Indian Olympic Team Snubs Charity

India has a small Olympic contingent in the 2010 Olympics. Although India sports a warm climate, there are mountains in the country but not a lot of winter so it makes sense that there might only be three winter athletes. It also makes sense that although India has over a billion people and a sixth of the world’s population that there might still be a lot of poverty.

It doesn’t make sense that three athletes representing their country should not even be given matching outfits for the opening ceremonies. The Indian government spent about the equivalent of $2000 for each of the eight team members, which is not a lot for the length of the Olympics. I don’t think the government is that poor but I’m not an economist.  But here’s something else that doesn’t make sense. On arrival of the eight members (including the three athletes) in Canada the local Indo-Canadian community found out about Team India’s plight. A local Indo-Canadian businessman chipped in, and had suits made up, and the community raised $8,000 for expenses through a local radio host.

Before that, luge athlete and flag bearer Shiva Keshavan was given about $9,700 by a group of lawyers so that he could get a new sled. The Indian government has put out a statement saying they did supply uniforms (which were supposedly mismatched) and some money, as well as giving Shiva $2o,000 the year before for his training. I don’t know how $20,000 translates in India compared to cost of living and other expenditures but it probably goes farther than here, but how far?

It’s unclear whether the outfits were done in time for the opening ceremonies but most likely were. However Keshavan was not wearing the outfit. And it seems that the $8,000 raised by the Indo-Canadian community has been turned down by Team India (after Keshavan said they were grateful) with the comment that they will not accept charity and are embarrassed.

I think it’s time to leave egos at the door. Olympic athletes don’t just compete for themselves but for their countries. A country is made up of individuals and it’s obvious that the Indo-Canadian community here cared enough to want to help. They wanted their athletes to look good and do well and win for all of them.

And on top of that, Keshavan accepted money from the government of India as well as from the lawyers. In fact, almost all Olympic athletes accept charity, or donations to further their training, whether from governments, organizations, benefactors or other commercial donors. How does the Indian team (which member has his knickers in a twist over this?) decide that this is not acceptable? If they’re embarrassed by their government’s lack of funding, the damage has already been done. They should be grateful that their fellow country men and women are wishing to participate in their own way and help out.

If a country is poor and people chip in I think that just shows more of a team spirit to those who are happy to be behind a team, to support them and cheer them on and do a little bit in any way they can because they are not the athletes. It should be country’s pride in helping, not embarrassment in accepting.

And what will the overabundance of Team India’s pride get them in the end? Probably nothing, including no support from the local Indo-Canadian community and no medals because they didn’t accept what was needed. Team India, take some humility here and use your pride in your athletics, and be happy that some people were willing to help.

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