With less than 100 days left for the London Olympics, speculation is rife whether Indian would come away with more than one medal. In my reckoning, India has the potential to deliver two medals in tennis doubles, both men’s and mixed with Bhupathi figuring in both. As for the rest, it will be a lottery though the shooters are convinced that at least one of them would do a Bindra.
Four years ago, I had the privilege of spending eight weeks in Beijing before and during the Olympics on a media project for the organizing committee. It was when we first heard of Usain Bolt, but Bindra it was who captured the Indian hearts with a shooting gold medal. I vividly remember the buzz when the news spread of his achievement and the Indian mediapersons scurrying around town to get a quote from him. Will London witness an encore?
But it is in tennis where Bhupathi is likely to partner Bopanna in men’s doubles and Sania in mixed, though given the fickleness of our authorities, we might yet see the old pairing of Lee and Hesh. Whatever, given the doubles proficiency of the Indians, a medal is a realistic hope.
As for athletics, the qualification process is still on, but regardless of who makes the Olympic shortlist, India’s wait for an athletic medal will continue, for I can’t think of anyone who can even nurse a medal hope, much less win one. There will be the usual brave words in the coming weeks as we close in on the Olympics, but I wouldn’t read too much into such bombastic statements, especially those by the officials.
And there is our eternal medal hope - hockey. Unfortunately, there has been far too much hype and noise over India’s qualification to the Olympics after missing the berth four years ago for the first time in eight decades. Corporate India has been behaving as though our team has already won the gold medal, though I am the last to begrudge the riches being poured on the team.
The fact is that India qualified from one of the weakest fields ever assembled in international hockey and anything less than winning the competition would have been another slap in Indian hockey’s face, much harder than the one it received in Chile four years ago when we went down to Britain in the final of the qualifying competition.
Given the mess that Indian hockey is in with officials of both Hockey India and Indian Hockey Federation indulging in petty politics, it is a wonder that the sport is still thriving in our country. As coach Nobbs cautioned the other day, our Olympic hopes should be tempered with reality and that is a berth in 5-8 bracket at the Olympics should be considered a bonus. Here, the coach is not even talking about winning a medal!
At least we will get an indication where Indian hockey stands when they play the four-nation test event in London early next month along with Britain, Australia and Germany who are the defending champions. Nobbs has already made it known that to expect a lot from the Indian team would be unrealistic at this juncture and rightly so as India have had little exposure against the top sides in the past four years.
Be that as it may, the point is that we have little choice but to take what is given at the Olympics, but put in some honest work to improve on our track records. Rest assured as we get closer to the Olympics, there will be the usual debate about over one billion people not able to win one gold medal and stuff like that. This is a quadrennial exercise where grand theories are spun and grandiose plans suggested only to be forgotten after the Olympic fortnight, until the next Games come along!
By all accounts, London plans to put on a show fit for the Gods, but having witnessed and experienced the Beijing Games, it will take much more than a few billion pounds to match the spectacle that the Chinese put on four years ago. Though there was a lot of make-believe stuff that the Chinese government showcased, the Games itself, not to forget the opening and closing ceremonies, set a new benchmark in organization and efficiency.
Being very familiar with London, I would rather watch the Games from home on the telly rather than suffer the great inconveniences in that city that will be overflowing with visitors who will also have to cough out so much more for their daily needs in view of the spiraling costs.
As of now, the test events will be held at the Olympic venues and for Indians, it is a good time to get a feel of the Games. In this context, the next few weeks are very significant for Indian sport that hopefully will mark its presence in London with a medal or two.