Olympics and India: Games of Deception

by Satish Tandon, September 1984

Living here in Tokyo and watching the Olympics on television until yesterday made me realize yet again that we as a nation do not come in the picture at all. Perhaps we are not a sporting country after all. However, our government is keen to host the Olympics in 1992. Do we seriously expect to become a sports country within the next eight years? And, do we believe that India would be an economic superpower of some sort by that time to be able to spend billions of dollars for such extravaganza? The answer to both questions, in my opinion, is no.

Let us look at the other two Asian countries, Japan and South Korea. Japan, which hosted the Olympics first in 1964, had already become an economic power by that time and its athletes reflected adequately the overall health of their nation. South Korea, which is going to host the Olympics in 1988 is a recognized economic power and it ranked among the top ten nations in the medals tally at Los Angeles. Now, where do we stand?

It is not my intention to write here about games. But the fact is that we are playing games - games of deception. We want to show to the world and to ourselves what we are not. We like to display to everyone by hosting Olympics, Asiad, NAM, and other international events, the state of our economy and our country which it is not, and is only made out to be. We divert funds from public projects and power from industries to host these events. We are exhibitionists.

Every year we learn from government reports that the economy has grown by so many percent, that the GNP has increased by so many points. How has all this affected an average man on the street? Twenty years ago we suffered from power failures, water shortages, shortages of essential food supplies, steel and cement, telephone miscommunications, and inadequacy of public transportation, etc. Now twenty years later, are we better off in respect to any of these problems we faced at that time?

The worst thing that has happened to India in recent years, and which will continue to cast a shadow for a long time to come, is the wholesale destruction of our civilized political culture, institutions, and public morals. Thirty years ago there may have been only a handful of Indians who did not respect Pt. Nehru, Dr. Ambedkar, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, and other public figures whether in government or in opposition. How many of us now have any respect for our public figures? It is of course impossible to compare their intellectual strengths because you cannot compare one with the other when the other does not exist. The likes of Antulays, Mishras, Bhajan Lals, and Sethis who have spared no efforts at wrecking the political institutions and public morals of India in the process of personal aggandizement are only a reflection of their party, the government, and the country they belong to. Must all this happen in the world's largest democracy?

All is not lost however. The majority of Indians have withstood the pressures to shed honesty and decent conduct, and have remained incorruptible. We must try to strengthen the hands of all such people in public life so that the political system is forced to acknowledge the rights of citizens to expect a clean and conscientious government - a government of the people, for the people, and by the people.