I watch the Games with considerable annoyance because of India’s dismal performance.
I was the only Stephenian who got college colours in tennis, cricket, hockey, football and athletics. Tennis was my best game. I was Delhi state junior tennis champion in 1949, Delhi University champion in 1951. I played tennis for my Cambridge college—Corpus Christi—founded in 1352.
My love for sports is unabated. I have spent several hours since 23 July watching the Olympic Games. I do so with considerable annoyance because of India’s dismal performance. We are a country of 1.3 billion people. China has 1.4 billion. The medals tally as of Friday was, China 19 gold medals, 10 silver and 8 bronze. India 1 silver. Our position, 56. We will probably get two more silver medals and three or four bronze medals with some luck. New Zealand with a population of five million has so far won three gold, three silver and two bronze medals.
The People’s Republic of China kept away from the Olympic Games for several decades after its founding in 1949. When it did participate, it did so with a bang—one of top three.
We have a large contingent in Tokyo. Dozens of trainers and coaches. Many of them are overweight, some with bulging stomachs. What happened to our shooters? Several did not even qualify. In women’s tennis double, Sania Mirza (aged 34) and her partner were leading 6-0, 5-3 in the first round. They literally had the match in their pocket. They lost.
The Olympics will be over by the end of next week. What should India do till the next Games in 2024? One. Send fewer sportsmen and women. Two. Set very high standards for selecting coaches and trainers. Three. Sports budget should be increased by leaps and bounds. Four. Training should start at least two years before the Games. Five. Get outstanding coaches. Even from abroad.
This week two distinguished individuals came to New Delhi. The first was US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The second was the irrepressible Kumari Mamata Banerjee.
For almost six decades India and America were estranged democracies. Krishna Menon’s contribution in this regard was considerable. He was endowed with a brilliant but unstable brain. He skilfully embraced ill-temper and hypochondria.
The US did not take much interest in India for decades and consistently and wrongheadedly equated Pakistan with India. During the 1962 Sino-Indian war; President John F. Kennedy was most helpful. In 1971 M/s Nixon and Kissinger totally ignored Pakistani genocide in East Pakistan.
Let me now abandon the past and deal with Bilken’s 18 hours in the Indian capital. He is new to diplomacy but is a fast learner. He is obviously a likeable person.
He met Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Had in depth discussions with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar (it is grotesque to see a few of his past colleagues baying for his blood) and the National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval.
The two sides discussed “cooperation on a wide range of issues”, including Afghanistan, Covid-19, the Indo-Pacific strategy and the Quad. After the talks with EAM Jaishankar, Mr Blinken said, “The relationship between our two countries is so important and so strong because it is a relationship between our democracies. One of the elements that Americans admire most about India is the steadfast commitment of its people to democracy, pluralism, human rights and fundamental freedom.”
Before leaving Mr Blinken announced a $25 million grant for India’s vaccine programme. Broadly speaking the Secretary of State’s 18 hours in New Delhi were mutually rewarding.
I am an admirer of Kumari Mamata Bannerjee. She combines determination with guts. She leads a simple life, has few personal demands. She has been at the helm in West Bengal for over a decade. She is immensely popular in rural Bengal and with the minorities. Not so in Kolkata. She is admired for her incorruptibility.
During her four days in New Delhi, she met the movers and shakers. Her aim is to get all opposition parties together to take on the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections. She laid to rest the rumour that she would not serve under any leader in a coalition government.
I have not met her for over 15 years. I wish her well and may she go from strength to strength. Khela hobe!