, Rathore are delusional — they are the saving grace in abysmal performances that has spanned decades. But to call just and much warranted criticism ‘un-proud’ is tuning out reality.

    “Do we want to accept reality or change it?” We need to accept the reality (that we have failed miserably) and try to change it. China being second at the tally could have easily basked on it’s laurels; but they did not. They had a goal to top the leader board and in all probability , they will. To get there, you cannot get complacent and comfortable in your current position. In our case, what position — sole medal or two ? And we are not to question it without being tagged unpatriotic ?

  59. Anonymous Guy Says:


    How do I get to see her next (medal deciding) match? Is there some internet pay site to watch specific events?

  60. Anonymous Guy Says:

    Not that it is relevant to the thread, but a story about Saina Nehwal:

    Hope she wins!

  61. Faldo Says:

    @Madhu Rao – you have made some valid points but in most cases it is an accepted fact that our huge population is seen as a disadvantage coming in the way of development, being the cause of poverty, triggering fights for meagre resources so on and so forth. However, why is it that when it comes to Olympic medals we expect this huge population to work in our favor. We always preface arguments about our medal winning capability by lamenting that in a nation of a billion plus we cannot do this or that. In fact this huge population comes in our way.

    Now if we look at the human development index of the countries of the world India languishes at the 96th spot or so. All the major sporting powers come within the top 50 including China. China, I must say is an aberration. The events in the Olympics in addition to needing extremely talented individuals also require scientific training. In China’s case I believe their form of government helps them in ruthlessly identifying talented sportsmen and literally forcing them to take part and perform to their capacity with institutionalized training.

    Any other country that is even remotely comparable in population does as badly as us in sports. Even if we make marginal progress in the HDI our performance in sports could leapfrog. It is no coincidence that winning our first individual silver and gold medals in the last 2 Olympics corresponded with economic development (however minor). I guess, we need to appreciate the gold medal for what it is and work on getting the basics right to make improvements happen.

  62. Madhu Rao Says:

    You do make a valid point vis-a-vis HDI. We have potential talent in rural areas not privy to synthetic tracks and trained coaches. But then again, it’s not worse than some African nations , a la Cameroon, Mozambique who have scalped golds. Famously Kenyan runners from a decade ago lived in school dorms with a lone tap outside to wash up. We have better facilities than that ? We boast of quite a few Fortune 1000 industrialists and quite a few IT success stories. Population and HDI do not seem to affect it? But with sports(sans cricket) we come up with reasons : we are cerebral ; we are not a sports centric society ; we are cricket obsessed ; we lack infrastructure ; we have corruption etc etc.

    Having said the above, if we improve HDI and reign in corruption-favoritism in sports, we will go a long way. We need not aim for the moon, but a 6-10 medal target for London is achievable if we get our heads out of our behinds…

  63. Mysorean Says:

    Reigning in corruption and favouritism in India? It is a delirious dream. Like asking Sun to set in North and making revolve around the earth.
    IT outsourcing work mainly because of differentials in cost. If Indian Rupee had parity value with dollar, the so called IT revolution in India built on cheap coding sweatshops would not have taken place.

    6-10 medals in the next Olympics from a very low base of 1or 2 medals? Again a pipe dream. Supremacy of Indian cricket team arguable and will not hold. Best India skips participation in a few Olympics and build the team. But officials wouln’t let go the opportunity for shopping trips!

  64. Faldo Says:

    @Madhu – 6 – 10 medals! I’ll take that gladly.
    Yes, I did consider the point you made about Kenya and Cameroon. But those are countries with low HDI and low population (with less diversity). Countries with a fairly large population and low HDI are in the same boat as us. As for Fortune 1000 industrialists, with due respect most of their sports spending is on individuals and urban centric. Very little spending to develop infrastructure or should I say poor tapping of such funds by the sports organizations.

  65. Raj Says:

    “In China’s case I believe their form of government helps them in ruthlessly identifying talented sportsmen and literally forcing them to take part and perform to their capacity with institutionalized training.”

    I disagree. What’s better: children or teens living in poverty or given the opportunity to train to be an Olympic (as well as participating in other international events?)

    I think that if you were to identify children in India living in poverty (which there are many) and asked their parents if they would be interested in their child to be trained in international competitive sports … most of them would take that opportunity.

    Moreover, you can’t just “manufacture” champions. The child or teen also needs to have passion for the sport. I think many of China’s gold medal winners are very proud of their accomplishments and don’t regret the years spent training. Given that over a billion people in China are also proud of their performance … they’re sure to millionaires now given China’s market size.

