Monday, 3 September 2012

Role of sport- inspire a generation?

Sport undoubtedly generates passionate patriotism. More importantly it is all inclusive in its appeal. It  breaks down the barriers of race, religion, class, language etc. We have witnessed this unity in diversity in stadiums hosting cricket and football matches.

However, watching the London Olympics unfold from the arrival of the Olympic flame from Greece, the Olympic torch relays, the opening ceremony and finally the actual games was a treat of a different and possibly a more superiorly refined kind. It brought the British people together like never before. The country is suddenly flooded with clebrities who are responsible, hardworking, high achieving role models. Whereas, before the Olympics, the kids struggled to find one who didn't do drugs or mouth swear words.

Olympics have come and gone but the legacy will live on, not just by way of the Orbit (I hope to be able to climb it someday) and the Olympic park but their true legacy is the fact that they were able to do what they came to do-"Inspire a generation!".

This inspiration would not have been possible without the meticulous planning and attention to detail which shone forth from begining to the end. One of our midwives, who is a fifty year old single mum, who runs for the love of it, was nominated by her daughter to carry the Olympic torch, which she did. We were able to run our fingers through the torch when she brought it to the delivery suite along with photographs of her on the road with the cheering crowd. It was great, she looked wonderful in the white attire which is her own now.

Soon, I heard Amitabh Bachhan talk about his extraordinary experience of carrying the Olympic torch in London while he was cheered on by sportlovers who did not know him. It was Amitabh Bachhan on NDTV, who enlightened us about the fact that there were 8000 little circular perforations in the torch representing the inspirational stories of 8000 torchbearers who carried the torch through more than 1000 cities, towns and villages of the only country which adds an adjective to its name- Great Britain. I found it really intriguing that the same torch was carried by ordinary folk, sport heroes and other celebrities in the torch relay which made it across the length and breadth of the country with school kids including my own lining the roads to cheer it along.

Several things were done to get the country involved including having real people and staff from Great Ormond Street the childrens cardiac hospital, the construction workers who built the Olympic park and the children from neighbouring schools as participants in the great show which was the Opening ceremony of the Olympics.

Attending an actual Olympic event at one of the wonderful venues was an experience unparalleled but Hyde Park was great experience too. All tube stations had signs telling you which direction to travel for various Olympic venues as well as venues where there were large screens set up in public parks for people to get together and watch the events live, completely free of cost. Hyde Park was one such place with signs of BT London Live leading up to the big screens. Hyde park didnt just have the sporting events on the screens, it also had live music bands, loads of food stalls, plenty of toilets and most importantly had a few sporting heroes each day walk on to the stage to speak to the crowd. The athletes thought it was amazing and so did my children.

Involuntarily, my mind went back to the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. The human spirit is the same and people were as excited, the thrill of winning, the cheering crowds, the tame traffic just to showcase to the world we too can be good if only we all collectively desire, the exotic opening ceremony and the heroes it made of athletes not so well known until then.....everything was just as it should be when a city and country hosts a big sporting event like this BUT.....but the legacy we tend to remember is the 4000 rupees of taxpayer money paid for one toilet roll, the shoddy preparation of the athletic tracks and how Oberois and other private players pitched in, free of charge to complete the preparations in the athlete's village as a matter of national pride and how Kalmadi was booed at the closing ceremony.

I wonder what the atmosphere would have been like, if Reliance had been asked to put up large screens in India Gate for common people to watch the Games free of cost, where school children from Government schools were reserved seats to watch the athletics and swimming and I wonder how much stronger the athletes would have felt coming out to greet such crowds and how much more by way of sponsorship they would be able to generate and most importantly how much more that would do for sports in the country.

One just has to watch Paan Singh Tomar (the movie) to let the moving performance by Irfan Khan tell us about the state of sports and athletes in our country...

When I wrote in my national policy analysis of barriers to maternal mortality for UNICEF, that the top reason for failure of policy was corruption; I was told I need to temper my statements to ensure that UNICEF is seen as engaging constructively with the Government.

But I dont think there is another way to put it- Corruption has eaten out all systems and is ensuring our people are devoid of health, food, employment, education, development yet we are proud that our country has nuclear weapons, has a space programme as we the people proudly use jugaad (which should mean innovation but usually means a backdoor entry to be able to get what you have been legally denied), pay bribes, indulge in name dropping, live within self made illusionary walls of class, caste, colour and therefore set a negative example for our kids who are thank God not as influenced by us as we would like them to be.

May be we need to go back to basics and live by the Olympic and paralympic values of friendship, respect, excellence, equality, courage, determination and inspiration because these call out to our true nature and therefore are able to generate the positive energy seen and felt through out the world.

When Farah, the Somalian origin British citizen knelt to pray in the Olympic stadium after winning the 5000m, everybody prayed with him. Lets pray together, play together.....


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be a wet blanket, but I think sportsmanship has vanished from sports, and I don't think of sports personalities as role models any more. "Winning at any cost" seems to be the mantra in sports today. Whatever happened to the sentiment “Not the quarry, but the chase/Not the trophy, but the race”?

- Rupa