Saturday, August 23, 2008


China won its first Olympic Gold in 1984. This also coincided with the point where their economy took off and reached its present heights. It has led me to wonder whether there is a relationship between excellence in sports and economic progress. If so, what message does this hold for India considering that they have just got their first individual gold medal in Beijing?

Does it indicate that this is the beginning of India's emergence as a sporting and economic super power? The ingredients all seem to be in place for this scenario playing out. It remains to be seen whether we manage to make the most of it or let the opportunity slip out of our hands yet again, as has happened so many times in the past.

In the Olympics as in life the difference between the winners and the also ran is often very small. So small that, bouts are decided on the basis of judges' decisions rather than outright victories on points. Races need computers to find which sportsperson got to the finish first. So also, when it comes to the question of economic progress India has demonstrated that it can manage to sustain GDP growth rates of 8 to 9% for a significant period of time. The real test lies in whether this can be upped to double digit levels. Though the gap between 9 and 10 may seem marginal, it could make all the difference when it comes to the effects on the ground level. This could be the difference between winning and losing.

One Gold and Two Bronzes may not seem like much to a country of India' size, but it could well be the catalyst to galvanize sleeping sports authorities into action. It could give a much needed confidence booster to our sports heroes who battle it out in spite of miserable living and training conditions. Similarly Indian corporate have gained the confidence to take on the world in spite of battling with an indifferent bureaucracy and inconsistent Government policies. Just as scientific training methods could propel Indian sports into a different league, access to cheap capital and proper infrastructure could make India Inc. world beaters.

Therefore, all our stake holders need to sit up and take notice, lest another opportunity pass us by. Conditions on the ground have to improve in every sphere, be it better nourishment and facilities for sportspersons, better means of farming for farmers, better infrastructure for businesses and more. The talent is already in place. Some changes are already visible. We need to give it that push so that it attains critical mass which, as China has demonstrated, is a prerequisite for success in any sphere.


Subhankar said...

Interesting article. Unfortunately, sports as a means of livelihood is not a priority with Indian parents. Once our economic growth expands to benefit people at the grassroots level, the immediate concerns of food on the table will vanish. May be then parents mindset will change and they will think about sports, music, arts as livelihood options. Till then, the emphasis will remain on studies and becoming doctors, lawyers and engineers for a successful future.

Mahendra Naik said...

Hi Shubhankar,

I agree with you that parents
do not encourage their children to go for sports at the cost of studies. This has more to do with our insecurity because if they fail at sports, they have no fallback options. Therefore, it is my opinion that the Govt. has to create a saety net for children who show promise at sports and assure parents that their future will be taken care of.


I do not think theirs any relationship between sports and economics.