Posts Tagged ‘Sports’

The Good, Bad and the Ugly World Cup……

April 11, 2011

Indian Team: World Champions

Yes folks, it has finally happened. India is the champion of the World Cup Cricket! An incredible feat from the men in blue, a great augmentation of national pride, a long cherished desire finally achieved, an awesome expression of a wannabe super power nation in the world stage!

A lot has been written/spoken/televised about the greatness of this win. We all know the “Good” part of the world cup. I am a huge sports enthusiast and for me it is surely a moment to be deeply satisfied for not only the game was good; my team – my country has won it. We all know the “Good” part of this world cup. I am happy that I saw it in my lifetime and it happened when I cheered for them with my friends- over my favorite pizza and my favorite drinks.

But then if you ask me what is top most sporting success that I have witnessed in my 30 years’ lifetime on this planet as an Indian, then unfortunately I would not be able to rate this world cup victory as my top moment. That would be Indian women’s relay teams’ 4×400 meter victory in the Commonwealth Games of 2010 at New Delhi’s JLN stadium. There is something spectacularly visual about seeing your team out-sprint the much stronger sides (like Nigeria, UK, Canada and Australia). You don’t need 6 weeks and 8 hours each day to see your team through to the podium.

And as soon as Dhoni lofted the final six of the game and a huge pandemonium broke out- an absolute orgy of nationalism and chest thumping. And that is where my gripe with this huge hoopla around the World Cup victory starts to surface.

The winning moment

For last seven days the newspapers, tv channels and every media front end is just catering to this hoopla. This is the “Bad” world cup. When all traffic goes one way, you can be sure there will be a traffic snarl. With every penny, every dime and every dollar going cricket’s way I wonder why would someone ever pick up that javelin, that bow and arrow, that oar, that racquet, that football, that cycle, that running shoes and worse of all that hockey stick (the moronic national game, remember?)!

The money on the table for cricket is a sky-high mound as compared to the other “less than important” sports. Your son plays for Ranji and plays for IPL then his base price starts at 2 million. Your son wins a world cup- gets millions in prize, land in premium locations, frontpage picture, even you get an interview….etc-etc. But if your daughter wins a gold medal defeating all powerful international challenges, gets 500 grands and a place in 11th page of the newspaper. Why would someone play other games?

If we want a sporting nation, a nation that wins sporting events then we cannot afford to keep all eggs in one basket- read just fuel cricket. Money distribution is always a zero sum game. You spend more on clothes; you spend less on food- simple. You spend huge on cricket and miniscule on athletics- you never win athletics. As a sports loving person, I am pained to see that we just got a little farther away from the wholesome sporting culture by going top heavy on cricket.

A friend of mine who trains with Indian national cycling team laughed when I told him that Indian cricket team has million dollar pay-cheque psychiatrists who tells the boys how to cry on his shoulder when they drop a catch to recover quick. He said- “The national cyclists don’t even have their own cycling jerseys which cost a few thousands”.  The “Bad” world cup is this. A nail in the coffin for other inferior sports for they have no money to bury their own bodies.

But there is one part, which completely disgusted me over the past few days. How can we equate a sporting event with national pride? The media and the public attitude towards the game of India vs Pakistan was such as if we were at war. As if losing was not an option. The corporate and the media have played a great hand on the naive middle class of this country. We have been made to believe that it is a matter of national pride to decimate our opponents on the 22 yards. Just 22 yards- never has been the concept of nationalism so narrow.

Indian vs Pakistan: Nationalism or Sports

What about our famed national pride which is battered and bruised and beaten black and blue and made to bleed blue in all the Olympic games for last 100 years? But then why would the guy with the cash care? The more cups Dhoni lifts, the more the middle class will drink, the more will they eat, the more will they wear, the more will the cash counters ring! So, the concoction continued to be passed around, each party pleasurably scratching other.

