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   Most countries are planning big receptions... (July 29, 1996)

Most countries are planning big receptions for theior medal-winning athletes, swimmers, gymnasts, hammer throwers, hockey and football teams, etc. when they return home from the Atlanta Games. Since none of our competitors have won medals, naturally we cannot have such a reception. However, it is decided that we will be holding a reception for the Indian officials returning from Atlanta.

A spokesman of the sports ministery, government of India, gave me details. "We are rolling out the red carpet for the officials, the President, the prime minister and his entire cabinet will be present at Delhi airport to receive them."

"But what have the official done?" I inquired.

"What have they not done," said the ministry spokesman. "They have not lost any medals, that is something to celebrate about."

"Yes," I said.

"Our officials took on the entire responsibility of raising the prestige and status of India in Atlanta," the spokeman said. "At the very start of the Games, there were more officials in the marchpast than competitors. Nto many people are aware, but our official actually rehearsed for several days so that they would put their best foot forward in the inaugural march."

"They marched very well, I must admit," I said.

"And, when our competitors failed, in event after event, getting eliminated in the first round, it was the officials who provided all the excuses to the foreign and Indian press," the spokesman said.

"True," I said.

"It must have been hard work, finding so many excuss for our failures. You can't go on saying evry time that it was bad umpiring or false start or injury, you have to have new excuss," the spokesman said. "Our officials did a magnificent job."

"If you put if like that, yes," I said.

"We sent only the best officials to the Games," the spokesman said. "From the beginning we knew that we could not depend on our hockey team to bring us any honours, so we said we wouold concentrate on the officials."

"A wise decision," I said.

"There were a lot of officials who wanted to go to Atlanta and keep the country's flag flying, it was a tough job selecting from them, but we did it by increasing the quota of officials. Eventually, there were more officials than competitors."

"Our newspapers were critical about that," I said.

"Our newspapers are always critical, they cannot appreciate anything good," the spokesman said. "Let me tell you, Germany, Russia, even China, told us that they appreciated out policy of more officials and less competitors and they plan to follow it in the next Olympics."

"What are our future plans?" I asked.

"We can always one step ahead of other countries," the spokesman siad. "To the next Games, we are sending only officials, no players."

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