Why does India suck at the Olympics?

The commentators on NBC mentioned that the Indian delegation was only 54 athletes and they said that was because of the lack of an organized Olympic sports program. Kind of hard to justify spending millions of rupees on training Olympic athletes when millions of people are still living in poverty. But as the country gets more prosperous, we may see it being more competitive in the future.

But…isn’t America also a melting pot of cultures?

Besides, it’s not like you need to be built especially tall or broad for a lot of events…

But aren’t millions of Chinese living in poverty right now too?

Then again, India’s government doesn’t have much to prove to the world (outside of Pakistan), nor is their economic system in massive flux…

Well, I would have to put the answer more towards the motivation/cultural reasonings for why India isn’t really an Olympic powerhouse, vs. the people themselves.

Because there are athletic Indian people at the Olympics though not that many- just perhaps not as many as the other nations. Yet, I was pleased to notice one male Indian athlete with chance to try to get a medal- he’s playing on the American Male Gymnastic Team , and I shall happily and proudly be cheering for him and the US Men’s team to try an steal away at least a bronze medal this year. :smiley:
Go Raj!
-As an Indian American, I DEF. relate to Him way more than the Indian Olympic athletes and the US Athletes combined. It was SO cool to see him step up and then the realization that he’s culturally like me! Awesome- I’m glad this year’s Men’s team is more diverse, and representative of the melting pot of American cultures.

We just need Olympic cricket, is all. The Indians would be all over that.

I’m not entirely joking either - there are fast-paced variants of the game that would suit (and it’s definitely got enough of a global following).

I think that’s a pretty fair summary of the situation. Part of the problem is, as you note, lack of resources, but there is also sheer inefficiency and corruption, which don’t help the situation. In a country of a billion people, many of them poor, it’s hard to whip up a huge amount of excitement about a sporting event that’s a long way away, doesn’t involve any sports that people know, and where there really isn’t an emotional connection to motivate the support.

Lack of motivation? I don’t know. India has just won its first-ever individual gold medal at the Olympics (shooting), and you can bet that Abhinav Bindra is going to be an instant celebrity.

What about nationalism? If India were to garner a bunch of gold medals, would Indians feel pride, chanting IN! DEE! AH!, or would they be kind of indifferent if the medal recipients happened to be from a different province or social stratum?

There are some very good Indian tennis players. Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes were one of the top teams in the world for years until they split acrimoniously around 2001. I think Paes was upset that he’d devoted so much energy to doubles when he’d also been a promising singles player, actually winning bronze in the 1996 Olympics. They’re back together for the Olympics but have played together very little in the last few years, mostly for national events. They’ve remained successful in doubles with other partners.

On the women’s side, Sania Mirza has been around the top 30 or so for a while.

India has been too bare-assed poor to make much of a showing in the Olympics, but as it comes up in the world this should gradually change.

Also, the Indian government has not decided to make a statement with the Olympics by creating a state run sports machine like China and Cuba have created.

As mentioned, cricket is India’s big sport and that isn’t in the Olympics, nor is it likely to be added anytime soon. Sure, it’s popular sport with lots of followers around the world, but it’s not played in Europe outside of Britain so it’s likely to stay on the outside looking in. It’s a miracle baseball ever got in (though it’s now on its way out).

There is also the status of women in India to consider. I think there are still places where girls competing in sports might bring shame upon a family.

You have to keep in mind that a lot of these athletes are investments and give back economically. Just look at Yao Ming. He was cultivated by the Chinese basketball association in conjunction with the government and he’s become an enormous symbol in China and abroad. Not only that but he’s earned more than his fair share in return with a percent going back to the govt and all the marketing he’s done for the Chinese.

He’s not the only one there are plenty of other Chinese athletes that are massively popular like this. The guy who was shown doing the torch lighting is a former Olympian and a CEO of a major Chinese sporting goods label that’s become a success.

Sports superstars have become celebrities in China. It’s smart to cultivate this hype…it keeps younger athletes interested early on and creates an entire pipeline of future athletes. This is exactly what the U.S. has done over the years.

India is still in far worse shape than China. It has about half the GDP PPP as China with almost the same number of people. That’s massive poverty. I’ve been to India and I thought the infrastructure was far worse as well with even more pollution than China. The reason why India doesn’t get much attention in this regard is because it’s a democracy and keeps to itself more often than not.

This doesn’t mean India isn’t capable of producing world class athletes but the environment right now for it is just not optimal. India is probably (sports wise) where China was around the 60’s. Crushing poverty, no interest, no sporting culture aside from a few niche sports like cricket, and no money to do anything.

Also, some of the comments that India is physically incapable are really quite a laugh to read and unbelievably ignorant. I bet people were saying the same thing about China back in the day…look who’s sweeping weightlifting and diving gold medals these days?

Yikes, for half a second I thought you wrote “A couple wogs…” :eek:

Assuming Yao Ming is one in a million, there would be around 1,300 Chinese people built like him.

Oh, there would definitely be nationalism. I think the sheer euphoria of a medal win would trump any feelings of indifference there. I’m not sure, however, that enough people know or care (outside the cities) to really build up a huge momentum of nationalistic pride, enough to overcome all the bureaucratic apathy, lack of resources and political tugs-of-war that hobble Indian sports.

Financing has little to do with it. There are any number of African states with tremendously successful programs in niche sports- distance running, for example- which are in much worse financial shape than India.

It’s not like India isn’t trying to prove anything; the Indian Navy operates a single aircraft carrier, and recently bought another from Russia. Considering how unlikely it is that it will need to project air power anywhere beyond Pakistan or China, both of which the Indian Air Force can reach much more effectively than the carrier wings, the purchase amounts to little more than a bit of saber-rattling.

There’s an article in today’s NY Times that addresses precisely the question raised in the OP: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/12/sports/olympics/12indiagold.html?ref=olympics

With their first-ever gold medal, there might be some increased interest in India in the Olympics.

They still have to find a way to trim back the massive corruption in their country. They put Chicago to shame.

Yes, that’s what happens when you have a democracy with insufficient checks and balances or rule of law.

It’s not quite that simple. The US was, at its founding, a more or less homogenous nation already. Most of the inhabitants were British, and most of those who weren’t didn’t have rights anway.

India in 1950, on the other hand, was more like a series of tiny fiefdoms, united only by the sticky webbing of the Raj. Its people only thought of themselves as Indian (or Hindustani) in the sense that they weren’t British. Moreover, most of them couldn’t speak the national language- either of them.

Turning it into an actual functioning country- and a democracy, no less, the messiest kind- was nothing short of a miracle. It’s like the dog that plays chess; the trick is not that it plays well, but that it plays at all.

Yep, the Germans and Dutch sure had it rough in those days. And Lord knows that the British were one big monolithic group, with Scotsmen happy to have their culture pegged as identical to Englishmen.