Thanks to the Olympics, after several years, I watched Doordarshan again. Doordarshan had made arrangements to showcase all the events in which India was featured. Since India did not feature very often, the rest of the time was allocated to sporting events like fencing, yachting and other exotic games of which I had no clue about. There are some sporting activities that are watchable and others which are not so watchable. Unfortunately India excelled mostly in the latter category. I was of course thrilled to see Mary Kom win a boxing bronze. It was a creditable achievement and it gladdened my heart. I am generally a peaceful sort of guy when it comes to sporting activity. I honestly do not enjoy watching people beat each other up to get a medal- particularly when they harbor no animosity against the other. But for Mary Kom and India, I watched- in fact I applauded!
Wrestling, I must admit, is less violent. I watched it with some interest, mostly because India had some medal aspirations. I must admit, that like many people, I have no idea how the scoring goes. For much of the time the wrestlers hover around each other trying to prevent the opponent from touching them. Finally, when they do make contact, the two wrestlers end up in a convoluted heap of hands, legs and heads. I knew that Sushil Kumar won (and later lost) by observing the corner of the TV which records the score. Unlike boxing, there is little malice in their fight. They are all a bunch of affable guys. In some positions they almost appear to be tangled in an affectionate embrace!
There are plenty of watchable games. Badminton was certainly worth watching and more so because Saina salvaged some pride for us. In fact Tennis and Badminton did afford some entertainment even if there wasn’t a shower of medals. Hockey is a watchable sport but watching India plummet to the bottom was like watching the Titanic go down- a terrible tragedy!
I do not like guns in general. I strongly believe they were invented to kill people or animals or both. Somehow it is one of the sporting events we excel in. Since Gagan and Vijayakumar were shooting at an inanimate target I sat down to watch. Despite our two medals, for which we are proud, I still cannot call it a riveting spectator sport. The shooter, dressed in regalia including ear muffs and some kind of single eye pad, appears to be the only person who can see where his shot has gone. The spectator has to be told about its success (or failure) by a commentator, who I presume is using some kind of optical gizmo. Not my kind of sport really! Archery, on the other hand is a little more dramatic but we got ‘knocked out’ quite early, thus ending all anxiety. In fact most of the news on the Olympics was about one or the other Indian sportsman getting ‘knocked out’ or ‘crashing out’. The news channels make our exits sound quite violent.
I must confess that I enjoy the 100 metres. Mostly because it is over in less than 10 seconds which is approximately my attention span. I do not expect an Indian to ever be in the mostly ‘all black’ lineup. I am convinced that some of these power sports, including the sprints, jumps and throws are in the genes or at least powered by what we eat. Despite the occasional Indian in the fray, I do not think that we have the genes or the diet to be involved in pure track and field or even aquatic events. It is just the way most of us are made. We do not have to be ashamed. There are other things we revel in. Since chess, or for that matter cricket, is not part of the Olympic sporting events (not yet!) we may need to wait. When it happens there is no doubt that some Bulgarian sports fan is likely to complain about cricket the same way I am complaining about Yachting. Thirteen guys on a playing field, most of them just waiting for the ball to come their way, may not exactly be a spectator sport to those unfamiliar with cricket. We must not forget that they saunter off from time to time for drinks and tea. Chess, well, it is not going to be a spectator sport for anybody, even in the rapid movement version of the game. We may still watch it on Doordarshan- if Viswanathan Anand is playing for a medal.
In the unlikely event of fasting getting to be a sport, I am sure we stand a good chance. It is an endurance sport like the marathon. We have a great tradition from the days of the Mahatma to the present day Baba Ramdev and co. We also have plenty of practice. At least a third of India’s population, after all, goes to bed hungry.