The great Indian middle class, that has the aspirations of a developed nation and therefore deems it as a right to have a sporting identity in the international arena and is ready to play this dangerous game of nationalistic fervor for a sports run by a body that has no government funding, no democratic process, not even a respectable track record of honesty! Is that what a country needs for its desperate nationalism- a bunch of vandals and corrupt leeches? This is the “Ugly” world cup.

The other ugly part is religion-izing of cricket. To make it look like a crusade. To turn our cricketers into demi gods (one is already elevated to the god’s place); this is dangerous.

Finally, look at this from a neutral angle. We laugh at American University Football’s world cup. But at least there are 200 teams there. Here, a cricket world cup has 6 teams (come on, don’t refute that by citing the fly by night teams like Ireland and Canada etc). Its like a mega soap opera with just a handful of actors (read nations) becoming evil, saintly, great, nasty etc at different times. Can you wear a world-beater image in say Indonesia? China? Japan? Germany? They have never played cricket- and never will.

So, the only place where we can carry our jingoistic world-beater image is Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh? Did you see the ugly nationalism being passed in your blue drink?

Savor this fantastic victory but if we really want to become a sporting nation, the nation that wins medals and laurels in really well participated sports events, we need to cut short this cricket craziness and embrace other sports. Otherwise we give in to this greed of naked nationalism and end up looking as clueless as some Poonam Pandey!

Ponam Pandey: The girl who double guessed everyone


BSA TFN 2010: The 100 Lunatics!

November 26, 2010

The Official Blogger is a heavy tag.

It is supposed to be the guy/gal who does have all the information about the event and can produce it best in writing so that the event is covered fully and no details are missed.

Makes me nervous and makes my palms sweaty a bit.

All these days, my cycling blogs have been about me doing a trip and a simple casual write up of those. If I missed something- no big deal- nobody would complain.

Now, it is a different story.

Now there are 100 other protagonists on their bikes!

These 100 folks are planning to cycle some 900 km in 8 days through the beautiful South India for the biggest and the most coveted cycling event of India, The BSA Tour of Nilgiris.

TFN 2010: Distance - Elevation Profile. 900 km riding in 8 days with 3500 meter of ascent and descent- It is a blockbuster!

One look at the altitude distance profile looks pretty scary and challenging anyway. This is what these folks are up against. Yeah, it may not have the refinements of the GPS coordinates, but it is the closest approximation of what to expect in the tour as far as terrain is concerned. The final recce is on and the final route profile would be up soon.

It would be an amazing challenge to do this pedal powered. These riders must be lunatics! So, I thought to dig a little deeper and find out who are these mad men/women who want to do something like this?

So, I did a bit of earth shattering data interpretation on the participants to find some more about their backgrounds.

Well no prizes to guess, it is still a male dominated event with 90% men and 10% women making up the pedaling contingent. But it is heartening to see the women coming out on the bikes and push the boundaries. Way to go girls!

It is interesting that the average age of the riders is around 37 years. This tells us that it is an event for the people who have started to ask more from life. These are educated, smart people who see the world as a playground of challenges and they are out to surmount those barriers. The youngest rider is 23 and the oldest is 60! After all youth was never measured by number of springs and autumn you have seen, it is measured by how much spirited you are.

Now, that tells you that these 100 lunatics are mavericks in their own way. Mostly employed with great brands and many of them are self-starters and entrepreneurs. The “Others” are the exotic breeds that range from yoga instructors to scuba divers (beat that for a profession!). It is sure that the company would be of great fun loving folks!

A large participation from South Indian states confirms South India as the capital of Indian Cycling movement. A few folks partaking from out of India also give it an international angle and I am sure in years to come the riders’ location distribution is going to get much more scattered than the one here. Rooting for a rider from Antarctica in next 3 years, anyone betting?

And finally, the most interesting of all- the distribution of bikes! It appears a Road Bike dominated event closely followed by the MTBs and some Hybrids also peeping their necks.

All right, so now we know how the ride is going to look like from the terrain’s perspective and also we know what kind of folks we might encounter. Looks like a lot of fun is in the offing!

