On Wednesday 4 August, it was with an idea that Indian boxer Lovlina Borgohain entered the ring at the Rygoku Kokugikan arena in Tokyo: to defeat Turkish Busenaj Surmenelli, to reach the final and perhaps the second Indian athlete, male and female. , to win the gold medal in 40 years of Olympic competition.
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The task was out of reach for a boxer who was too fast, too nimble, too powerful. But the bronze medal brought back by Lovlina Borgohain still came to fill a purse that remains hopelessly empty year after year: two days before the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, India, the highest on the planet The second country by population, displays only two silver and three bronze medals on its counter.
As many medals as Michael Phelps
As we go back in time, the picture gets darker: Of the nine gold medals India has officially displayed on its hunting tables since 1900, 6 were received by the field hockey team between 1928 and 1954. were done. Between the 1984 Los Angeles Games and those of Rio in 2016, the country collected only one gold medal – it was in shooting at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“Until recently, we always approached the Olympic Games with disappointment” Yes. Rajaraman, a veteran Indian sports journalist. “India should start competing instead of just participating in the Olympics”India TV, the news channel at the helm of the competition, added this brutal comparison: In the 121 years since the Olympic Games, India, at the dawn of Tokyo, had won 28 medals, which is a similar number compared to the number. Medals collected by Michael Phelps, the only American swimmer.
How to explain such a deficiency? The country’s economic situation is already no doubt a sight to behold: despite recent years of growth, Indian GDP per capita, at $2,100, is far from neighboring and Chinese rival ($10,200), not to mention Western For a country like the former colonial power of the United Kingdom ($42,000).
These economic difficulties have gone hand-in-hand with a lack of general interest for too long, as much for the populace as government, for high-level play: “The Indians focused on three things for too long: the food on the table, the clothes on the body, and the roof over the head, and the pool of athletic talent was therefore very small” G Rajaraman explains.
The Indian government is also neglecting the issue of sports, not investing in infrastructure or supporting high level athletes. Another problem: A national sport but a non-Olympic discipline, cricket monopolizes a fair share of attention … and funding in the country.
However, things are changing, as the historical medal table indicates: 28 medals won by the country since 1900 (not counting the Tokyo Olympics), 12 between 2004 and 2016. Late awakening of Government of India.
The budget of Khelo India, the main federal sports development programme, has fallen from one billion rupees (about 11 million euros) in 2015 to nearly nine billion rupees (100 million euros) in 2020. Corruption, chaotic allocation of resources and share apathy remain the real problems of overpopulation in the practice of sport. But promoters of the game in India are hopeful that the tide may be starting to turn: “I hope for a good result in Paris”, in 2024, assured G Rajaraman, “And I think we can aim for the top 20 in Los Angeles”, in 2028.
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