IOA should borrow Anirban Lahiri’s honesty

Anirban Lahiri reminds India of the need to reflect long and hard about its management of sport and athletes

Anirban Lahiri

Anand Datla

August 26, 2016: As India celebrates the success of PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik, there are murmurs all around that are making their way past the chorus of joy. Our athletes have reached Olympian heights by their sheer resilience, despite a system that works constantly to drag them down. Anirban Lahiri has minced no words in his testimony to the media from his home in Florida, underlining the apathy of the officials in India.

“It is sad to see how an Olympian is treated in our country,” said Lahiri in an interview to the Firstpost. “I know it is making waves now in the media because we had a bad Olympics, but it’s the same thing, whether you look at golf or any other sport. Every single sporting achievement in this country is in spite of and despite of the system. Nothing is because of the system.”

Anirban’s assessment of the situation in India is to the point. More importantly, it is a damning indictment of a system that seems to work at cross purposes with the mission of our hard working athletes, instead of supporting them.

The incident involving OP Jaisha is a grim reminder of the fact that our sports bodies are happy to have our athletes take care of themselves, while they pander to the whims and fancies of the political honchos that travel to these games like it were a junket.

Naturally there is a lot of consternation amongst athletes and fans at the manner in which tax payer money is squandered over pampering officials and post-Olympic celebrations while precious little is done to support the efforts of our athletes to prepare for events.

The case of Dutee Chand, who needed to wait till a week before the Olympics for a pair of shoes is cause for shame. The fact that she had to depend on the generosity of Gopi Chand to prepare for the games is ridiculous for a country of our stature.

The gymnasium where Dipa Karmakar prepared for the Olympics is a shockingly ill-equipped place even to serve as a local gymnasium for working executives. The Indian government needs to take a hard look in the mirror and reassess its strategy for management of sports in the country.

We cannot aspire for athletic brilliance when we treat our athletes in the most lackadaisical manner imaginable. It is time we ask of our country to begin an institutional overhaul that can serve us well in the years to come.

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