Thankfully a lot of folks have found it worthwhile to support the BSA Tour of Nilgiris. The title sponsors BSA, the healthcare partners Himalaya (who will also be providing ambulance support), Magazine Partner Outlook Traveller, Travel partner getoff your ass (what a kick-ass name!), Radio Partner Red FM 93.5, Design Partners netbrahma, Print Partner printo, PR partner Galvanize, Online Content Partner MetroMonkey.

The BSA Tour of Nilgiris is supported by the most amazing footrace on planet earth “La Ultra – The High”, a 222 km ultra marathon through the high arid cold desert of ladakh (the highest ultra in the world!). I had the privilege to cover the 1st edition of this wonderful event as a blogger  in July this year. Read the blog here.

In all, it promises to be a great event. With the support of so many fabulous people and organizations, it is headed for a great ride. I will be with the riders covering their great feat at all times. If you are riding, you should spread the word. Tweet about it, post on social networks- let people know who are you biking with, let your friends and family know what are you doing.

If you are not riding (too bad you are missing a lot of fun mate), follow BSA-TFN through my blog or through Neeta’s camera lens (she is the official photographer mind you!).

The stage is set for the BSA Tour of Nilgiris 2010 edition to embark on a great journey. A journey through the beautiful blue Nilgiri Mountains of South India with a crazy-funloving-maverick bunch of 100 lunatics!

-Manasij Ganguli

Commonwealth Games Delhi 2010: A City that was Never Prepared as a Host!

October 5, 2010

The biggest sporting spectacle on Indian soil is unfolding in plush stadiums of Delhi today. The largest contingent of international athletes for any Commonwealth Games in the history has descended in India’s showcase capital. With over 15 billion dollars in expenditure, it is the most expensive Commonwealth Games ever.

So one would probably imagine that the stadiums would be jam-packed? There would be long queues outside with impatient spectators? Well, yes it is jam-packed with security professionals and filled with impatient security marshals but no spectators! The stands are empty, the seats are vacant, and the galleries are deserted. The world’s biggest democracy is unmindful of its own accomplishment of holding the biggest sporting spectacle.

Empty Stands of CWG 2010 at Delhi

I do not find it odd though. This is an expected outcome. The international media is speculating on lots of reasons for Delhi’s non-attendance in the sporting arenas. It has placed its bets on perceived corruption related disrepute, high security cover, less number of ticket stalls and difficulty in getting online tickets and confusing information about events on Commonwealth Games’ website etc. I am laughing at these reasons. They are not the real reason at all. These are western world’s reason for non-attendance. The real Indian reason is far more shameful and that’s why no one seems to get it.

The real reason of this shameful non-attendance is not corruption. India queues up in millions to cast votes for people with excellent corruption skills- proven beyond doubt over ages, every few years. We can smell out money making corrupt ways in the most creative ways and we are immune to corruption. Corruption is not the reason why Delhi is not coming to watch the Commonwealth Games. Everyone expected the Commonwealth Games to be a corrupt affair and our great leaders delivered that faithfully just to prove that our belief was not a misplaced one.

The reason is not also the unprecedented security cover. Delhi is immune to it. With close to 5000 pea brained VIPs in the capital, Delhi is used to the security infested tamasha. It is no deterrent.

Neither is lack of ticketing booths and difficulty of information a reason. Come 2011 and Delhi would host World Cup Cricket games where to make money the BCCI will award a ticketing partner and a handful of those booths will dispense tickets to millions. No, lack of ticketing booths is not a reason. Delhi can handle that.

So what is the real reason? Ok, let me help you find “that” reason. Lets play a game and then lets tell you the reason. Ready?

Question1: How many players are there in netball game team? (no don’t go to google!)
Question2: How many sets are there in a lawn bowl game? (Wikipedia is also not allowed!)

Question3: What is the difference between Team Pursuit and Time Trial?

