Oh, the life of an Olympian

It must be nice to be an Olympian, especially if you’re one of just three athletesIndia team.jpg representing a country of a billion-plus people at the Winter Games. Shiva Keshavan, Jamyang Nangial and Tashi Lundup must feel like kings, what with the Indian sports ministry bending over backwards to give them royal treatment.

From bearing the expenses of their ceremonial clothing to daily allowances of $50 per day, the sports ministry on Tuesday said it has spent around Rs 7.4 lakh on the eight-member Indian contingent at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. [Link]

Wow, a daily allowance of $50 per day! They’ll be able to visit the prestigious French restaurant Lumière, order whatever they want on the menu — six mushroom ravioli, Fraser Valley farm duck, braised eggplant & peppers – and dash out before the bill arrives. No point in being a top athlete if you can’t make a fast exit.

If they prefer to actually pay for their food, they can still eat like a king, loading their trays at Burger King. They can also eat like a queen, piling on the toppings at Dairy Queen.

Of course, they probably don’t need to eat out at all. They have their own chef. His name is R.K. Gupta and he’s listed as the Indian team’s “Chef de Mission.” My French is rusty, but I think that means cooking is his mission.

And let’s not forget that they can get lots of free food at the Olympic Village — Big Macs and other grub — specially chosen by the Canadian Olympic Committee to ensure that visiting athletes have the best nutrition possible to maximize the medal count of Canada.

So don’t you dare suggest that the Indian team isn’t being treated well. Not only are they getting $50 per day, they also got to wear the coolest uniforms at the opening ceremony. Kudos to Indian officials who rejected uniforms donated by the Indo-Canadian communty and stuck with the original uniforms, which brought the team a lot more attention at the opening ceremony, as well as compliments such as “Are they sailors?” and “Wow, I didn’t know that India had a Kmart!”

34 thoughts on “Oh, the life of an Olympian

  1. India just can’t win. If India treats them well it’s “Look how stingy India is about supporting its talent! How can India ever be taken seriously on the world stage?” If India doesn’t it’s “Oh my God! Why are they spending money on frivolities!? They should use every cent they have to feed all the poor people! How can India ever be taken seriously on the world stage?”

  2. India just can’t win.

    that’s true, unfortunately literally.

    and to top it off, the athletes in indian contingent to the olympics/commonwealth games are usually outnumbered by the bureaucrats and hangers-on enjoying a boondoggle on the government coin. it is not that the govt doesn’t spend on these events, the spend is completely useless and is not targeted towards actually creating competitive athletes, or providing facilities for those that do make the cut.

  3. usually outnumbered by the bureaucrats and hangers-on enjoying a boondoggle on the government coin.

    “Usually?” HA!

    Very few GoI programs are actually designed to effectively fulfill their mandate. The mandate is just an excuse to get support from the masses so they can spend tax money on hiring bureaucrats.

  4. I liked Shiva’s luging outfit with the Indian flag. Wonder who designed it and who paid for it. I am sure it does not come cheap. UnderArmor is quite expensive I can only imagine that it would cost considerably more than a day’s worth of food ;-)

  5. Apparently they also had to depend on the generosity of a group of lawyers in India for new equipment.

    And the Indian official in their group rejected the uniforms (after attending the Surrey, BC event himself when they were donated by the Indo-Canadians) because he didn’t want the world to to think they were a charity case…..great logic !

    Didn’t Olympic boxers from India have the same recognition / funding issues ? I mean we just won out first individual Gold Olympic medal in 2008.

    Maybe if they were playing Cricket on ice then they would get a lot more funding.

  6. In the day or so after the opening ceremonies, one of the NBC entertainment shows (e.g. Access Hollywood) had a brief discussion of Olympic uniform fashion dos and don’ts, and the two countries they pointed to as don’ts were Italy and India.

    The complaint of Italy was that as a nation so well regarded for fashion, they should have been able to come up with something more stylish.

    And for India the lament was that for a nation known for such brilliant and beautiful fabrics, they should have been able to come up with something less drab.

  7. And for India the lament was that for a nation known for such brilliant and beautiful fabrics, they should have been able to come up with something less drab.

    You don’t want to impress the North Koreans too much. They might try to defect!