    And it isn’t just the Olympics that China takes seriously, it’s every aspect of developement. From education (literacy rates and infrastructure) and science and research, every year they seem to manage to improve at a fast rate.

    Recently, I was reading about the “International Mathematical Olympiad” … China ranked number 1 and won gold this year while India ranked 31st.

    First participation: 1989.
    Number of participations: 20.
    Gold medals: 8, Silver medals: 49, Bronze medals: 46, Honourable mentions: 11.

    First participation: 1985.
    Number of participations: 23.
    Gold medals: 101, Silver medals: 26, Bronze medals: 5, Honourable mentions: 0.

    First participation: 1974.
    Number of participations: 34.
    Gold medals: 80, Silver medals: 96, Bronze medals: 29, Honourable mentions: 1.

  66. B Shah Says:

    Compare apples with apples and pears with pears.
    China is a communist dicatorship, India is a multi-party democracy.

    Within days of the “opening”, we have found several parts of it were “fake”. This from a country where admiting such things is very hard !! I wonder how many other “fake” routines are / were hidden in this opening ?

    The grand opening, great venue, cheering multitude, its all possible in a communist nation where the people must do as they are told or else they die ! In India, you can’t remove one illegal hut without NGOs, gov, unions, et all breathing down your neck. China removed several communities housing thousands of people to create this wonderful Olympic park.

    Yes, India can put up a similar show – if we were a dictatorship or a communist country with absolute power in the hands of the gov. But than, would you want to live there ?

    Medal tallies – China and Russia get more than most, as their athletes have nothing to concentrate on except their game. In India, people have to earn a living, battle with bureaucracy and try to play the game. We are amature athletes, they are professional to the core. USA gets a great medal tally, because it spends an obscene amount of money on its athletes. We don’t even provide proper equipment.

    Really, compare apples with apples and pears with pears.

  67. Madhu Rao Says:

    Very well put argument..

    I do agree with HDI being a factor. But that’s not THE REASON in my opinion. Like I said it does hamper identifying potentail talent that maybe going un-noticed. But in case of Bindra (shooting range in his back yard since childhood) or Paes-Bhupathi-Mirza who have had access to the best of resources, HDI has little impact.

    We do have quite a few affluent people who do pursue sports, have resources. But it usually ends up to beget an Engg/Medical seat. Not many have that single-minded devotion nor we have a program that trains these potentials to aim for glory..

    @B Shah,
    Re-read the fake story. Yes they used canned footage for the pyrotechnics in parts as there were security risks ; big deal !

    “China and Russia get more than most, as their athletes have nothing to concentrate on except their game.”. China is still third world and not long ago, people were selling their bodies and souls for a loaf of bread in Russia. So they have nothing to concentrate on ?

    You need to appreciate a good thing no matter who does it. Looks like you are coming up with reasons to discredit pretty much everyone ? China, USA, Russia … and apna Bharat mahaan ? :-)

  68. Faldo Says:

    @Raj – Good points. My argument was just that you need to be able to not only identify the best but also get them to participate. China’s form of govt makes this easier without them having to answer to many people. In our country, it is possible that many could prefer sports training to poverty. But you cannot just go out and pull in people for such training. In any case China is much more developed (HDI around 47) so even without forced means they could have done very well.

    @Madhu – I agree HDI is not the only reason but some of the arguments you present do validate what I am saying. A good HDI simply makes available a wider pool of talent of which a certain percentage can aim for glory without worrying about getting a seat or job in some organization.

  69. Madhu Rao Says:

    Totally agree with your last comment. HDI is a factor, but while it will take us eons to get it to inch up, we ought to do something about how we can improve our tally (that’s my hope & prayer :-) ) …

  70. Mysorean Says:

    India is a multi-party democracy. What a load of garbage. Look at the voting process at each poll station and consider the degree by which the voters are intimidated and the impersonation that go on. I should know. I was once an official in Election Commission and a distruict officer who oversaw the polling process in polling stations in two elections. From my experience, I would not call it a democratic process.

    Indian democracy is so much soaked in corruption in each layer of it that the term democracy becomes a misnomer.

  71. Faldo Says:

    @Madhu – While we can continue to debate, I just learnt that we are assured of 2 more medals which takes the tally to three. As to your question about how to improve our tally, Mittal is already working on that :). Pls. see this
    Let’s hope London gets us more.

  72. Madhu Rao Says:

    @Faldo, 3 is good ! Yep this is good :-) ..

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