Question4: What are the different criteria based on which a diver’s performance is measured?

Question5: What are the different swimming styles?

Any average Delhite would score a perfect 0 out of 5! They just do not know what the hell are these games about. And that is the real reason; we the Indians are NOT sports conscious. We ignore sports and we don’t understand and relate to more than a handful of sports.

Our great leaders who thought to bring Delhi International fame by spilling billions of dollars from whole Indian taxpayers’ pockets; evaded every rule book to decamp with billions in corruption which after the games will forever meander in blind legal alleys and special parliamentary committees; rounded up the poor and the beggars to throw them in Bawana jhuggis; erected tall structures some of which fittingly came down; turned a city to a veritable fortress; somehow clawed to make things work at the 11th hour and thought the only way to seize the international limelight was through creating a 2 hours’ long wonderful joyous escapism of an opening ceremony, forgot one very important aspect.

They forgot the people of Delhi. They forgot the community integration such a large event needs. It needs the people to be ready for the great event. Where was any community event to build up sports as an exponent of our daily lives? Where was the education needed for people to understand what the 7 players of netball try to achieve or why is the approach, the flight and the entry such critical pieces of diving or for that matter how different is the track bike from the regular ones. Without these awareness these sports means nothing to anybody.

In one of my previous blogs, I had mentioned that we the Indians are not a sports loving country. Now after spending 15 billion dollars and getting the international heckling for shoddy workmanship and corruption charges and a false inflation of national pride through a 2 hours long well planned and executed spectacle, our dark secret is about to be revealed. The secret that we not sports lovers- a big slur on a country which hosts a game like this!

Finally, today a friend of mine brought an amazing piece of information. He said that the tickets for 2 games are sold out. They are women’s swimming and women’s gymnastic! Knowing Delhi for these many years, I know exactly why this has happened. I hope we just end here, with the shame that we are corrupt, unprofessional, poorly administered bunch of non-sports lovers and not ALSO with the medallion of Delhi’s most notorious crime statement against women.

Alas Delhi was never prepared to host this event.

No Sports Please….We are Indians!

February 22, 2010

Let’s begin with a local proverb from my motherland, Bihar: “Padhoge-likhoge to banoge nawab, kheloge-kudoge to banoge kharab”….. (Study and become the respected best, but play if you want to waste).

The reason why I chose this as my opening line for this blog was to argue that we, the Indians, are generally apathetic towards sports. Any average Indian would struggle to name ten international sports’ names, let alone the names of sportspersons. Our International sporting identity hinges only on cricket, a sport only a handful nations play and which was until last week an unrecognized sports by the IOC (International Olympic Committee). So, technically speaking, cricket and “Chor-Sipahi” (thief and the police running game), were of the same league in IOC’s reckoning! Bottom-line, we are ignorant of the term called International sports. So much so, that the Vancouver Winter Olympics, which is happening right now, finds no place in newspapers.

The question is how and where this ignorance set in and then hardened into a total apathy towards sports? The answer, to my belief, lies not in our years’ of lackluster display on the field but in our education system.

I did my schooling from a respected institute run by the Jesuit missionaries of charity. It had a huge library, a great computer facility, big colonial styled class rooms and two huge playing fields. It also had a leased facility in another sports ground just a stone throw away. We had all the different balls (no pun intended) like the football, volleyball, basket ball, the cricket ball (of course) and also we had a big swimming pool. So, technically speaking, the school was well equipped to nurture sporting ambitions.

However, I could never understand, that despite all the facilities and equipments why we had just one 40 minute “period” of sports in the entire week’s schedule. Mind you there were 5 days of schooling, each day divided in 8 periods of 40 minutes each. There was a games teacher, who was all too interested in queuing up kids and teaching some mindless calisthenics and yoga. And during the rainy seasons, it would inevitably rain the day we had the sports period. Seemed like the heavens were also against our sports period.

