In the week gone by, Janet Evans swam 400 meters freestyle in 4 minutes, 21.49 seconds. Not a mean feat this, if you consider that Janet is 40 years old.
But if you realize that this 40-year-old is winner of four Olympic gold medals and her best timing is 19 seconds faster than this, the present timing does not even deserve mention. Yes we are talking about the queen of pool in the late 80s and early 90s and holder of World Record in both 400 and 800 meters freestyle, Janet Evans. Such was her dominance that her 400m freestyle world record stood for 18 years before it was beaten in 2006. Her 800m freestyle record was bettered after 19 years at the 2008 Games.
Now a mother of two, she was seriously trying to make a comeback to the Olympics. That too, 16 years after retiring from competitive swimming and living as a housewife for past several years. Did she not know that it would be difficult at this age? That should be beyond question. She, of all the people, would be aware that her body is not as sharp as it used to be.
The answer could be: Because it is Olympics. Citius, Altius, Fortius or “Swifter, Higher, Stronger”. This is the biggest stage where you can carry your national pride in sports. The existence of Olympics explains why the best want to perform there and comeback if they get a chance. Even if they’ve had very successful outing earlier. This is what drives the sportspersons, be it in US or Nepal. That’s what is termed as Olympic Dream.
In the same week Dipak Bista, undoubtedly Nepal’s most decorated athlete and one of the only two to have qualified for Olympics, was confirming the same thing, “It is a pride for anyone to be able to represent their country in Olympics.” Unfortunately he went on to add, “What a shame it is that we have to hide, fearing protests, when we are leaving the country for participation. In any other country, the players are given farewell with great fanfare.”
Dream demolished, wake up to reality… He was talking about how Nepali players receive farewell, before going for the Olympics. The players were not even given a send off properly. It was a hush hush event. It would not be an overstatement if one is to say that the farewell has never been good for players. In 2008, when Nepali contingent was leaving for the Beijing Olympics, the scuffle broke out between the officials who were going with the players and the group that wanted to stop unnecessary officials going with the team, right at the airport. The spectacle hardly made anyone proud. A few players could be seen wiping their tears. This time around, there are rumors that the 5 players will be accompanied to London by 30 more ‘officials’. And yes, it is not sure who will be the chef de mission of the Nepali contingent, at least officially.
Interestingly, an interaction program named ‘London Olympics 2012 participation: potentiality and challenges’ was held – less than 30 days before the Olympiad. It is well understood that Nepal’s participation is limited to participation only. But if such program were held a couple of years ago, maybe we’d have more players qualifying than getting ‘wild card entry’ in Universal Games.
But then, as sport sector appears to be headless (We have two Olympic committees – one recognized by the government and other by IOC), these are the areas never even considered. Talking sports remain formality and planning remains mere talks. No organization that deals with funds and people can remain without accountability. Unfortunately, our Olympic Committee is not accountable to the players and unless that accountability is established, sport would be considered leisure, of a few elites.
However, Yuvraj Lama, the member secretary of National Sports Council – the most powerful person in country’s sports sector – says that he can solve it all. He is to announce the ‘master plan’ after the Olympics is over. At least it buys him some time, as multi-sport meet does not happen for a few more months. By then, the London dreams could be forgotten already.
(PS: This write-up appeared in Yours Truly’s weekly Sports Column on The Kathmandu Post – OFFSIDE – on 30 June, 2012)