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Millennium Post

SAI, not federations, raises Incheon hopes

The SAI director general is a very calculative person and he is not given to flippant assessment. He is one of those bureaucrats who came out of the 2010 Commonwealth Games without getting bruised, though a sticky oil scandal back home in Kerala haunted him for over 20 years before he was exonerated by the courts.

There is little doubt that Thomson is a proactive official - he is not one to shy away from speaking his mind or backing athletes who he thinks deserve to be rewarded. He has unfairly been accused of favouring sportspersons from Kerala at the Arjuna Awards committee meetings. He has also refused to take action against the Incheon-bound gymnastics coach for alleged sexual harassment at the national camp on the basis of media reports. Yet, SAI and the sports ministry did a great disservice to Indian sport by keeping the athletes in suspense till the eleventh hour, not being able to stick to their stand of not clearing certain disciplines which have no earthly chance of winning a medal. Eventually, the file had to go to the prime minister’s office for clearance.

The policy decision should have been whether the best Indian sportspersons should go to the regional championships irrespective of their medal chances or should the government strictly go by the assessment of its own agency which monitors their performance.

The pressures are such to clear disciplines like football, table tennis, volleyball and basketball. If a moratorium has to be imposed on participation it has to be uniformly adhered to like the Chinese did by keeping away from the Asian Games for over two decades. China won 105 medals to finish third in the medals tally in their first participation in the Asian Games at Tehran in 1974. They then moved to second position at the next edition in Bangkok hosted after Singapore cried off for want of finances.

China started dominating the Games at New Delhi in 1982 when they topped the charts with 153 medals, two more than what they won in Bangkok and 10 more gold than the 51 they won previously. After that the fight has only been for the second position. Four years ago in their backyard at Guangzhou, they won a whopping 416 medals from 476 events in 42 disciplines, hundred more than their tally in Doha in 2006, and 199 of these gold.

India, founders and hosts of the inaugural Games at the National Stadium in New Delhi in 1951 kept participating irrespective of their medal hopes whereas China took a stand that unless their athletes reached international standards they would not venture out.
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