• Somya Maan

Why can't India win Olympic medals?

Just like many fellow Indians, you might also be wondering why India has only won a single medal so far? Despite players trying their best, we’ve received disappointment in sports like Table Tennis, Hockey, Tennis, etc. Despite harbouring the world’s 2nd highest population, India doesn’t have much to show for it in terms of quality athletes at the highest level who win medals at the Olympics.

India is truly a sporting nation by heart, with sporting fervour kindling in every nook and cranny of the country, but the same dedication towards athletes and athleticism is somewhat absent in the official authorities and the ‘system’. So what is it about the system that holds us back?


  • In the Olympics, India has a total of 29 medals to date in all sports & counting.

  • We have won the ICC Cricket World Cup twice in 1983 and 2011

  • India has bagged an overall total of 503 medals in The Commonwealth Games.

  • India has a total of 69 medals in the Asian Games, ranking 8th in the continent.

  • Indian athletes have famously stayed on top of the world in the respective championships of boxing, wrestling, badminton, kabaddi, shooting, archery, etc

Indian athletes are applauded and showered with gifts throughout the country ‘after’ successfully representing the country internationally, let us understand why we remain on our backfoot for providing this support beforehand- during the due process of making an athlete.

As Mahavir Singh Phogat in Dangal, famously said “Medalists ped par nahi ugte, unhe banana padta hai” (Medalists don’t grow on trees, you’ve to build and work hard with them.)

The 'Fitness' of Sports in India

Reasons behind the underdevelopment of sports in India are –

1. Indian Mindset

The upbringing of Indians has been concentrated around academics since the beginning. With all the co-curricular activities be it sports, art, dance, music, etc being treated as ‘extra’ or add-ons to regular academic activities. Children are mostly unavailable to find support to pursue sports professionally from a younger age and if some successfully do so, they’re expected to maintain a ‘good’ academic record alongside. The absence of support and resources before becoming an international athlete is a challenge we’ve yet to overcome.

2. Corruption, and Mismanagement of Sports Authorities

Corruption already existed at the time of the “good old” Olympic Games of the Antique Era. And it continues to exist in modern competitive sport. It plagues all major Indian sports, including cricket, hockey, weightlifting, and athletics. Having become synonymous with sports administration in India.

From the 2010 Commonwealth Games Corruption scandal, to the Women’s hockey World Cup the same year, every sport, prestigious or not, has been broiled with countless corruption Scandals. This corruption is one of the premier reasons holding back Indian sports. Where there is money to be made, there is corruption, and where there is corruption, there is incompetence.

3. System Lacunae

  1. Policy formation: For the development of any sector including the sports sector, formulation and execution of an effective policy is a sine qua non. To date, sports policy planning and implementation are centralized which hamper expertise on the grassroots level. Setting up of The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports is a commendable step forward. To encourage players this ministry presents annual National Sports Awards like the Arjuna Award and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna.

  2. Social and economic disparities: The denial of access to gyms, kits, gear, etc due to poverty, the concentration of stadiums and other sports avenues only in cities, lack of encouragement to girls to participate in sports, etc, have undermined the evolution of a positive sports culture in the country.

  3. Meagre allocation of resources: Compared to other developed and developing countries, the allocation of financial resources is inadequate in India. The government has allocated Rs 25,967 crores to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports for FY 2021-22.

It aches the heart so much to look at Indian athletes representing India internationally to be in undignified situations. We have seen the example of wrestler Sushil Kumar in the news. Another news headline reflecting this is the response of overwhelmed Hima Das to Sachin Tendulkar’s gift; she said “Sir, I can’t accept this car as my village doesn’t have any roads to drive this on”.

One more athlete I would like to mention is the world-class footballer Mr Sunil Chetri. Yes, WORLD-CLASS very few might know this he holds the record in 2nd position after Cristiano Ronaldo of ‘most international goals from active players’ with 74 goals.

The recent events surrounding Vinesh Phoghat and Manika Batra regarding the absence of their personal physio and coach respectively has raised many questions.

Steps toward a better tomorrow

Sports Authority of India is the premier sports body that is in charge of implementing sports schemes to promote sports culture in India. SAI has started various schemes for promoting sports at Sub-Junior, Junior, and Senior levels all over the country.

Following are a few of the Indian Government Schemes to promote sports and support athletes:

1. National Sports Talent Contest Scheme (NSTC) - for Sub-Junior level trainees

2. Army Boys Sports Company Scheme (ABSC

3. SAI Training Centres Scheme (STC) - for Junior level trainees:

4. Extension Centre of STC /SAG:

5. COME and PLAY Scheme:

Athletes interested to be enrolled in any of the above-mentioned schemes or more can visit https://sportsauthorityofindia.nic.in/sai/

In India, a large proportion of the population is shared by the youth, which can be considered as the building blocks of a much potential market of India. Amid such a potential market of India, there is a dire need that the government of India takes some initiative to beckon more young entrepreneurs to start investing in the Indian sports section. The governments can take some handy initiatives to enrich the Indian sports sector along with its infrastructure like graduating sports sector as an industry, promotion of Sports in the education program/NEP as well as monetary assistance to the sports-based firms.

Some more key areas where the Indian government needs to pay attention to strengthen indigenous sports infrastructure:

  • Schools: being the fundamental platform to nurture young budding talents; play a pivotal role in shaping up Indian sporting culture. Promotion schemes example on this level is the Khelo India Games.

  • Broadcasting more sports: not just makes the tournament in demand but also attracts more young kids to aspire for the sport.

As individuals, it becomes our patriotic duty to support the athletes presenting our country by watching their matches and promoting their success. India needs to do better for its sports, and even better for its Athletes who give it their all at the International Space. But while the government fails in the first instance to weed out systemic corruption, the prospect of clean sports appears grim.


~ Somya Maan

Sources: Jagran Josh, Sports Authority of India, Business Standard International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, Volume 7, Issue 1