  8. I usually am kind of proud that we unlike China don’t waste millions on the Olympics for PR purposes. I mean China sent a curling team to Canada for 8 years so that they would take a medal. How ridiculous is that, what is the point? It is however sad that a country of one billion can’t produce any athletes who can compete on the world stage. It’s something that should make the authorities worried, especially since obesity is rampant in India. None of my relatives do any sport what so ever. Some children play until they are 11-12 then they stop, some don’t even do any sports as kids. I understand that money is a big issue, but you never see the affluent urban middle class do any sports either. Countries with far less resources have better sporting facilities, smaller countries, poorer countries, you name it.

  9. Winter sports probably aren’t that big in India. It makes sense for a government with limited funds to spend on what the people actually care about…like cricket.

  10. We just don’t invest enough in our sports people, writers, artists et al. End of. Being a lawyer. a doctor or an accountant is given greater priority…unless it is cricket

  11. Winter sports may not be that big but what about even the summer sports ? That first ever individual gold medal count was winter and summer sports combined. I understand the popularity of cricket – but as someone else stated, 1 billion people, there must be more output / interest.

  12. Sports?!?! its all cricket all the time in india. Just look at the hockey world cup that is gonna take place in soon. There is BARELY any pub for a world cup event like that. This team is lucky it got 50 bucks. Sad but true state of indian sports.

  13. I am looking with critical eye to WHO is winning the Olympics in general. There are two categories. One is very economically powerful countries. The other are a few former communist countries that pour tonne of money/national pride into certain sports. There are lots of countries that do not fall in either of these categories. And these countries tend to not be on Olympic radar.

    N then there is the whole winter Olympics part. Lots of the countries in the middle don’t have winter weather for the winter sports, so the only ones coming from there grew up or trained or went to boarding school in some other country but they competing for their own country anyways.

  14. The main issue here is not the contenders involved or weather.

    The concern or point of interest is why India can’t promote and fund other sports and when there are athletes who do compete at higher levels, why they have issues with simple things like equipment and uniforms. Normally you hear about this when it involves people who come from much poorer countries.

    And you don’t always have to pour tons of money in – it also takes committed and invigorated athletes. This seems to be an issue as well.

  15. Gurmando

    This is typical Indian bureaucracy n also corruption. If they are not giving clean water or having schools for kids, how do you expect them to fair better in this? N should they be focusing on a spending so much on these three athletes or making some sewage lines n fly overs?

  16. Ha – I see your point and agree in some ways – you could say the same about Vancouver where we have one of the worst drug / homeless problems yet are spending millions on these games.

    The thing is, I also think you can do both. The main way to promote athletics is not just for national pride but to create role models who can inspire other kids to try new sports and excel as well.

  17. There are few if any countries who do not have something they can do more for the poor or less disadvantaged in their countries. It isn’t one or the other. You can do both. Anyway, there are what a handful of athletes at Vancover? The financial impact is probably less than a drop in the bucket. So far people complain both that they spent too much and too little; that the government should support sports other than cricket and that the government should instead spend the money on the poor or infrastructure. I agree with people – whatever the Indian government does is wrong and just can’t win support.

  18. I agree with people – whatever the Indian government does is wrong and just can’t win support.

    sameer, this is not my point. i think that, given the sums of money in question, the zero sum argument is hardly the most important point against this spending. however, it is true that whatever little spending there is on sports is focused wastefully on boondoggles and NOT on infrastructure, talent development, or support of the talent that does come out in spite of the system.

  19. On San’s point of why Indians don’t play much sports after high school: Part of the problem is supply of facilities and funding etc. But part of it is also demand – I think young people don’t care to play sports as it is seen as unproductive. Sports is unlikely to help them earn money, meet the opposite sex and get married, provide a forum for discussing key social issues that arise from Bollywood movies etc. Sports doesn’t even let youth forget the hell of CBSE education as can a local pub. So, until the demand is there the supply will not materialize. And hence no medal for India until Carrom becomes an Olympic sport… until the Chinese dominate that too.

  20. by the way – so that we don’t make yet ANOTHER sepia mutiny blog india-centric, might i also point out that there is also a delegation from Pakistan at the Olympics? yes, its only 1 person, but its not like 3 is that much better!

  21. My post was not in response to or in support of your point.

    that’s fine. we can just agree to call my post a rebuttal of yours then.

  22. San wrote:

    It’s something that should make the authorities worried, especially since obesity is rampant in India.

