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EDITORIAL: The 68,000-seat Olympic Stadium was largely empty. Outside this stadium were the Covid-alarmed protestors. The world was quite sceptical about this mega global event. But none of these adverse devolvements could subvert Japan's determination to host one of the history's most spectacular sports event: the Tokyo 2020. Nearly 11,000 medal-seeking contestants from 192 countries showcased the "most challenging Olympics", and they also broke many records. "In these difficult times we are all living through, you give the world the most precious of gifts: hope," International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach told athletes at the concluding ceremony. Paris will host Olympic 2024, which greeted the news by a welcoming fly-past. The French return home, carrying as many as 33 medals, including 10 gold. That's a great performance, but modest as compared to some others'. At the top of the medal table is the United States with 113 medals, including 39 gold. China is the next with 88 medals, including 38 gold. For Japan, the Tokyo 2020 was a $15 billion enterprise, but the reward is no less stunning for it: the host country won 58 medals, including 27 gold. Included among countries whose gold harvest is in double-digit include Great Britain, Russia, Australia, the Netherlands, France, Germany and Italy. Even when the pandemic rate in Tokyo was above normal and 430 cases were picked up during the games the Tokyo 2020 greatly lifted the spirits of the Japanese, whittling down the Covid-alarmed protestation. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the Japanese, who over the times have gone through some very testing times like the Fukushima tsunami and atom bomb strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which took place in August, 1945.

Pakistan participated in the Tokyo Olympics by sending 10 athletes for six games. And the outcome was: no medals in any of the three medal categories. Barring two - weightlifter Talha Talib and javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem - no one reached the finals. Both Talha and Nadeem ranked fifth in the semifinals, fuelling hopes back home that the 29-year-old medal famine was about to end. But that did not happen even when it was their career-best performances. In fact, they did not fail but the country failed which had done nothing worthwhile to help them acquire the winning form. Talha had missed the Olympic medal with a difference of only two kilograms. Only a few days back, the Punjab government had located a place for his training. "I had no place to train," he was quoted as saying. Arshad Nadeem's final showdown was mainly with Neeraj Chopra of India. But in the final as Chopra topped the list Arshad was fifth, triggering a blame-sharing storm as to what happened and why that happened. "Non-stop social media usage by Arshad and his coach in-between the qualifying and final rounds turned out to be that main reason behind his failure," according to the contingent chef-de-mission. May be that is the case, but the failures of both Talha and Arshad are deep-rooted; these are rooted in the failure of the sports organisations who enjoy expensive official patronage but fail to provide the bare minimum in terms of training facilities and exposure to challenges the Pakistani athletes are expected to confront in foreign venues like Olympics and Asian Games. Cricket is the only sport that enjoys all the required facilities and patronage - shorn of realisation that cricket is not an international sport. It is the legacy of British colonialism. This sport is played in about an over dozen former colonies.

Out of about a thousand medals only seven have been bagged by one-fourth of world's population that lives in South Asia. Only India got seven medals including one gold medal while Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Maldives got nothing. It should be news to the governments and peoples of these South Asian countries that Jamaica and Slovenia won four and three gold medals, respectively. Is it that South Asians constitute an inferior racial stock? Are they under-nourished and weaklings? The issue is not the 'right physique' that is required to win medals. The issue is what the South Asian governments and sports bodies do to support and train men and women to compete at international levels. And this issue is likely to remain unresolved because the only field in which these South Asian governments and their sports bodies excel is contentious politics.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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