Shailesh Kapoor: Games People Play

23 Jul,2021

Shailesh KapoorBy Shailesh Kapoor


The Olympics are finally here. They have been a year late, and the pandemic, along with the controversy around the event being held despite the pandemic, has taken away some of the sheen from the games. But from today, the real action will start, and everything else will be reduced to a backdrop.


The Olympic games have never been a big media event in India traditionally. In a one-sport country, the idea of a multi-sport event is not alluring as such, unless it’s packaged with patriotism. But that’s been hard to do, given India’s poor show at the games over the years. Since 2008, when Abhinav Bindra won the country’s first (and till date, the only) individual gold medal, we didn’t have much to show at all, except the hockey glory from many decades ago. Since 2008, we have at least been in medal reckoning. The total count of 11 (one gold, three silver and seven bronze) across 2008, 2012 & 2016 may not be much, but it’s far higher than those growing up in the 80s or the 90s would have bargained for.


Lack of performance over the years has also meant low audience interest, leading to low viewership. And it doesn’t help that the peak action timings generally tend to be odd, often well into the night or very early in the morning.


It’s difficult to say how the Indian performance will pan out at this year’s games. There hasn’t been much build-up in the media, with the focus largely being on the pandemic. What we know is that India has sent 125 athletes across 18 sports, the highest-ever on both counts. The sizeable Athletics squad, 26 in number, came as a pleasant surprise to me. But the most realistic medal chances will be in the sport of Shooting, where we have been at par with the best in the world.


Sony has a good coverage plan, with 20 live streams on Sony LIV. That creates more choice for Olympics geeks like me, though watching sport via a streaming app is generally a dodgy experience. Even if you have moved all your content consumption to streaming, including watching linear television on the respective apps, live sports still looks and feels better on TV.


The next 17 days, which includes three weekends, will be a treat for all sports lovers. Even though the entire action will unfold without any spectators in the various stadia in Tokyo, the indomitable spirit of the Olympics – Citius, Altius, Fortius – will take over, nevertheless.


If you want to discover the true power of sport, there isn’t a better opportunity, than to sink your teeth into the Olympics.


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