LOOKING BEYOND FORMULA ONE
95,000 spectators and almost 527 mil- lion total global television audience watching India’s inaugural Grand Prix in New Delhi meant opening a new chapter in India’s sporting history. Till now such kind of statistics only relate to one sport in India- Cricket. Many would call it un- necessary hype as Formula One is always regarded as elitist sport, like the golf. Secondly, FI is always dominated by European drivers and Asians have contributed little in this sport.
Irrespective of these arguments the recent trends in FI suggest, more and more investments are pouring in Asian markets. Newer race circuits are being added in China, Korea, Abu Dhabi, Japan, Singa pore and now in India. Fl today is like any other sport-business and what could be better place to do busi- ness than in Asia Besides India’s growing automotive industry will be immensely benefited by the arrival of FI in India.
Successful inauguration of FI also erased doubts about India’s capability of handing global events, which cropped up during Commonwealth games. Now it is clear. India has the fire power to host global events with efficiency. As an emerging economy, India wants more and more global sporting events taking place in India. Successful hosting of a big sporting event in many ways helps the economy and opens up new vistas.
However, the thing which most Indian’s worry is the performance of Indians in different sports, Except for cricket Indians seldom excelled in other sports. Analyzing our achievements in different sports, gives an impression, Indian’s are underachievers. To be a sporting giant a country needs to perform consis tently both on and off the field. Notwithstanding having resources, India is lagging in that respect. Tennis is one such sport where lots of Indian’s take interest. But we are not serious contenders when it comes to winning Grand Slams. And after Vijay Amritraj (who once ranked no 4 in the ATP rankings) we haven’t produced any quality singles player. Our performance in doubles is slightly better, thanks to the relentless duo of Leander Page and Mahesh Bhupati. There were lot of expectations from Sania Mirza and Somdev Dev Barman, but to expect grand slams from them is just too much. It is thus no surprise that we do not host any important ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) tour- nament where big stars take part. Chennai open is the lone ATP tournament India organizes, where very few big names in tennis participate.
While grand slams remain a distant dream for Indians, China meanwhile achieved that amazing the feat. Li Na by winning the French Open (Woman’s single) this year in June became the first woman from Asia to win any singles Grand Slam. It was possible due to the efforts Chinese Tennis Association took to develop the market for tennis in China and on the Asian continent in general. The result was Shanghai Rolex Open where top players like Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic participated and created much fan following. India has a poor track record in athletics also. Almost no Indian feature in the record books. India doesn’t boast of star athletes like swimmer Ian Thorpe or sprinter Usain Bolt. A country with billion populations, we always struggled to take even one medal in Olympics. Once our style of Hockey was ad- mired all over the world, but the national game of India is in dilapidated condition now.
India salvaged some pride in Chess (the game India invented) through its champion player Viswanathan Anand. India’s first Grandmaster, Anand is one of the six players in history to break the 2800 mark on the FIDE (World Chess Federation) rating list. He is also the current world Chess cham- pion and would be defending his title in World Chess Championship 2012 in Moscow against Boris Gel- fand. India’s misery continues also in football. It is a shame because other Asian countries are not only hosting world cup soccer, but doing fairly well in soccer field. The 2002 World Cup was the first to be held in Asia, and was hosted jointly by South Korea and Japan. South Korea, under a charismatic coachGus Hiddink reached the semi-finals of that world cup, signalling the rise of Asian countries in soccer.
While other Asian countries gradually progressed in the world’s most popular sport. India, on the other hand, continues to disappoint millions of fans both in India and in abroad. India’s ranking in world foot- ball is a miserable 133. Even smaller countries like, Burkina Faso, Benin, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Haiti and Fiji rank higher than India. The only star India could produce is Baichung Bhutia, who brought some glamour and hope. Overall India continues to languish in soccer field and Indian soccer fans satisfy themselves by watching foreign league on the television.
A stable economy allows India to organise global events. India though shouldn’t be satisfied with hosting these mega events only. If India wishes to be a super power in sporting arena, it needs to consis tently perform well in global events like Olympics. A lot of effort is required to improve the standard of sport in India. Recently, sports minister Ajay Makan, came out with one such step by enacting a strong sports bill. However, everyone is not happy with the bill and refused to walk the extra mile. It is time India should look beyond cricket and give other sports equal opportunity to excel.