Finally, by the time I went to high school (Standard 9 and 10) it was decreed that we had too much knowledge to acquire for the upcoming board examinations and it would be in the best interest of the students to sacrifice the sports period. That was the end of sports for many of my friends.

Yes, there was the legendary “Sports Day” when suddenly four houses would spring back to life after almost a year’s hibernation and compete in some 20 odd disciplines with one house emerging the victor. But then by that time, the unsuspecting hapless kids, who had no reason to doubt the education system, were made to believe that all that the sports may get you is a medal and nothing else. I think the only better way this message could have been hammered home would have been: if our principal would have thundered in the daily assembly everyday that “Sports is injurious to career building” and had this profound wisdom goldplated and kept at a prominent place so that all can see it and assimilate it.

After school, came college where an even stiffer climb to engineering/medical/accounting/management was awaiting and at that time indulging in sports suddenly seemed like a sin. Every minute was to be spent in the pursuit of the career. We were comprehensively browbeaten to believe about the negative impact of Sports in our prospective career. Sports would not figure in the top ten of the list of priorities. One evening of after exam cricket was the only dosage of sports available.

Then I entered the work-life and all of sudden sports were permanently out of life. I do not blame the employers for the lack of sporting interest and the overall miserable fitness level of young Indians let alone the pathetic showing of team spirit and sportsmanship, so rampant in the workplaces. I blame it on our education system which believes the Hindi proverb at the beginning of this write up.

Our educations system considers each individual as an island. You plant books, you grow marks. You reap degrees, you get jobs. There is no place for sports. Since the formative childhood days never receive a dosage of sports, we happily ignore them as if they never existed and pursue the career with great zeal. However, does this make us great professionals?

At workplaces, I see people with no concept of team spirit, a pivotal quality required to produce great results. Every office is awash with scenarios elucidating utter lack of sportsmanship in conflict scenarios. Then again, you can add the un-sportsmanlike behavior of politicizing the workplace and all the dark arts of gaming wizardry which we despise, yet carry out and even encourage. And lastly, add the misplaced concept of weighing competition ahead of co-operation.

Could this be prevented? I like to believe, it can be.

You don’t need to have a Harvard MBA to understand that a game of football is won by the team with best on field skill and team spirit. The objective of sports is to rely on your partners and help them so that all of you reach the common goal of victory. Team first, is a must have quality should you need to win. High performance teams co-operate more than compete within its own boundaries. Weaving sports tightly in the fabric of education imparts this valuable lesson which people badly need to carve out a meaningful and happy work life with colleagues.

Sports teach a great concept of being fair. Not many instances are available where prolonged sporting success is achieved compromising the fairness. Later on, this helps a great deal in respecting others’ qualities at workplace and also by recognizing solicitations of unfair nature and swiftly dousing them.

Sports are a great teacher of pursuit of excellence. A singles tennis player or a boxer has to train extremely hard to get to a level of repute. The road to progress is solitary but requires a lot of focus and determination let alone the dedication.

Lastly, sports teach the most important lesson of respecting others. All sportspersons reach a pinnacle and then the inevitable physical decay makes way for a new champion. You learn the most important art of losing yet not losing it all. As a sportsman, you take to this transition with grace and not like a greedy politician who tries to stick to the power by indulging in unfair means. Extrapolate it to workplace and you will respect your juniors and would credit them and believe them and let them grow.

If, we the Indians, had more sports in our curriculum and they were pursued with a little more earnestness or with as much as seriousness as trigonometry was pursued with, I would put my money in seeing a better generation of workers and professionals. The places to work would probably be a tad fairer and of course I would not see so many unfit, obese and physically weak individuals in their twenties and thirties.

So, tomorrow I am off riding my mountain bike for my daily 40 km ride and hope I see a change in the attitude of my in-laws who are almost sure that I have lost my mind, for no real reason exists which explains to them why would their son in law wants to cycle the whole Himalayas when one can as well drive. However, one small problem persists, my in laws are Indians and we do not believe in sports as a way of life. No sports please, we are Indians!

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