Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Olympics Success – our Soft-Power ladder

Olympics, India at the Olympics, Olympics medals tally, Excellence, hard power, soft power, India, PT education, PT's IAS Academy, BrightSparks blog, Sandeep Manudhane
Excellence all the way
In the interconnected world of today, a nation can display its might in two ways – Hard Power and Soft Power. For example, in the digital world of the internet, approximately 80 percent leading brands are American, and the common man (user) unquestioningly accepts that country’s supremacy. India, similarly, has become a big brand in information technology. In military power (hard), Indian definitely figures in the top 5, and even China hesistates to take it head-on in several matters. Likewise, in manufacturing (hard power), even America finds it tough to compete with China. Many strategic global marathons like these are incessantly being run, and a huge nation weaving the dream of emerging a superpower, cannot stay aloof.

In this background, let us attempt an unbiased and neutral analysis of India’s Olympics performance.

In India, the common population stays indifferent to what happens at the Olympics, normally. Several reasons account for it – Olympics’ not being in the governments’ priorities, the expensive nature of many games and sports, and the youth being involved in studies or livelihood activities rather than making games the aim of their lives. Every four years, when this mega global competition happens, the national media suddenly changes focus to issues like national glory and priorities. This year was special – a society that habitually carries out female foeticide and burns its brides for dowries, wan in rapture when girls won many medals at Rio. Suddenly, slogans like Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, Beti Khilao (Save the girl child, educate her, let her play) became the rage. It will be worth seeing if those raising such slogans and updating their social media status accordingly, will celebrate if a girl child arrives in their families!

 Pullela Gopichand, Sakshi Malik, P V Sindhu, Olympics, India at the Olympics, Olympics medals tally, Excellence, hard power, soft power, India, PT education, PT's IAS Academy, BrightSparks blog, Sandeep Manudhane
Doing it despite the system
Anyway! So as the Olympic games conclude, everything returns to normal for the next three years and the hassles of everyday life take over. This has been happening for many decades now, and there is no reason for me to believe that the next four years would be any different. That no miracle is waiting round the corner, I am sure of. In hushed tones, even government officers accept that it is insane to expect Olympic miracles from the present Sports system in India. Many ills beset the Indian Sports system at every level – the corruption and influence of politicians, the impact and exploitation of individual ‘reach’, and the utter lack of talented and honest sports administrators. These, in perfect harmony, sink our dreams every four years.

So if we truly are worried about India’s image, and wish to make our mark in the “Top 10” at the Olympics, we should focus on the five point programme below.

Point One. Miracles can happen if our politicians realize that the Olympics are a solid means to prove and establish India’s soft power in the most non-violent of ways. We have to start treating the Olympics not as an international sports competition, but an intense though not violent war amongst the nations of the world. The manner in which we are spending large sums on strategically enhancing our defence capabilities and establishing our presence across the Indian Ocean region and South Asia, should mirror our efforts at a parallel stage – the Olympics. If our political class can get this point, the whole narrative can change. The focus will shift from organizing jamborees to getting performances on a regular basis.

Sakshi Malik, PV Sindhu, Pullela Gopichand, Olympics, India at the Olympics, Olympics medals tally, Excellence, hard power, soft power, India, PT education, PT's IAS Academy, BrightSparks blog, Sandeep Manudhane
Genuine pride, flying high!
Point Two. Only an insulated system can help us get Olympic success. Our regular Sports Ministries should be allowed to do stuff related to everything but the Olympics. If we are serious, we need to make an Olympics Ministry, and start from ground zero up. This thought is not as crazy as it seems at first sight – faced with massacres of tigers and elephants, we have successfully conceptualized and executed conservation programmes that have delivered! The manner in which the IT industry in India flourished due to being insulated from the government mechanisms, and interference, and ultimately made its mark globally, is the formula to be used by us strategically. The Olympics Minister too should be different (not a politician but a sportsperson or an administrator), and the top team of that Ministry should have only sportspersons, defence officers and normal civil service administrators. Their budgets and performance should get updated daily on an online dashboard.

Point Three. Select a few games, decide a medals-to-be-won target, and make a Project for 8 years (at least). Leaders and officers need to realize that this task is not akin to amending the constitution or framing a new law or making the next big announcement. In those cases, encomiums are earned immediately, irrespective of what finally happens on the ground. At the Olympics, you are head to head with the best among the best, and the space of mediocrity is exactly equal to the space the honesty has enjoyed traditionally in government schemes!

