While India has come a long way from a lone athlete participation in 1900 to an 83-member contingent in 2012, our medal tally remains abysmally low.
India is the ninth largest economy, has the second largest population, is the biggest democracy and is amongst the oldest nations in history. Despite being a regular participant since 1900, the total medal tally is still in the 20’s.
While most say juxtaposing our 24 medals with the 2500 medals won by USA might be unfair given the economic consideration, but it is it is noteworthy that poorer countries like North Korea, Ethiopia and Kenya regularly outperform India.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics India had the lowest ratio of medals-won to population of any competing country: one medal per 383 million Indians.
Thus there is no consensus, no obvious explanation, no single unified theory explaining India’s continued underperformance in the Olympics.
We may blame the government for the lack of a China-like campaign galvanizing national talent; the federations for their lackadaisical approach; the larger Indian community for not giving its kids a shot at athletic glory; or even the athletes for lacking desire to achieve the intoxicating combination of nation pride and personal fulfillment, but the fact of the matter is that while being proud of Mary Kom and the others, 24 medals over 112 years is a shameful figure. We can’t have a handful of sportspersons shouldering the whole nations Olympic hopes and dreams.