The Rio Olympics have recently come to a conclusion with a stunning closing ceremony showcasing the ideas of sportsmanship, unity, tolerance, and brotherhood.
And indeed, these themes shone bright throughout the games. For instance, athletes from both South and North Korea taking a selfie together and a runner staying back to help a fellow contender back on her feet.
In addition, we had the privilege of watching quite a few Olympic legends finish their illustrious careers at Rio.
As the $7.4 billion mega sporting event drew to a close, we were reminded once more of the extent of human endurance, athleticism, and will power.
But for Bangladesh, there was a completely separate revelation, and it hit us hard: We still lag horribly behind the rest of the world in terms of sports, other than cricket of course. In most great sporting events, Bangladesh is merely a spectator.
In Rio 2016, Bangladesh’s performance was dismal. None of the Bangladeshi athletes could even qualify for the final rounds, let alone win a medal.
Having said that, Rio 2016 does bring a bit of a sense of achievement for Bangladesh’s sporting endeavours since this is the first time a Bangladeshi athlete, Siddiqur Rahman (golfer), had been selected to attend the Olympics without a wildcard.
Many are speculating that Siddiqur got this privilege because quite a few golfers around the globe have refused to compete in Rio due to Brazil’s Zika epidemic. While such suggestions somewhat belittle Siddiqur’s achievement, the statement isn’t entirely false.
Some people are going overboard and saying that Russian gymnast Margarita Mamun’s gold medal is a win for two countries since she is of Bangladeshi parentage.
In my opinion, while it is a win for Russia, it is definitely a loss for Bangladesh.
Because her gold medal wasn’t added to Bangladesh’s tally, and secondly, it totally could have been added, if the proper authorities had taken the correct steps years ago.
I believe it is time to seriously ask ourselves why, in 32 years and eight editions of the Olympics that we have sent athletes to, we haven’t won a single medal.
If we can get endorsements, advertisers, and sponsors for these types of programs and remove at least some of the stigma this society has put on following sports as a primary passion, especially for women, I believe we can look at the 2020 or 2024 Olympics with renewed hope
Before I delve into the details, I would like to state that I firmly have confidence in the fact that the athletes are the last people we should blame for this situation.
They train very hard with whatever resources they have and try their best at the events, which is indicated by the fact that many athletes have shown their best on the big stages.
The people who are responsible for such failures at sporting events are the management and government bodies responsible for handling these matters.
The first shield taken by the authorities concerned is usually a lack of funding and training facilities. Some people still use the “Bangladesh is still a young nation” excuse, and how that plays a role in our athletes not performing well enough.
Many people even go to the extent of claiming that Bangladeshis are simply physically not built right for Olympics-level sports. Talk about a lack of confidence.
There are many industrialists here in Bangladesh, and the government itself isn’t too poor either. Getting them to sponsor or endorse a few athletes shouldn’t be too difficult.
Nations far younger than Bangladesh have won medals at the Olympics despite having similar physical attributes and worse training facilities.
A team of refugees made an appearance at Rio 2016 under the International Olympic Committee’s flag, and they didn’t win any medals either, which puts them on par with the Bangladeshi team.
I’m not sure if that’s an achievement for Team Refugee, or a crushing letdown for Bangladesh.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that it is impossible to get sponsors for Bangladeshi Olympians.
The authorities could still use diplomatic skills to contact offshore athletes with Bangladeshi heritage to make something of that. We have to start somewhere, but they have repeatedly failed to do so.
I believe it is high time the government adopts a time-based plan for winning an Olympic medal. Australia devised a similar plan after 1976, an Olympic they didn’t manage to win a single gold medal in. In Montreal 1984, they won 24 medals, including four gold medals.
While comparisons with Australia are silly, it’s true that if we can invest a quarter of the money and effort they put in, we can reap some good results.
If we can get endorsements, advertisers, and sponsors for these types of programs and remove at least some of the stigma this society has put on following sports as a primary passion, especially for women, I believe we can look at the 2020 or 2024 Olympics with renewed hope.
Nibir Mostafa Khan is a freelance contributor.