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  Olympic Games stoke patriotic fervour

Olympic Games stoke patriotic fervour

Published : Aug 2, 2016, 12:54 am IST
Updated : Aug 2, 2016, 12:54 am IST

Shiny Wilson, née Abraham, is a horrendous public speaker. She herself has admitted it numerous times.

Shiny Wilson, née Abraham, is a horrendous public speaker. She herself has admitted it numerous times.

But the first Indian woman athlete to qualify for the Olympic semi-final broke her shackles during an event here on Saturday.

 

A chance to speak about her experience of carrying the India flag at the 1992 Olympics inspired Shiny to overcome her inhibition behind the microphone.

“The pride I felt while carrying our nation’s flag during the opening ceremony at Barcelona was overwhelming. I have no hesitation to say that it was the most memorable moment of my athletic career,” Shiny said, even as the crowd lifted the roof of the venue with their thunderous applause.

The founders of the modern Olympics didn’t want the event to inflame nationalistic passions. They sought to project the Games as an opportunity for individuals to test their athletic mettle against each other. Until 1908, athletes entered the Olympics as individuals and not as representatives of their nations.

 

According to Article 46 of the Olympic Charter, “the Olympic Games aren’t competitions between nations.” The International Olympic Committee still doesn’t officially recognise the medal table. There is no mention of medal tally on the IOC’s official site, Olympic.org.

Few nations, however, care these days about the IOC’s stated position. From capitalist USA to Communist China, all top countries at the Olympics are spurred by a desire to top the medal table. The flag evokes strong feelings among athletes and viewers alike.

Medal winners, even those who aren’t overtly patriotic, say the experience of seeing their national flags raised during the Olympics left them emotional.

 

Steve Redgrave, Great Britain’s five-time gold medal winner in rowing, has said one of his treasured Olympic souvenirs was the British flag that was raised for his gold in 1996.

V. Baskaran, who had the honour of leading India to their last hockey Olympic gold in 1980, said seeing the tri-colour go up was one of the emotional moments of his career.

“The flag hadn’t been raised since 1964. Only the national anthem of the gold medal winner is played during the ceremony. It adds to the emotional quotient. I will never forget my experience. I relived it after Abhinav Bindra clinched the 10m air rifle gold in 2008,” he said.

Baskaran expects a couple of golden moments at Rio. “I feel our archery team have a good chance to go all the way. Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna can also pull it off,” he said.

 

PS: A person who spoke after Shiny broke down, saying “Just imagine carrying India’s flag at the Olympics.”