The blame game that follows every underachieving Olympics stoops to farcical levels. The gauntlet of blame is passed over your shoulder. Athletes and coaches blame administrative red-tapism and the bureaucracy while the latter fault athletes and coaches for lackadaisical planning. Only the faces change in this drama that’s played over and over again, after the Olympics, every four years.
The mutual squabbling obscures the reality. The first step in addressing the shortcomings revealed at the Rio Games should begin with a collective shouldering of the blame. All parties involved at both ends of the spectrum, from administrators and bureaucrats to athletes and coaches, should look within and come up with better strategies and planning for the Tokyo Games as quickly as possible, so that preparations could begin immediately. The build-up to the Rio Games took ages to kick-off, and the administrative mess and power-wrangling in this period were of comical levels. By the time everyone woke up to the reality of the Games, it was already too late for methodical thinking and planning. Look, for instance, at the ambitious Target Olympic Podium Scheme, launched just nine months before the Olympics. Even if it was a novel idea, there was too little time for it to beget tangible results. But, with the right oversight, it could make a difference in Tokyo. Important for this initiative’s success is the identification of a set of promising athletes who could deliver a medal in Tokyo. The sooner they are identified the better it is, in terms of providing them systematic training.
The biggest lesson India should take from the Rio Games is how not to repeat a Narsingh Yadav-Sushil Kumar episode. So imprudently was it handled that in the end neither Narsingh nor Sushil made it to the Games and the drama that followed could be woven into a court-room thriller. The entire episode could have been handled in a more mature manner. The Wrestling Federation of India was so preoccupied with this clash of personalities that planning for the Games went for a toss. They failed to enter the Indian team for two international tournaments and the proposed training camp in Spala, Poland, was aborted as they couldn’t procure visas in time. The first progressive measure the sports ministry could take, therefore, is to end the feuds among various federations. The players, on their part, shouldn’t retreat into a shell, thinking that the next event is another two years away. They must begin preparing to demand more from themselves. Instead of blame-games and mudslinging, the need of the hour is honest retrospection.