Why is India performing dismally at the Rio Olympics?

Let’s take a look at the medal tally of individual countries in the ongoing Rio Olympics (at the time of writing this post):-

  1.  United States -60
  2.  China -41
  3.  Great Britain-30
  4. India0 (unranked)

The question that strikes the mind almost instantaneously is: Why India even after having a population of over 1.2 billion people can’t win even a single medal at an international sporting event? Are Indian players not provided the facilities or, even worse, don’t have the capability?  What is the reason that over 550 sportspeople qualify from the U.S. and only about a 100 are selected from the world’s second largest population?


It seems in terms of the population size and medals won, there is no worse Olympic performer than India.  London 2012 was India’s most successful Olympics till date; it finished with two Silver and four Bronze medals. That is over 200 million per medal, the highest ratio of all competing nations at London.

There are a variety of reasons which are responsible for the deplorable condition of Indian sports at an international level. One of the most basic, but perhaps the most important reason is the Indian mindset. India was ruled by the British Crown for more than two centuries. The British actively estranged Indians from job opportunities which resulted in poverty. This has made Indians incredibly insecure and  overly concerned about their future. The traditional Indian mindset of,” a settled life” is one of the major reasons why a majority of people don’t look at sports as a career.  There is a certain obsession with an academic career (science, engineering, management including others).

Secondly, India is currently stricken with developmental problems. Putting the required amount of money in the sports scene of the country has never been deemed as important. There is a huge gap in funding required and funding allocated. Comparing America’s sports infrastructure  with India’s is just like comparing apples with oranges.  Fortunately as India’s economy booms, it will undoubtedly mitigate the insecure environment currently prevailing in India.

The Indian obsession for cricket has completely destroyed the sports industry. Out of the 1,541 crore rupees allocated to the Indian sports industry in 2016, a whopping 724 crore is expected to be spent on cricket and cricket related activities. Just imagine how much funding archery will get. Or shooting. Or swimming. Hats off to the athletes who managed to qualify for the Olympics even under such oppressive conditions.

Finally, Indian corruption and bureaucracy have severely hindered the growth of the sports industry.  Just imagine the amount of money scandal hit in the 2010 Commonwealth Scam (FYI, that is over 700 crore rupees) Now imagine how the number and amount of scams increase as we invest even more money in sports. Sports cannot progress unless this  corruption and bureaucratic nonsense is stopped.

Fortunately, the future is not as bleak as it seems. The situation on the ground is improving, and people are more aware and more serious than ever. Now the onus is on the Government, to promote sports and allocate enough funding for the sports industry’s growth. Hopefully we can expect a vastly improved performance from the Indian contingent in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!



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