India's First Olympian is A Disappointed Man

India's First Olympian is A Disappointed Man
One of independent India's first Olympians is a disappointed man.

At the age of 84, Eric Prabhakar says the "Delhi-centric" approach to spot talent around the country does not work; what's also wrong is the approach to create sport infrastructure in each and every school.

He should know better. Prabhakar was a quarter-finalist in the 1948 London Olympics. He completed 100 metres in 10.6 seconds. The gold medalist of that event timed 10.3 seconds.

To do well in Olympic games, Prabhakar says India has only one choice, start spare time sports schools, like what China did. This approach alone has taken the dragon country to the top of Olympics medals tally.

"I predicted very much earlier that China is going to be the US in gold medals tally (China would overtake the US in Olympics)", he said in an interview to PTI.

Prabhakar who also excelled in academics did his post- graduation in Economics from Oxford University and worked in UNESCO, a job that took him to China three times. In his spare time, he looked at sports programmes of China.

Unlike India, China decentralised sports.

"In India, we think we can spot talent (sitting) in Delhi up to Madurai or Kanyakumari. The whole thing is centralised in Delhi," he said. "China is a big country, India is a big country. They (China) decided that they will not be able to do that (centralise it); they decentralised it".
China started spare time sport schools decades ago. Their spare time sports schools had specialists and coaches who went to a cluster of 20 schools around them in their region and spoted children who are talented. They then spoke to those children, their school principal and their parents. These children were brought to the spare time sports schools, without disturbing their academic work and were trained.

So, the selected children started training at the age of eight or nine.

This approach has done wonders for China in Olympics, where all the medalists were from these schools, he said.

And does he think that India should replicate this Chinese model? He said, "not only we should (replicate), thats the only answer (to do well in Olympics).

China realised -- which India still has not realised -- that a school, college or institution in the country is not as rich as in America or Europe. China realised that it cannot afford to have costly infrastructure for sports in each school.

"This thought has not yet sunk into Delhi, I should say. They still think...(they have to improve sport infrastructure in each schools). We don't have funds to do that".

He said starting a spare time sports school for 20 schools clustered around them is a very successful model.

According to him, one person who appreciated this concept was J Jayalalithaa, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, who had entrusted him with work to do a project based on the Chinese model but the "whole thing died down" after she lost elections in the following year.
And is he ready to do a similar project for government of India ?

Pat came the reply "I am certainly open to the idea. I am certainly willing to help."

But what he is certainly not open to the idea is about going to London for the next Olympic games.

The organisers of London Olympics invited him for the games and even offered him an air ticket but Prabhakar said he would be 87 then and his health may not permit him to travel.
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