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   If I was one of those Indian officials... (September 29, 1986)

If I was one of those Indian officials (observers) in Seoul, instead of objective about maps and thing, I would quietly return home. Because to bean Indian, official or unofficial and be in Seoul at the moment, must be very embarrassing.

One of the great powers of Asia, the non-aligned and the third world, according to Mr. Gandhi and others, immense in length and breadth and population, with the fourth biggest contingent at the Asian Games, though there may be more officials than participants in the contingent, and not a single gold medal to show yet.

These days, it is not very pleasant getting up in the morning and thinking you are an Indian. When every morning the papers inform of more Indian being eliminated. The swimmers (bad luck), cyclists (no proper machines), wrestlers (foul), boxers (shame), tennis players (expected), badminton (unexpected), volleyball (well tried), basketball (bad luck). And yesterday, when the Indian hockey team lost when it should have won, our cup of sorrow was full. And it is pointless saying that both India and pakistan put up a brilliant display of how hockey should be played and that this was really the finals and not one of the semifinals. Eventually it is the medals tally that matters.

If I had anything to do with the sports pages of an Indian newspaper, I would avoid publishing the daily medal tally, as a special service to indian readers. For it is not comforting to see little countries like Malaysia and the Philippines and Thailand ahead of India. Countries that Indians normally tend to dismiss.

To be poor is not bad, we can blame it on centuries of economic exploitation by the British, to lose a war (to China) is not bad, we are a peace-loving country, not to be speeding into the 21st century is acceptable, after all it is only a political slogan of a politician. But to lose in sports, to be badly defeated in every discipline of sports if takes the manliness out of a country, it is a national disgrace.

When the Asian Games were last staged in New Delhi (I am now more than ever convinced they were done as a springboard for young Mr. Gandhi, just entering public life). The argument that was advanced for so much overspending was that it would make India sports conscious. Four years later the only consciousness seems to be the embarrassment of defeat.

And the charade continues. The minister for sports is in Seoul with the team, and, instead of keeping quiet and applauding the Chinese and the Japanese on their performances, she gives pep talks to our team members. As if there are not better-qualified persons to do so, the team's managers and coaches.

And, as for the maps, though it is necessary that should be corrected, I would like to point out that national honour does not depend on maps and flags, but on the performances of a nation's athletes and the number of gold medals they acquire. So far the score is zero.

 
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