Sporting Pride and Prejudice in India

This article is written by Col Kirat Vaze wno was commissioned as an officer in ’73 in the Armoured Corps of the Indian Army. In his illustrious career in the Indian Army, he has commanded his regiment and also served on two international assignments which include serving as a member of the UN Peacekeeping Force after the Iran-Iraq war- from 88-90 and also a 4 yr assignment as First Secretary in the Indian Embassy in South Korea from 2008-2012. He is now retired and is based out of Pune.


Am pretty sure, most of you saw “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” earlier this year. And one of the most striking things about the movie is the young Milka starting his career as an athlete because he wants to wear the India blazer. It was just a cinematic moment, but I saw quite a few wet eyes when “The Flying Sikh” finally wins the gold and the national anthem is played in the background and the Indian national flag is raised. The movie recreated events of 50 yrs ago (1962 to be precise). Now imagine how would Milkha Singh have felt if at that crucial moment he was not allowed to wear the national colours or the national anthem was not played and neither was he recognised as representing India. And that ironically is exactly whats happening now.

In the last two recent international games- namely the 4th Asian Indoor Games held in Incheon, South Korea and the July 2013 Youth Games, the Indian athletes who won various medals both gold and otherwise were deeply upset because they were not allowed to wear the national colours (in some instances even being told to change out of any clothing which has the national flag on it) and neither was the Indian National Anthem played, as in the accepted norm in all International Sporting Events organised under the IOC (International Olympic Committee*) banner. Grandmaster Bhakti Kulkarni won a Bronze medal in Incheon in the July 2013 Youth Games against stiff international opposition. It should have been a matter of shame to the to the same billion of her countrymen to learn that she was not allowed to don her Nations Colours when she received her well deserved medal.

Now you’re probably wondering why-the reason is that the body responsible for conducting and managing all sports affairs of India-the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) which among other things also sends athletes to Olympic Games, the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games has been derecognized by the international body (the IOC*) which manages all international sports affairs. This is because of non-compliance of standard rules by the IOA. So as a result since Dec 2012, all Indian athletes compete in international events as members of their respective athletic sub-committees and not as representing their country- India. Therein hangs a tale of government apathy, insensitivity, abdication of responsibility and placing of self before the nation.

And let’s get to the reactions of the concerned parties or at least those who should be the concerned parties-

As if it is a private matter between the IOC* and the IOA the Minister for Sports of INDIA makes an ‘impassioned plea , to both the IOA and IOC to ‘sort out their differences’. If this is the best the Sports Minister can do why does he not resign and hand over all his constitutional authority to the IOA?

The IOA (The Indian Olympic Association) has added insult to injury by responding with its own set of rules and further confused the IOC* by saying they will follow Indian law and not the rules of the IOC*, even though the other 192 member countries of the world have no problem complying with the IOC’s rules.

It also equally bewildering that the indian public seems to be incapable of recognizing an insult to the nation’s image in the international arena even when it stares us in our face. Can you Imagine what would happen if all the Ministries in the Government follow the same yardsticks that the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has applied in this case, to deal with all matters of national and international interest?

Its absolutely a matter of National Disgrace that mainly due to petty squabbles and turf wars in the Government of India , the people who suffer the most are the Indian sportspersons and of course the image of India in the international sporting arena which takes a beating because no one seems to know what’s going on.

To summarise I would like to post a link on an article written on the same topic in the latest issue of the magazine India Today by Abhinav Bindra, who is also the only India athlete to win an individual gold medal in the Olympics. It’s aptly called “It’s Time to Play Fair”.Wonder if anyone out there is listening…?

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