2016 Rio Olympics (File)
Rio de Janeiro - As Olympic under-achievers
India head home from Rio having failed to win a gold medal, its gate-crashing,
selfie-taking officials have been accused of failing to help its athletes taste
A string of below-par performances saw India
win just two medals at the Games, fewer than the six clinched during their
best-ever performance in London four years earlier.
Badminton champion P.V. Sindhu's silver
towards the end of the Rio Games sparked an outpouring of national pride and
celebrations, along with wrestler Sakshi Malik's bronze.
But reports during the competition of
Indian officials seemingly living it up in Rio, while athletes struggled to
make it through qualifying, sparked anger back home and raised questions about
the commitment of those in charge.
"Officials do not have the welfare of
the athletes on their mind. All they are bothered about is having a good
time," Aslam Sher Khan, India's former hockey Olympian said.
"While other countries have scripted a
turnaround in their fortune like the UK, we sadly continue to languish in
mediocrity," he said.
"We have become the laughing stock of
Indian sports minister Vijay Goel has
described as a "misunderstanding" reports that his entourage tried to
muscle unaccredited people accompanying him into Olympic venues.
Rio organisers reportedly accused his
entourage of "aggressive and rude behaviour" and threatened to cancel
his accreditation, prompting Goel to deny any involvement.
The minister also sparked ridicule on social
media after praising one of India's athletes on Twitter, only to use a photo of
a different one.
And the Indian Express newspaper accused
him of spending his time in Rio taking selfies with "exhausted Indian
athletes" - after posting a picture of himself ringside with just defeated
boxer Vikas Krishan Yadav.
The incidents come as little surprise to
observers who have long accused sport administrators of being more concerned
about protecting their own fiefdoms than targeting success.
At the 2014 Winter Olympics, India suffered
the humiliation of being banned from flying its flag at the opening ceremony
following corruption concerns.
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA)
suffered a 14-month ban which was only lifted after it elected new leaders,
excluding those who had been accused of corruption over the chaotic
organisation of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
India's only individual Olympic gold
medallist, shooter Abhinav Bindra, said he was fed up with apathetic officials,
some of whom were unqualified for the job and were not being held accountable
for a lack of success on the field.
"I won't get angry and spoil my own
health. It happens every time and that is the way it is," the shooter, who
won gold in Beijing in 2008 and finished fourth in Rio, told the NDTV network.
"We need a complete overhaul of the
system. We need more experts coming in... I have no problem with a politician
if he can bring something to the table."
India's anti-doping officials were also
left red-faced in Rio after wrestler Narsingh Yadav was banned for four years
for failing drug tests - overturning India's earlier decision to allow him to
Indian officials had cleared Yadav just
days before Rio, accepting his defence that a rival spiked his food
supplements, after failing two tests for a banned steroid.
The World Anti-Doping Agency swiftly
challenged the decision in the Court of Arbitration for Sport which found
"no evidence" of such contamination.
India, a country obsessed with cricket, has
never finished high on the medal table - winning just 28 from 24 Olympic
But India, with a population of more than a
billion people and enjoying strong economic growth, had been targeting 10
medals in Rio and sent its largest ever squad.
India's government spent about $ 18 million,
however, preparing the athletes, according to the sports ministry, a fraction
of the amount forked out by China, Britain and other countries.
With the lack of silverware becoming
evident, media began focusing on the officials, including a former IOA chief,
currently facing trial in a corruption case, seen attending the Games with an
Veteran journalist K. Jagannadha Rao who
has covered six Olympics said such incidents involving officials were not
Khan, one of the few Indians to have tasted
success when the hockey team won bronze at the 1972 Munich Olympics, agreed, saying
few lessons had been learnt over the years.
"They are simply not bothered if the
country is winning medals or not."