Time For Sportspersons To Save India Blushes
Indian sportspersons have a tough task on hand waiting for them. They have an enormous responsibility to turn this Commonwealth “shame” game into “Fame” Game. They will have to perform well to boost the morale of the countrymen who are feeling ‘low’ because the humiliation brought on the nation by the sports administrators, Organising Committee (OC) and the government by their corrupt and sloppy handling of this mega event. They will also have to prove to the World that they can do India proud by their individual efforts despite the corrupt system.
A great showing by them will restore, to some extent, faith of the citizens that India is a country with future and hope. And one is not asking for a moon from the Indian athletes. They have done well in the Commonwealth Games. On a shoe string budget, the Indians came out with flying colours in 2002 and 2006 Games where they had finished creditable fourth. India has taken part in the 14 of the 18 editions of the Games which were first held in 1930 and country’s total medal tally in these Games so far has been 271, including 102 gold. India’s best performance was in the 2002 Manchester, where it bagged an impressive haul of 69 medals (30 gold, 22 silver, 17 bronze). In these Games, the India also stunned highly fancied England to claim gold in the Women’s Hockey.
At Melbourne in 2006, India had 50 medals, (22 gold, 17 silver, 11 bronze). In both these Games (2002 and 2006), India got less medals in Melbourne compared to Manchester because in weightlifting, till 2002, three sets of medals were awarded in each weight category, while in 2006, just one set was awarded. Also Wrestling was not included in the 2006 Games.
For these Games sportspersons have been provided all the facilities and government had spent lavishly on their training and coaching. They have the talent to come up with sterling performances and one hopes they will live upon the expectations of their supporters. Also successful conduct of this mega event will be a positive endorsement and good advertisement for India in the comity of nations.
There are 245-gold, 245-silver and 255-bronze medals at stake in the 12-day sporting extravaganza and hosts are expected to win over 100 medals. Most of the experts feel that India has the potential of finishing at least second on the leader board.
As a host nation, India will be taking part in all the 17 disciplines Aquatics (38), Archery (8), Athletics (46), Badminton (6), Boxing (10), Cycling (18), Gymnastics (20), Hockey-men/women (2), Lawn Bowls (6), Netball (1), Rugby sevens (1), Shooting (36), Squash (5), Table Tennis (7), Tennis (5), Weightlifting (15) and Wrestling (21). (Number of gold medals in brackets).
Perhaps for the first time government has been so lavish with its spending to stage the games and to prepare the sportspersons for it. Though there are experts who say that India has lost the advantage of being a host because the sportspersons were not able to practice on the venues meant for Games. Home advantage is usually associated with the games played on grass like Cricket or football.
In the case of cricket, home teams can prepare a pitch which will suit its bowlers/ batsmen. But in the multi-discipline competitions like Olympics, Asia or Commonwealth Games almost all the events are played on artificial turfs or in indoor stadium, so almost all the teams start with even advantage. The host has an edge because of the local crowd’s support.
Wrestling and Archery are back in Games while Tennis will be making its debut. Australia, has maintained it’s strangle hold over the Games and has been dominating it for a long time. It will be interesting to see how close India comes to Australian medal tally or will it be able to brush aside the challenge from England, Canada and New Zealand.
The Indian shooters are in great form, Double Trap shooter Ronjan Sodhi has just won a gold in World Cup in Turkey and Tejaswani Sawant has shattered a World Record. Expectations are that host will win more medals in this discipline compared to last time. In Melbourne Indian shooters had claimed 27 medals (16 gold, seven silver and three bronze).
Going by the sale of tickets, Hockey will be a big draw and the Indians will strive to make it to the podium for the first time in these games before the home crowd. India was placed 4th in Kuala Lumpur Games in 1998 where hockey was introduced for the first time. They however did not figure in the 2002 edition and were poor fifth at Melbourne. Australia won the gold in all three editions.
