India representing at the ‘Rural Olympics’.
Today on the morning show we talked about the Olympics, namely China’s emerging dominance. For me the bigger question is India. Why does India suck so much? In 2008 the US won 110 medals, China won 100 and India won… 3. India has over a billion people, some economic clout and is by all counts an emerging superpower, but they suck at the Olympics. Why?
I dunno. I was asking. I guess I’ll do some reading. Let’s start with a couple hypotheses
- Indians suck at sports
- The Indian government sucks at sports administration
1. Indians Suck At Sports
I honestly don’t think this is possible, and Indians are pretty good at cricket. The rub may be that they devote everything to cricket, which isn’t an Olympic sport. I know they (we) are short and not physically awesome, but the average Indian can take the average Chinese person in a fight. And there’s a billion of them, so there has to be a certain amount of innate ability. Perhaps I’ll get back to this, but let’s move on.
2. Indian Government Sucks At Administration
This seems more likely. The Indian government – while a democracy – is still a mess. Sadanand Dhume has an essay starting with the Olympics but flowing into a broad indictment of Indian mediocrity in all forms.
India’s traditional invisibility at the Olympics—the gold and two bronzes won in Beijing mark its best ever performance— can be viewed as a legacy of the flawed policies it pursued in the early decades after independence. For long an autarkic and socialist economy, India has lagged in establishing the competitive culture and market incentives that spur excellence in the developed world. At the same time, as a democracy, it has never had the option of emulating the intrusive controls and collective purpose that mark the authoritarian model. (India’s Olympic Reality Check)
Then there is India’s sports administration, which displayed naked corruption and incompetence during the embarrassing Delhi Commonwealth Games. This via Neeta Lal in the Asia Times:
For one, India’s annual budget for sports is too meager. This year’s US$280 million worth of funding is overshadowed by international standards. For example, China’s – one of India’s biggest rivals – has earmarked $2 billion for this year’s Games.
About half the money from India’s outlay will be channeled towards administrative expenses and the salaries of officials and bureaucrats. In other words, much of it will be gobbled up in administrative expense rather than the crucial training of athletes. (India’s failure of Olympic proportions)
Basically India isn’t enough of an authoritarian country to muscle a sports program through, but they aren’t enough of a democracy to have competent sports institutions either. Which is perhaps a chicken egg situation, that the private sector should step in to ameliorate. Or maybe Indians are happy enough with being awesome at cricket and OK at field hockey and don’t really care about running fast or any traditional feats of strength. But they kinda should, because it just looks bad, internationally.