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Big bash

The big boys, trailed by their spouses or partners, fly in, have a rollicking good time, see the sights and stuff the glistering freebies into their jawhits- floor bags picked up in Milan, New York or London and fly in due course away, comparing notes, laughing all the way home.

SNS | New Delhi |

Given that International Olympic Committee memberships are individual, rather than nationally representative, the Indian Olympic Association is perhaps free to shrug off questions about the rationale behind Nita Ambani’s ascent to global sport’s supreme governing institution.

But not only did the lady make it but she subsequently found her way also into the IOC’s Olympic channel and its education commission, which implied horizontal influences gleaned from the initial, vertical movement.

India cannot really be sure that the spectacular rise of the individual has led even to a faint impression of a lift in terms of the collective but news that the IOC will hold its annual, all-expenses-paid, bash in Mumbai three years from now provokes a very simple inquiry about how we can square this with the ground-level reality of our own sport, where a palpably increasing amount of emphasis on gloss and theatrical rhetoric seem deliberately to bypass malnutrition, a lack of even the elementary equipment and meagre exposure opportunities, none of which makes things any easier for young aspirants, especially rural and semi-urban.

And, as a previous IOC extravaganza in New Delhi – where the worth of the gifts given to by-invitation-only guests could fund an Indian state’s annual budget – showed, when these high-power moneybags congregated, the results were invariably low-yield, and the chances of a new path of progress being found, about as bright as the Kolkata skyline at the height of the monsoon.

The big boys, trailed by their spouses or partners, fly in, have a rollicking good time, see the sights and stuff the glistering freebies into their jawhits- floor bags picked up in Milan, New York or London and fly in due course away, comparing notes, laughing all the way home. If the 1983 congregation had done India any good when it came to cranking up our global sporting image, it was not discernible even as late as Rio, where we did really badly in quite a broad range of disciplines.

There was nothing to be surprised at it because sporting development was never a top-down project: you begin at the fundamental level, very often far away from the limelight and acutely aware of the basic, thankless nature of the job and usually taking headlowering poverty in your stride. Having found sporting glory elusive, India has not only given up on it but, also, opened the arena to players whose objectives may not chime with what should be its own.

IOA insiders know full well that sport in the country has for some time become subservient to individual business interests, and they also acknowledge that an IOC bash in India 2020 is a thinly veiled promotional drive aimed at further expanding a business empire which now has a commanding presence in a diversity of disciplines which, though, do not appear to have benefited a lot from the association. We could do without this.