Meanwhile, a power failure at the Jawahralal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi wiped out three national records and a potential Olympic qualifying mark during the Indian Grand Prix in April. The men’s and women’s 3000m events were conducted in total darkness and electronic timings were not registered — this meant 100m runner Muhammad Anas’ 10.09 second record (10.16 is the Olympic qualification mark) was wiped out. Power backup was not used despite there being a warning of a blackout.

So Sachin Tendulkar joined Abhinav Bindra and Salman Khan as India’s Olympics Goodwill Ambassador as we rapidly approach Rio 2016.

b’Hockey skipper Sardar Singh, Goodwill Ambassador Salman Khan and Olympian Mary Kom. PTI’

A couple of days later, during the same event, media reports spoke of how athletes were refused time to train due to Salman Khan shooting for his latest film ‘Sultan’ at the venue.

But the IOA thinks that India needs more Goodwill Ambassadors.

Until a couple of years back, India didn’t even have a recognised Olympic association. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had banned the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) for tainted officials and government interference. If not for power-hungry officials trying to wrest control of the association, this international embarrassment could have been avoided.

But the IOA thinks that India needs more Goodwill Ambassadors.

In mid-2015, Jwala Gutta created a furore about her and doubles partner Ashwini Ponnappa being omitted from the TOP (Target Olympic Podium) scheme. Both were later accepted, but for a team which is easily India’s best in women’s doubles (there really aren’t too many better pairs around), it was slightly shocking to see them left out.

b’Inderjeet Singh will represent India in shot put. PTI’

But the IOA thinks that India needs more Goodwill Ambassadors.

Inderjeet Singh, the first track and field athlete to qualify for Rio 2016, got assistance from being in the TOP scheme. But in September last year, he said this

“The ministry is not allowing my personal coach to travel with me. I also do not have a personal doctor. I need Rs 30 lakh to train in the US and the ministry is not listening, so what’s the use of being in TOP?” 

Inderjeet needs to compete with the best — he told Scoopwhoop recently that he has bettered his 20.65 record in training. Last year’s shotput Olympic gold came with a throw of 21.89.

But the IOA thinks we need more Goodwill Ambassadors.

Just like Inderjeet, athletes Tintu Luka and Dutee Chand have to go through the media to get their demands across to authorities to send them abroad. 

And then there are the unfulfilled promises of jobs and land. 2012 Paralympics silver medal winner HN Girisha had to wait three years — three years — for the Sports Authority of India to finally give him the promised job. 

b’Dutee Chand (R) competes in New Delhi during the Federation Cup. AFP’

But the IOA thinks we need more Goodwill Ambassadors.

Well, tell you what. Firstly, appointing ambassadors 100 days before the Olympics means jacksh*t. Where was this idea in the three years and 265 days in between London 2012 and Rio 2016? 

Secondly, what good are goodwill ambassadors apart from creating a buzz about the Olympics. Indian Olympics doesn’t need buzz — that’s for the broadcasters of the Games — what the country needs are champions. As Tendulkar wrote in his letter to the IOA: 

I strongly believe that the sportspersons from different parts of the country, pursuing their unique skills are the true ambassadors of the growing sporting culture in this country.

And it is these sportspersons who need to be encouraged, helped, supported — not made to wait for jobs when they’ve devoted their entire lives in the pursuit of glory for the nation. Not made to compete in the heat and dust of Delhi and segregated into different training centres like they did for the male and female wrestlers — world class for the former and crass for the latter.

These sportspersons don’t need an ambassador. They don’t need Sachin or Salman.

They need an association, a group of people, who are committed to their cause. 

They need people who care.

Feature image source: PTI