February 17, 2007

So, who wants a medal ?

February 17, 2007 Posted by Vijay No comments
No, I haven't put medals on sale for people to buy. This is what has come to be of the National Games. Though I am immensely passionate about cricket, I can't but sympathise at the state of the 33rd National Games in India. Yes indeed! The National Games are on in Guwahati if you are not aware that is (And is actually almost over!). What was more news on channels happened before the games began. And they were all about political games and not the sporting ones. ULFA plotted and executed a successful attack, just before the games. But little did they realise that, the country has much more important sports information to chew on.

That is the effect of cricket. The game, without any fault of its own has virtually killed off Hockey as the National Game, and has all but wiped off interest in the common citizen in upcoming athletes in India. The irony of it all is, that these same citizens will sit glued to television sets when the Olympics begin next year. After all, it's an international event, and demands that kind of a viewership. And then, the old cribbing of India's spineless performance crops up once again. But until then, the common Indian citizen doesn't bother what athlete, which event? Nothing. It's all cricket.

It is but obvious, that the star value attached to a sport is what will fetch wider audiences to it. If not for Sania Mirza, Tennis in India would have been what it was pre-Paes/Bhupathi era, inspite of Paes and Bhupathi's heroics in the slams. Sania's glam image, has done what the Ramesh Krishnan's of old, who actually managed reaching the semis of major slams couldn’t do.

Attribute it to wider television audience, coupled with the realisation that Sports indeed can be lucrative. But no, parents in India limit sports venture in children to Cricket and nothing else. Because, they can see money and security for their children there. But the point here is not about tennis or cricket. It is about the National Games, which is all but known to be happening in some corner of India. It would be a pity if people came to know of the National Games only if ULFA terrorises Guwahati again!

Media boom once again has a lot to do with Cricket and Tennis taking centre stage in India. National Games is not spoken about at length, but Cricket and Tennis is. Everyday, I try to search on news websites and channels to see where I can find the latest medals tally of the National Games. To see where my homestate Kerala fares, where Karnataka is etc. But, the searches become so painful for the simple reason that news about the Games lie hidden in some corner of the website. And sometimes never to be seen even.

Before the influx of cable TV, there was only Doordarshan. The coverage of National Games was a zillion times better then. Because, the audience in India had nothing else to choose from in those days. Now though, the TV channels drive what the viewer wants to see, and all of them show cricket. And hockey finds a mention, only because of the host of Gold medals India has won at Olympics. It is a pity, that the National Games now has been reduced to nothing.

The media jumps in to comment and lament the lack of infrastructure and progress in building a good Stadium for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010. But the media won't give coverage to the National Games, which would eventually showcase the talents to represent India in 2010. If the Games are as big as Commonwealth or Olympics the media would cover it. Paradoxical Media Coverage should I say?

While media has fought for Jessica's and Nitish Katara's justice, it has had its own double standards, when it comes to the nation as a whole. If media promotes stardom for players and sportspersons, it has equal responsibility to promote other sports, and Indian Sports in general, to ensure that a wider acceptability is there for any kind of Sport. It is almost as if the Media makes or breaks a star. India needs more stars in more sporting fields. A good beginning would be to help revamp Doordarshan, and ensure that it is as competent and as highly watched as a NDTV or an ESPN. Of course, that means Doordarshan should telecast all National Sporting events, and not keep fighting over telecasting rights of Cricket Matches.