In the Commonwealth Games, the Indian (men) team is in a very tough pool. They are clubbed with, among others, Australia and Pakistan. India first have to qualify for the knock-out stage and then hope for the podium finish. Indian women hockey team winner of the gold medal at Manchester managed to finish second in 2006 but this time they will need a Herculean effort to either regain the gold or retain the second place. The Aussies are in tremendous form and England is looking for revenge, Kiwis are also in good form. England and New Zealand had beaten India in the recently concluded World Cup.
PATHETIC CONDITION AT CWG VILLAGE
Final preparations for the Commonwealth Games Village have been of concern to the CGF since viewing the residential zone along with a number of Commonwealth Games Associations (CGAs) advance parties on September 15. Many issues remain unresolved and as such last night I wrote to the Indian Cabinet Secretary, expressing my great concern with the preparedness of the Athletes Village to welcome the teams of the Commonwealth for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
The Village is the cornerstone of any Games and the athletes deserve the best possible environment to prepare for their competition.
Many nations that have already sent their advanced parties to set-up within the Village have made it abundantly clear that, as of the afternoon of September 20, the Commonwealth Games Village is seriously compromised. Since the nations have been arriving at the Village they have been all commented favourably on the appearance of the International Zone and the main dining area.
However, the condition of the residential zone has shocked the majority of CGAs that are in Delhi and, despite their attempts to work with the Organising Committee in a constructive manner since arriving on September 15, significant operational matters remain unaddressed.
The problems are arising because deadlines for the completion of the Village have been consistently pushed out. Now, the high security around the site, while vital, is slowing progress and complicating solutions.
Security remains of the utmost importance to the CGF and our advisors continue to monitor the situation. Currently, this matter remains on track. However, with the Village to be officially opened on September 23, timely acceptable solutions to prepare for the arrival of athletes are of paramount importance.
The CGF has asked the Cabinet Secretary to immediately deploy the necessary resources to fix all the outstanding issues to an acceptable level. CGF CEO, Mike Hooper, and his staff are already in Delhi and are keeping me constantly informed of the situation and developments.
I will arrive in Delhi at the earliest opportunity so as to assess the situation first-hand and provide our member countries and territories with a frank assessment of the situation.
The CGF remains committed to open and transparent communication with our members and their athletes.
By Michael Fennell
Wrestling, Boxing and Tennis are expected to other crowd pulling events. Indian boxers, who have been hogging limelight with their good showings, are bound to feel the pressure not from their rivals but from the expecting fans. In 12 editions of the Commonwealth Games in which Indian boxers have taken part they have won only 13 medals—2 gold, 2 silver and 9 bronze. Mohd. Ali Qamar was the first Indian boxer to claim the gold in commonwealth Games in 2002 at Manchester and it was followed by Akhil Kumar in Melbourne in 2006. However without doubt the defining moment for the Indian boxing came on August 20, 2008 when Vijinder earned country’s first ever Olympic boxing medal. “We are on the right track and all the boxers are focused,” commented All India Boxing Federation (AIBF) secretary PK Murlidhar Raja: “If we get a good draw in the Commonwealth Games we will definitely have a lot of medals. There will 40 medals at stake (10 gold, 10 silver and 20 bronze) and I hope will get big number of them.”
In the Wrestling competition a whopping 63 medals—21 gold, 21 silver and 21 bronze—are up for grabs. Wrestling was not included in Melbourne while at Manchester, Indian free-style grapplers dominated the mat. In the earlier editions of the Games when wrestling was included only free-style competitions were held but for the first time Greeco Roman and Women events have also been added. According to National (Wrestling) coach Jagminder Singh, India has good chance of winning 14 to 15 golds but some top official of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) feel that they have good chance of bagging 18 gold out of 21. A world title win by Sushil Kumar has further boosted the morale
of the Indian wrestlers. The main challenge for Indian men wrestlers will come from Canada, England and Pakistan.
Archery is being included for the second time in these games after 1982 at Brisbane. India is expecting a major share of medals in this discipline, with Australia, Malaysia being its main rivals. Archery will have competition in both recurve and compound bow sections.
