ASIAN Sports Persons Set To Dominate The Olympics
United States President Barack Obama famously said that the 21st century belongs to Asia. The Beijing Olympics proved that point. The question now is will Asia come up with an en core performance at next year’s London Olympics?
China had stunned the USA by topping the medal tally in the 2008 Olympiad which also saw her two other neighbours—South Korea and Japan—finishing among top ten countries on the leaderboard. India also did reasonably well, with shooter Abhinav Bindra winning the first ever individual Olympic Gold for the country and boxer Vijender Singh and wrestler Sushil Kumar claiming a bronze each to help the country finish 50th in the medal tally. To the surprise of everyone, even Afghanistan claimed a bronze, proving Olympic Council of Asia’s (OCA) assertion that continent is well on its way to emerging as a sports powerhouse in the World.
“Well I think the assertion was not wrong. Asian countries will be more dominating in London Games,” OCA secretary General Randhir Singh opined.
There is no doubt that Asian countries, given their economic prowess, are not only attracting more foreign investments but also emerging as sports hubs. The F1 Grand Prix which was once considered to be exclusive preserve of the Europeans now have six races in Asia—Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, China, Abu Dhabi, India and Bahrain—out of 20. “You cannot divorce sports from economics. The good performance by the Asian sports persons at the world stage is due to the financially backing provided to them by their respective governments and National Olympic Committees (NOCs),” was Randhir’s take. Olympics is the litmus test of any country’s progress in sports, so though it took a long time for Asian Countries to make their presence felt, but now they have carved a niche for themselves the Europeans, Africans and the Americans will find it tough to get past them.
There is no doubt that financial prosperity has led to the boom in sports in this continent but the OCA has also played a crucial role in spreading the sports awareness among its 45-member countries. The OCA has its permanent headquarters in Kuwait. The main objective of the OCA is to develop sport, culture and education of Asian youth as well as promoting international respect, friendship, goodwill and peace through sports. India has played a pivotal role in the formation of Asian Games Federation (AGF) which in 1981 was rechristened as Olympic Council of Asia (OCA). The AGF adopted ‘Ever Onward’, given by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, as the motto of the Asian Games, the first edition of which was held in March 1951 in New Delhi. The erstwhile Maharaja of Patiala presented the Torch and the flag for the first Asian Games and since then they have been carried from country to country.
The Asian sporting revolution has begun to spill over. With more and more players who are not able to get a chance to represent their countries are emigrating and it comes as no surprise when one finds them representing other countries. What is interesting is that several top Asian sportspersons are now representing European, American and African states. Chinese shuttlers and athletes are now part of several countries outside Asia. This time India has a very good chance of winning between five and eight medals. Shooters are in good form, so are the women archers and boxers. Wrestling, Badminton, Tennis are the other disciplines from which country can expect good results. “I am very optimistic about the future of Indian sports. The good performance of our sports persons in recent International events—Commonwealth and Asian Games has been world class and I am very confident that by 2020 India will be among the to top 20 sporting nations in the world,” Randhir said.
“Till 1982 we used to have only Asian Games but now OCA conducts six different games besides the Asiad—Winter Games, Indoor Games, Youth Games, Beach Games, Martial Art Games and Indoor Martial Art Games,” He explained adding that these games have helped build a huge pool of sports persons who are now dominating the World sports. Another interesting aspect is that within the region, there are five regional—East Asian, South Asian, Central Asia, South East Asia, and West Asia—games held in two year’s circle. Asian Games have grown much bigger and have more disciplines in it. The OCA has changed its circle and it after 2014, it will be held in 2019 (instead of 2018). This has been done so that these take place a year before the Olympics, so that these can be used as the Olympic qualifiers.
The OCA has now a huge marketing programme. Earlier, a very nominal fee used to be charged from the hosts of the Asian Games but now fee has been hiked substantially. There is a lot of involvement and investment in the affairs of the OCA by all the members. Internatonal Olympic Committee (IOC) is also taking a keen interest in the region. In last 44 years, There has been three Olympics in the continent—1964 Tokyo, 1988 Seoul, 2008 Beijing—Japan has also hosted two Winter Olympics and now South Korea will be hosting the third (2018 edition of the Winter Olympics).
The inaugural Youth Olympic Games were held in Singapore and the second edition will also be held in the continent at Nanjing (China). Kuala Lumpur (1998) and New Delhi (2010) were the venues of the Commonwealth Games. Several world championships are now being regularly held in Asia with China, Malaysia, Korea and India emerging as major sports hubs. Apart from China, other Asian countries have also produced top level athletes. India is an example. Saina Nehwal is world number 4 Badminton player, Deepika Kumari is top junior archer while shooter Ronjon Sodhi is world number two. Pankaj Advani is a seven-time world champion in various forms of the games played on the Green Baize while Vishwanathan Anand was till last year world champion in all forms of Chess tournaments.
It is obviously government’s duty to spend money to build the infrastructure for promotion of sports. IOC recognises this fact but it does not approve of any interference by the authorities in the functioning and conduct of the NOCs. The Asian tiger is on the move, economically, politically and in the sports field. The continent will showcase its best talent in 2012 London Olympics and mind you, the games will be dominated by the Asians.
By Harpal Singh Bedi