Point Four. Select the potentials from across the country just like through competitive exams, and for the selected students, fix the salaries and allowances for at least a decade. Unless you remove existential worries from the potentials’ minds, expecting performance is not wise. This has never really happened in India, and despite that, our medal winners have done wonders! Of course, the selected potentials will rarely get to see their families, and it will be a very rigorous regime.

Point Five. As a nation, let us then stop interfering with the Olympics Ministry, and let it work for a decade peacefully. Unnecessary interference and criticism has to be avoided. This battle cannot be won with normal weapons. Let monthly performance audits reveal any major incongruencies, if ever. Otherwise, give them time, and wait for miracles to happen.

We have always had the potential to do wonders. Let Rio Olympics 2016 be another reminder. The need now is for a top leader to realize this perspective, and rewrite our future Olympics history!

My article in Hindi on this topic was published. May read here.



Unknown said...

Sir...i totally agree with you and would like to add one more point . Olympics game subject should be added in school curriculumn so that student would learn nitty gritty of the games before they actually came to the ground.

Gaurav Garg said...

we already have IOA which has players also, has it worked? creating a separate ministry will add to the bureaucracy

some athletes are late bloomers, vishwanathan anand for example, creating a competitive environment like structure will eliminate these possibilities

Test said...

Excellent point. The present IOA has hardly any visible accountability. The key is to delink the system from the mainstream totally, and give them a dedicated time period to develop raw talent (chosen rigorously) without any existential worries. Strict transparent supervision will ensure corrective action if things slip up in a big way, on any front.

Unknown said...

In india, most of the people take it lightly but a nation around more than 1.25 billion should stay on the top of the list. Unfortunately, providing necessary training and infrastructure is the hands of those who are careless.Interference of any politicians in sports will cost us as a medal lost.
Narayan Harjani

Unknown said...

Sir, In India we should develop a mentality among the people that sports can be considered as career opportunities as any other reputed educational careers.

Jeet said...

Sir, your first two points of proposed reforms are really appealing. The problem with our nation is that we expect great achievements without providing the necessary platform backed by a strong goal-oriented motivation in place. The entire nation suddenly rises cheering up for athletes once in every four years and takes no offense criticising them at their not-so-very-good performances.

It seems like the government leaves no stone unturned in giving a political angle to the successes of the very few rather a making it a true inspiration for future generations. The case of CM Khattar being unsure of the name of lone-woman-silver-medalist ever in Indian Olympic history and mentionaing her state to be Karnataka during the felicitation ceremony says it all. The allegations of marathon runner OP Jaisa, if true, are the least a nation's athlete can ask for!

Such an attitude of the representatives ipso facto makes it difficult for our potential soft power enhance sophistication in the world forum. What the Modi's 'Task Force' achieves is something the time would say.

Unknown said...

There is always a smarter way to do any Job.Its not like that there are lack of players but only blindly hardwork will not led to Medals.Support from ministry is much needed as india is a developing country and people are not so rich that they can manage training with their own expanses.
Only Opening of more and more academies will go in vain without presence of good trainers and coaches .
It would be much better to invest on a sapling instead of a big grown tree.

Saloni Bhandari said...

I would like to add one more point to this. In India we can develop clusters of excellence by sports. We already have some such as for badminton in hyderabad, boxing in Haryana, river boating and martial arts in Kerala, gymnastics in Maharashtra. If India can excel in these, there is a surety that it can grab many more medals in the next Olympic.
But for this, effort & commitment is needed from the part of the potentials, coaches, administrators, government.

Unknown said...


I have few suggestions which I feel need to realize and should be implemented to bring about desirable results in country's sports performance at global stage:-

(i) Provision of separate budgetary allocation can be made to sports ministry every year for developing sports infrastructure at least on priority basis specially for the sports where our sportsmen performed well over the last few years.

(ii) As we had five year plans for encouraging our economy, similar initiative should be taken for developing excellence in sports.

(iii) Sports should be made part of extra curriculum in our academics and students and their parents should be encouraged to look it as better career prospect.

(iv) Rather than endeavoring on only Olympics games every big international sports tournament should be stressed upon and performance excellence should be endeavor.

Utkarsh Singh said...

Yet another insightful article from you, sir. Enjoyed reading it.