Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Abhinav Bindra's Olympics Gold and India, the nation

By John Cheeran
Is Abhinav Bindra’s individual gold in Beijing Olympics the greatest sporting achievement by India, the nation, or by an Indian?
Bindra is the first Indian to have gone into what was considered an impossible landscape of sporting glory. This 26-year-old from Chandigarh deserves his moment of magnificence.
But can we afford to lose perspective in the wake of Abhinav’s glittering gold?
Indian media has been struggling to come to terms with this Olympic gold medal in Beijing. Some of them have declared Abhinav’s gold is better than the 1983 Cricket World Cup triumph in England.
Kapil Dev, only known for his out swingers and outrageous comments, has declared that is better than his team’s win in 1983. How silly you can get Kapil?
What about India’s eight Olympic gold medals in hockey?
What about India’s 1975 World Cup triumph in hockey, for that matter?
The fact is that many of the sport editors in Indian media, both print and television, would not have heard about all these. They, in fact, deserve to be shot at by Abhinav Bindra.
It is their (sports commentators) inability to deal with sport in general, and Olympics in particular, has led to statements that Beijing gold is nation’s greatest sporting glory as Abhinav fired shots after shots befitting an assassin.
Olympics is a strange beast.
With 28 disciplines, none knows who is doing what.
These 28 disciplines are a token to the vanity of the International Olympic Council and have nothing to do with sport as common man, or even George Orwell understood it.
It was Orwell who wrote sport is war minus shooting.
But shooting, as a sport, can be considered only as something that far removed from war.
Let’s tackle this quite honestly.
Shooting is an elite sport, an expensive pastime.
Shooting as a sport, at its best, could be a meditation, something only the rich can afford to indulge in.
I almost puked while watching Bindra family’s reaction to their son’s brilliant achievement.
Bindra senior’s gloating nailed the lie that this is a moment of glory for we, the nation. It was the kind of exultation when a rich family’s planning and purse strings come good at a global stage. India, it seems, was an excuse for Abinav’s obsessive pursuit.
Let’s be honest with ourselves.
How many were expecting Abhinav to shoot gold in Beijing? Not me? Not many. Not the majority.
Did anyone in India were following the early rounds of shooting? Did anyone of you bet at least one rupee on Abhinav winning the Olympic gold?
Did anyone of you pray, rearrange your seats for better luck or hold onto the same position for not upsetting the alignment of fortune, when the young man was peering through to the target in some secluded spot in Beijing?
Sport becomes sport when it takes you to the edge of despair along with the athlete. Sport becomes sport when it takes you to the brink of defeat and brings you back to the cliff of glory.
Sport becomes sport when you struggle with your demons for the 100 overs of a one-day match, or every session of a five-day Test match.
Or for that matter those 90 minutes of unrelieved tension during a football match or 70 minutes of a hockey encounter.
You won’t kill anyone or yourself, after watching a shooter miss his target or a synchronized swimmer falter in her movements.
As I said earlier Olympics is a strange beast. It helps to know this beast to get closer to the real thing. Olympics is for track and field. Olympics is for boxing. Olympics is for hockey. Olympics is for swimming.
You cannot compare achievements in those disciplines with that of any exotic sports such as shooting, kayaking, beach volleyball, equestrian, fencing, archery, water polo, sailing etc. These are extras that provide that sense of wholeness to the IOC’s exercise in grandeur.
That’s why generations to come will recall with incredible pride and joy India’s eight Olympic hockey golds, 1975 World Cup hockey title, 1983 Cricket World Cup triumph and 2007’s Twenty20 World Cup win.
In my book, even Milkha Singh’s exciting run in Rome and P. T. Usha’s graceful strides in Los Angeles will be far higher than Abhinav’s glittering gold.
Those were the moments when a nation cried in joy for what could have been.
So when shall us grow up to tell sport apart from pastime?

No comments:

John Cheeran at Blogged