Preparing for Rio 2016

Ranjona BanerjiNow that the Olympics are over (or Olumpics if you come from some parts of India where that is the preferred usage) what do we do with our time? We could watch Baba Ramdev endlessly on television but although he takes off his shirt and poses on buses and things, he doesn’t really look quite like Ryan Lochte or Vijender Kumar.

We could take potshots (as opposed to shot put) at various members of the erstwhile Team Anna. But that would be cruel. They all seem so lost without endless media attention making them into superheroes. In their honour though we could petition to make “fasting” an Olympic sport. We cannot send Ramdev to compete though, the time before this when he fasted he had to be hospitalised.

We could organise political wrestling matches. Uddhav versus Raj Thackeray, LK Advani versus Bal Thackeray, Narendra Modi versus all NDA allies, Sharad Pawar versus a chair, Mamata Banerjee versus the Congress, Mamata Banerjee versus random people of Bengal…

Empty stands: There is no point weeping about the state of Indian hockey if so few people are actually willing to watch hockey matches

We can have corruption contests. We are not the best in the world surprisingly, but we have our specialty areas. We would definitely win in the how to bribe and get a ration card, passport, gas connection, birth certificate, death certificate, driving licence, school admission categories.

None of these will of course win us any more Olympic medals even if they amuse us. For that, we have to engage in ritual hand-wringing for the next few days and then ritual amnesia for the next three-and-a-half-years. In the six months before we leave for Rio de Janeiro, there is ample to time to decide how many gold medals we’re going to win based on desire, not ability. We must give corporates enough time to record various inspirational songs because in India we think we cannot win medals or matches without some songs written by capitalist entities. (Can it be that without those ghastly and obviously manipulative money-making songs, we might actually win more medals?)

There are some sensible things we can do. Those singing corporates can cough up some money towards sports infrastructure and therefore be practical rather than playing upon our patriotism. Instead of moaning about cricket, which manages rather well without outside interference, we should support other sports. No point weeping about the state of Indian hockey if so few people are actually willing to watch hockey matches.

Start looking for and developing talent at the school level. Slap fines on parents who won’t allow their children to take part in sport because of “tuition”. We don’t have to go so far as to set up a sportspersons factories like they’re supposed to have in China or they have had in Eastern Europe in the last century. In any case we’d be really bad at it.

We still allow NGOs and human rights organisations to function without jailing or killing them. This may make it a little difficult to torture children to get them to perform. We can torture children quite easily otherwise but not when there’s a goal which has to be achieved.
A common complaint against us Indians by us Indians is that we don’t have enough stamina. So maybe we have been targeting all the wrong people. How about all those village women who walk for kilometres balancing water pots on their heads? Or people who hang for hours outside local trains? We’re just missing out on so much potential.

Then we have all the goons, ruffians and other lumpen elements which just loiter about our cities and villages making everyone’s lives miserable. Just push them all into akharas and boxing rings and let them work out their frustrations on each other. Who knows, they might win us some glory and we could have saved some women from getting molested.┬áSee, it’s not all hopeless for Rio 2016?

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on twitter @ranjona

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