Not even a year had passed since India got independence, that the 1948 London Olympics started. As an independent country, India also participated in the Maha Kumbh of this Games. After two hundred years of British slavery, India neither had sufficient sporting resources nor a strong sporting ecosystem. You can get an idea of the state of sports in the then India from the fact that the players of the Indian football team participated in this tournament without shoes. India had lost 2-1 in the only football match played against France, but the game of Indian players won everyone’s heart. In the same tournament, the Indian hockey team defeated England 4-0 and won the gold medal. It was also India’s debut in the Olympic medal tally as an independent country.
In the year 1951, India got the host of a big sports tournament ‘Asian Games’. Before this sporting event, various countries were apprehensive about how India would host the event? India, trying to stand as a country, not only successfully organized this sport but also won 15 gold medals in this event. In the same Asian Games, Levi Pinto won the gold medal in the 100 meters sprint race, which is India’s record so far in this event. The successful organization of the Asian Games also showed that the Government of India is serious about the development of sports in its country.
India, of course, was a developing country with a low per capita income at that time, but there was a great trend towards sports in India in that period as well. This is the reason that India used to participate in the Olympics in those games in which India is still unable to qualify in the Olympics. For example, India’s football team participated in the 1948, 1952 and 1956 Olympic Games; Today India is unable to even qualify for the Olympics in this event. Apart from this, the Indian hockey team also won gold medals in all these three Olympics.
India was also doing well in its traditional sport wrestling which continues till date. This is the reason that in the year 1952, KD Jadhav opened the medal account for India in the individual event by winning the bronze medal. In the year 1952, India’s cricket team also won its first test match against England. In the same year, the Indian cricket team also won its first test series by defeating Pakistan. It can be said that Indians, despite being enslaved for so many years, had neither reduced their interest in sports nor did they distance themselves from playing sports. The result of this was that India was not only performing well in various sports but was also registering victories.
If we want to measure the level of sports ecology in a country, then the best way to do it is India’s performance in the Olympics. India has participated in a total of 24 Olympics so far and India has got 35 medals so far in this Maha Kumbh of the Games. The 7 medals won by India in the recent 2021 Tokyo Olympics is India’s best ever performance. These figures show that India still has miles to go. Earlier, India could bring only a few medals till many Olympic events.
In the year 2008, India won 3 medals for the first time and the most special thing about this Olympics was; India won gold medal for the first time in individual event- Abhinav Bindra won gold medal in shooting in this tournament. After this, in the year 2012, India won 6 medals. However, the pace of this journey of India could not be sustained in 2016 and India got only 2 medals in this year’s Olympics.
If any sport has played a role in India’s performance in the Olympics, it is hockey. The Indian hockey team has won the maximum 12 medals in the total Olympics for India. After this, India has won a total of 7 medals in freestyle wrestling. Where India has got 4 medals in shooting, India has got 3-3 medals in athletics, badminton and boxing events. Apart from this, India has got 2 medals in weightlifting and 1 medal in tennis so far.
Apart from Olympics, India also participates in other international events such as Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, Paralympics etc. Apart from this, India also participates in world events of different sports. India’s famous athlete Milkha Singh became the only Asian to win a gold medal in the 400m race event of the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games. In the year 1980, where Prakash Padukone became number 1 in the world badminton rankings, he also got India’s first gold medal in this sport in the same Commonwealth Games competition. Apart from this, in the year 1983, the Indian cricket team also won the World Cup, later in India, this game was not only a game but also became an important factor in the economy.
India not only showed a tremendous game in outdoor games but also in indoor games, the players here showed their tremendous talent. Viswanathan Anand of Tamil Nadu became the first Grandmaster of India in the chess competition, then in the year 2007, when he also became the world champion in this game. Dipika Pallikal is the squash champion while Pankaj Advani is the snooker champion. Overall, it can be said that India is a part of almost all the sporting events of the world, as well as it plays almost all the sports of the world.
If there is talk of sports in India and cricket is not mentioned, then it will be unfair to the Indian sports lovers. People think that Indian cricket became a part of the world of glamor only after 1983, but this belief is not entirely correct. In the year 1960, there used to be an advertisement of Billcream and the artist of that advertisement was Farooq Engineer, who was a strong cricketer of his time. Although 1983 is definitely the year when Indian cricket has not only become a game but it has become a public sentiment, as well as it has prepared the commercial foundation for this game, whose destination became the IPL.
The successful organization of IPL, the economic benefits it brings, and the thrill and entertainment that the public can feel from it, have inspired other sports to organize such competitions as well. As a result of this, today various sports events like Indian Super League of Football, Indian Badminton League of Badminton, Pro Kabaddi of Kabaddi etc. Recreational and commercial sports events are being successfully organized.
The economic liberalization decision taken during the prime ministership of PV Narasimha Rao has also played a major role in making Indian sports a profitable deal from an economic point of view. After this decision, the avenues of the market opened for the game and the players. Earlier, in return for their playing skills, the board used to pay the same amount to the players, which would provide them the resources to play and meet some of the needs of them and their household. After liberalization, players got opportunities to advertise for different brands. The amount the player used to earn by doing an advertisement, the board could not give him that amount in years. Cricketers have set new records in this matter. In the list of the highest-paid players of Forbes. Only cricketers are constantly seen; Like Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli etc.
Now, companies pay a hefty amount to players in exchange for posting posts for advertising of a product on social media platforms as well. Sports is no longer just an issue of fitness, adventure, entertainment in India, but now it has become a sports economic ecosystem from where lakhs of jobs are created. In this way ‘sports’ also make a big contribution to the economy of the country.
Sports budget in India has been increasing continuously since independence. The country was taking shape for the first 30 years after independence. In such a situation, limited attention was given to the game and the ecosystem of the games. A sports committed department was established in the year 1982 as Sports Department. It also successfully organized the 9th Asian Games. The Sports Authority of India was established in the year 1984 with the objective of promoting sports in India on a wide scale as well as producing world class players. Apart from this, the amount of grant was increased from time to time by the UGC in order to create an environment of sports in various universities.
India organized the Commonwealth Games in the year 2010 and also successfully organized the Cricket Mahakumbh ODI Cricket World Cup in 2011. Successful organization of various sports also increased the soft power of India. However, India has not given its best in the Olympic Games. Keeping this objective in mind, the Government of India selected players under the age of 17 years through Khelo India Youth Games and selected them to prepare them for the future.
Apart from this, the government has also set up the Mission Olympic Cell, which identifies and provides training support to selected athletes under TOPS, a program of the government. The National Sports Federation also helps the players participating in the Olympics, Commonwealth and other international competitions. Neeraj Chopra, India’s lone gold medalist among athletes, was also provided top-notch facilities in the course of his preparation; His coach Uwe Han is the best javelin throw instructor. The effect of all these preparations being made to beautify the Indian sports will also be visible in the upcoming Paris (2024) and Los Angeles (2028) Olympics.