Much has been spoken about the lack of Olympic medals that India have been able to churn out over the years at the grandest stage. Despite being a population of over a billion, India's success, or lack of it, has been scrutinized every four years, when the nation fields a number of hopeful athletes, only to return disappointed.
One major reason for India's below-par returns from the Olympics has been the economic constraints and the lack of support - from within the four walls and the government. To be a rich Olympic nation, a country needs financial resources, which will help in boosting the facilities and the health of its athletes. The more support and resources invested, the more are the chances of returning with Olympic medals.
This fact has been reinforced after analyzing the central funding given to various sporting federations in the last few years in India. From 2014-15 to 2016-17, the top five sports that received most funding was shooting (INR 42.4 crore), hockey (37.8 crore), wrestling (25.9 crore), badminton (24.4 crore) and athletics (23.3 crore). The other sports in the top ten were archery, boxing, football, weightlifting and cycling, as reportd by Live Mint.
In the financial assistance given to various National Sports Federations (NSFs) from 2018-19, it was the Boxing Federation of India that topped the list with a funding of INR 46.18 crore. Hockey India, the National Rifle Association of India, Wrestling Federation of India, All India Football Federation, Athletic Federation of India and Badminton Association of India were next in the line, receiving a funding of more than INR 20 crores each.
What is interesting to note is that these are the top sports that have given us Olympic medals in the last decade. Since 2008, shooting has fetched India three medals, wrestling four, boxing two and badminton two. The hopefuls for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics too belong to either these disciplines, and it is not tough to see how central backing helps in the growth of a sport.
Another important aspect is that most of these federations to receive maximum central support have a pro league as well. Hockey, wrestling, badminton, boxing and football have or have had pro leagues in the past in India. The funds given by the Centre is used for conducting national level tournaments and developing the basics - including helping them participate in international events that help in increasing the exposure given to the athletes. A growth in exposure betters their overall performance, which in turn helps the federations to bring in league systems.
The benefits of the leagues are well established. Helping the players mix with foreign stars on a regular basis and opening them up to more rigorous training schemes, the leagues also help the youngsters gain confidence, which in turn aids them on bigger platforms.
Thus, it is not tough to see how backing is important, and if the country aims of returning with double-digit medal hauls from the Olympics consistently, a larger fund needs to be allotted to various sports.