    What are you talking about? Malnutrition is a much bigger problem in the Indian subcontinent than obesity.

  23. Well to start with it is winter Olympics. There is very little winter in India for people to compete. But having said that, the obsession in India is Cricket and Movies. The nation has an off-again on-again romance with cricket and still relies on 1983 world cup win for a glorious moment in Cricket History. As far as movies, they are a joke. It takes a British team to make an Oscar worthy movie. Most Indian movies are just garbage. There in lies our problem. If the two most obsessed over pass-times are less than highest quality then there is very little hope for other sports or avocations.

    When it comes to structural support, the administrators (read as politicians and bureaucrats) are nothing but cheap 10-cent whores trying to squeeze money out of the system rather than showing real leadership. As one person pointed out earlier, India is neither economically well-off or has the infrastructure like communist countries by investing in training, facilities and long-term financial stability for people pursuing sports. Instead, we rely on hollow messages of “Mera Bharat Mahaan” without tangible support or results!

    The best bet we have for budding sportsman/sportswoman is to become Ticket inspectors in Railways to pursue their passion. When the rest of the world has infrastructure setup for Training, medical staff and facilities to spend 8 – 10 hrs per day, our athletes have to work part-time on loaned equipment with no facilities. Guys like Shiva Kesavan have to contend with getting medical treatment from opposing teams.

    As Indians we should be ashamed of this plight. We take pride in knowing a progeny of some Indian politician or bureaucrat. I am guilty of this charge as well! Instead, the next time we meet somebody who is a daughter/son/grandson/granddaughter of a politician, we should be asking them to be ashamed for the leadership of their Parent/grandparent. Ask them what tangible changes have they made to the betterment of the nation?

  24. I usually am kind of proud that we unlike China don’t waste millions on the Olympics for PR purposes. I mean China sent a curling team to Canada for 8 years so that they would take a medal. How ridiculous is that, what is the point?

    It was part of China’s developement plan during the 90′s to create industries/jobs. For instance, China made deals with the NBA, MLB etc to promote sports in China which in turn would create more jobs for the population (manufacturing and buying sporting equipment, building stadiums, media etc like in the USA … obviously Yao Ming and some other Chinese basketball players are byproducts of that era.)

    After the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government was able to get funding from all sorts of companies to build public volleyball courts, basketball courts, running tracks, etc. throughout China …. even the NFL got involve although I doubt it would be popular in China. They also got commitment from various sports manufacturers to promote sports and training throughout China.

    It’s pretty smart in my opinion. China has to create as many jobs and industries as possible.

  25. I’m sorry, but I think it’s pathetic that out of a nation of over a billion people, we can’t come up with competitive Olympians. And India houses the BIGGEST mountains in the world. Is it really that hard to create some skiing/snowboarding Indians up there in Manali? Seriously, it’s pathetic.

  26. I think it’s pathetic that out of a nation of over a billion people, we can’t come up with competitive Olympians.

    Extreme poverty, genetics, culture are the reasons why indian subcontinentals are so pathetic when it comes to sports.

  27. The fact that this controversy came up is evidence enough that there is a serious problem for Indian sports. Yes we do have the Himalayas, we do have talent (I have seen it myself), and yes i do know there is enough money floating around in the ‘system’. During the days Shiva Keshavan had no support from private or Govt funding (from 1998 to 2008) he survived on support from family and well wishers, even his sled was second hand. This is no rags to riches story because he STILL DOES NOT earn out of his sport. People call him crazy, but crazy he is if he is passionate about his sport and his country. It’s great that his story is out in the open now. Indians need to wake up to the truth. Shiva has never ever compromised on his values or his determination. He has started a Winter Sport Development Program so India has a strong contingent in 4 years. It is time to take India to newer and greater heights…because we can!

  28. Sachin wrote: Extreme poverty, genetics, culture are the reasons why indian subcontinentals are so pathetic when it comes to sports.

    We can’t still play the extreme poverty card, India’s middle class is larger than the population of the United States. Surely some of India’s little ones can dream of being athletes in sports other than Cricket

  29. “We can’t still play the extreme poverty card, India’s middle class is larger than the population of the United States.”

    Enough of this retarded BS already, that is repeated ad nauseam by delusional drones. What is considered ” middle class” in India is considered impoverished by global standards.