Tennis is making its debut in the Commonwealth Games. There are five golds at stake in this competition Singles (men and women), Doubles (men and women) and Mixed Doubles. Each participating team is allowed to enter maximum of 3 Singles players and a maximum of 2 teams for Mixed Doubles. Though the CGF has 71 members but not more than ten-member countries have good tennis players. Interestingly, the Commonwealth Games are one of the few competitions in tennis when British players represent their individual countries, rather than playing under the banner of Great Britain. So in Delhi, Great Britain will be competing as 7 different teams England, Scotland, Wales, N Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey).
Unfortunately top ranked five men players from the Commonwealth countries are not taking part in the competition. The highest ranked is Andy Murray of Scotland. He is number four, followed by Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus (ranked 30) Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt (33), Denis Istomin (71) and German-based Jamacian Dustin Brown (99) India’s Somdev Devvarman is placed 111.
In the Women’s section top ranked players are Australia’s Samantha Stosur who beat Venus Williams in French open, she is ranked seventh. Britain’s Elena Baltacha is 63rd, India’s Sania Mirza is at 91st place while two other Australians Anastasia Rodionova and Alicia Molik are at 92nd and 94th place.
In the men’s doubles, Canada’s Daniel Nestor is 3rd in the ATP ranking. Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi are ranked 6th and 7th respectively. Bhupathi’s partner Mark Knowles of Bahmas is at 8th place. They are followed by Aisam ul Haq Qureshi (Pakistan) Rohan Boppana. In the absence of top ranking players India have a chance to win at least two gold, men’s doubles and mixed double and with some luck can hope to get a couple of Silvers too.
World number 2, Saina Nehiwal will lead India’s Badminton campaign. Chetan Anand and P Kashyap are medal prospects in men’s section. Weightlifting Federation of India (WFI) has managed to pay the whopping five lakh USD fine to the World body to get the ban imposed on it lifted. The ban was imposed after six Indian lifters failed the test last year. The WFI is confident of getting substantial number of gold out of 15
at stake. In Athletics in which 46 golds are up for the grabs, the host challenge is to be spearheaded by the thrower Vikas Gowda and Harwant Kaur. Interestingly, India has won only one gold in Commonwealth Games that too way back on 1958 by “flying Sikh” Milkha Singh.
Table tennis was a big surprise in Melbourne where Sharat A Kamal emerged champion and now the officials’ hopes that medal tally in this discipline will go up. In Lawn Bowling, Indians hope for good show to win a medal in their very first appearance. The competition is tough with the Australians and the Malaysians starting as favourites. However given the current form of Indian players and favourable surface, the 16-member squad is confident of putting up a commendable show.
The team coached by Australian Richard Gale finished fourth in Ladies Triple event at the eight-nation meet in the capital this year in April. Teenagers Tania Chowdhury and Farzana Khan, among the eight women in the squad, are Country’s best medal hopes in the triples and individual categories respectively. While Tania won a silver in the Asia-Pacific Championship in August last year in Kuala Lumpur and finished fourth in the eight-nation event in April, Farzana narrowly losing her semi-final playoff to Malaysia’s world number four Siti Ahmad.
In Netball it will be a miracle, if host win a medal but they have the potential to create an upset or two. India has never featured in Commonwealth Games and since out of the 12 countries which play the sport, India figures at the bottom and it would take more than a miracle to achieve a medal. “The team has put in a lot of hard work in its preparation in the last two years and we are hoping to create some upsets and improve our rankings in the Games,” according to chief coach Panchali Tatke. In July, India finished fourth position in the seventh Asian Youth Netball Championship after losing the play-off to Singapore.
A 27-member Indian cycling squad is gearing up for the challenge but the competition will be fierce and any medal will be a bonus. Film actor Janki Das was the first Indian cyclist, to take part in the 1938 Sydney Games, and Avtar Singh Dogra was the last in the 1978 Edmonton edition. The Manipuri duo of Bikram Singh and Rameshwari Devi would spearhead the charge and CFI is even expecting a medal from Bikram, who clinched a bronze in an Asian-level championship in Japan three months ago.
In squash India has a reasonably good chance of winning medal while in Swimming it is going to be very tough. All said it is time for the sportspersons to deliver and save India the blushes.
By Harpal Singh Bedi