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How India,s Female Olympic Athletes Lifted a Nation,s Spirits

How India,s Female Olympic Athletes Lifted a Nation,s Spirits


As a country, India punched well below its weight at the Rio Olympics. By Aug. 20, the sprawling nation of 1.3 billion had won just two medals, placing it below the likes of tiny Lithuania and struggling Venezuela, which is currently in the throes of a severe economic collapse.

The result is unsurprising. On average, India spends around $0.005 per head on sports each day, against $0.30 for the U.S., according to a recent Indian parliamentary report. And outside cricket, a game followed with almost religious fervor in India, there is little private investment in sports, discouraging participation. As the report noted, most athletes are wary of pursuing their discipline professionally “because of high risk, uncertainty and low rewards.”

Indian officials, meanwhile, made some embarrassing headlines as the Olympics got under way: the Indian Sports Minister’s entourage in Brazil was reportedly reprimanded for bad behavior, while a provincial political leader faced widespread criticism for going on a pricey taxpayer funded jaunt, along with eight other colleagues and bureaucrats, to watch the Games. (His defense: he was there to “stand by our players” and see what problems they face.)