The Incheon Asian Games formally ended with an enthralling closing ceremony choreographed extravagantly at the main stadium. It was a great show of Korean culture that captivated thousands of spectators in the stadium. The president of Olympic Council of Asia, Sheikh Ahmad Fahad Al-Sabah declared the formal closure of 2014 Games, when OCA flag was lowered with the final reverberation of its official hymn. The torch and flag of New-Delhi’s first Asian Games in 1951, and the OCA flag were handed over to the people’s representatives of the next Games in 2018 to be held at Jakarta in the Republic of Indonesia. The cultural show ended with a brief dance and music show by a group of Indonesians.
The closing ceremony marked the end of a fortnight full of performances by competitors from 45 countries/regions in 36 sporting disciplines. China was the runaway topper of medal’s table with 342 medals that included 151 golds. For ninth time in a row, the Chinese put the authoritative stamp of their sports superiority in Asia. Many countries improved their past Asian Games performance but India, world’s second most populous country after China, disappointed once again. In a glaring contrast to China, India finished eighth with a total of 57 medals that included just 11 golds. The ceremony opened with shows by National Dance Company of Korea, the ‘Rainbow Choir’, National Gugak Centre dance troupe, Serotonin club drummers and a display of traditional Korean martial arts of taekwondo. Later, there was a cultural show by athletes from various countries in a mixed group. The Rainbow Choir was thoughtfully choreographed in which 30 children of different nationalities sang a song to deliver a message of peace and appreciation to their Asian friends. The closing ceremony was attended by Prime Minister of Korea, Jung Hongwon, President of the Games organizing committee, Kim Youngsoo, President of OCA, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, Korean Olympic Committee chief Kim Junghaeng and City Mayor Yoo Jeongbok.
If one looked at the performances of China, Korea and Japan, India’s medal haul was not worth mentioning. In a culture-rich country like India, lack of development of traditional sports remains an area of concern. It requires a complete overhaul with a focus on encouraging young talent to take up sports from the level of junior schools. No one is asking to follow China, where the state itself scouts for children from tender age and takes them in their fold with the aim of developing them into world-class performers. But Indian education system is devoid of an honest program for development of sports. Track-and-field, aquatics and net sports are some areas that require serious focus. Many of India’s silvers and bronzes could have been converted to golds with just a little extra effort but that didn’t happen. India should also learn to respect sports protocol even in the worst of times. The boxing team, which had a last-minute clearance from the world body after their ban, didn’t exactly make India proud. Sarita Devi’s histrionics were needlessly encouraged. Granting that some injustice was done to India’s boxers, the finality had to be accepted even if it meant disappointment. Boxing India came close to another disciplinary action but luckily for the country, Sarita Devi relented in the end.
India did well in tennis, thanks to Sania Mirza deciding to represent her country at last. But Sania appeared to be obliging the nation by coming to Incheon. Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathy were allowed to go scot-free by Indian Tennis Federation on flimsy grounds. The two haughty men could have added at least a men’s doubles gold but who will ask whom? Indian wrestlers, who showed promise, ended as lame ducks. Some even failed to reach quarterfinals. Yogeshwar Dutt was the sole gold winner out of so many categories. Same was true of boxers, where Mary Kom’s gold was the only saving grace. But India’s worst decision was not sending two cricket teams to Incheon. There are so many men and women cricketers of reasonably good talent and many of them didn’t have any engagements in the Incheon Games fortnight. It is difficult to believe that India could not find 15 men and 15 women, who could come to Incheon. The OCA has heavily criticized India over the refusal to enter T20 cricket teams. Cricket was added to Asian Games four years ago but India refused to send teams in 2010 and they have refused now. Indian Cricket Control Board’s plea that players were too busy with other commitments was patently hollow as most men and women cricketers had no engagements during the fortnight. Surprisingly, India has steadfastly opposed the inclusion of cricket at multi-sports events like Commonwealth and Olympic Games while other cricketing nations have welcomed it. At Incheon, men’s T20 gold went to Sri Lanka, while Pakistan grabbed the women’s gold.
Indian Premier League’s super-rich T20 is being criticized widely as too much money is effectively killing other sports, which don’t offer much monetary compensation. In addition the powerful IPL is fuelling corruption and gambling. Only last month, ex-England all-rounder Ian Botham wanted IPL to be scrapped because the event was taking players away from representing their own countries. Botham added that IPL was encouraging wide-spread betting that is tarnishing the game’s image. What can be more glaring than the fact that the incumbent chairman of the ICC, N. Srinivasan himself is under investigation over a betting scam in IPL. With government turning a blind eye, the cricket crazy India, has no time to think about any other sports. As long as this lasts, promotion and encouragement of basic sports will remain a dream.