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Why Indian sporting culture is damaging the world of sport

My last article on the Indian Grand Prix was attacked by an Indian the other day, and in his comment he mentioned that I was biased when it came to India. I feel I should set the record straight, I am biased when it comes to Indian sport.
So why do I have this biased attitude towards Indian sport? Well to be honest it is because they have been able to take a culture that is built around rivalry, tradition and gamesmanship and have turned it in to a money making venture. The IPL is a perfect example of this. Cricket has been and, in some parts of the world, still is a Sunday game. That being an all day event that will be considered a family outing. The scenes of kids playing their own mini-games of cricket on the embankments during a test match are slowly fading, we are no longer seeing the old gents seated back carrying on their own scoring during a test match. Now in India, courtesy of the IPL, test cricket is dying out and being replaced by a faster, more glamorous and less sporting event. The Indian Premier League has seen countries replaced with state teams comprising of international players, those who fight with such ferocity during the Ashes and the Border-Gavesaker trophy are now ‘team-mates’. Yes yes unity and friendship and all that jazz are important, but lets face it true sports lovers watch the game for the competition between players. Something that is dying out due to the IPL.
That is not all that the IPL has done, instead of cricket and avid followers, we are treated with cheerleaders, celebrities and giants of the Indian business world all looking for some extra cash. Who can forgot the first IPL when Sha Rukh Khan decided that the attention needed to be on him and danced the entire match on the balcony, there was actually a game going on but nobody remembers that. The cheerleaders jump up every time a boundary is hit, and rather than focusing on the celebrations of the supporters we are forced to view a poor excuse for ‘cheerleading’.
At the end of the match the focus turns to the team owners, a moment given for the players, and then the reactions of the walking wallets and whether or not THEY are happy.
So really the IPL has systematically killed off a sport that has a tradition dating back over a 100 hundred years. The likes W.G.Grace will certainly turning in his grave to see his beloved sport turned in to a glamour show for the rich and famous of Bollywood.
The problem’s go further than cricket, India hosted the Commonwealth Games last year. And it can be described in a single word, ‘pathetic’. The stadiums were empty, those that were completed, athletes were forced to stay in hotels because of snakes in the village and overall there was no atmosphere. True the commonwealth games can never be compared to the Olympics, but having experienced the Olympics I can honestly tell you Delhi and India could have put on a better show. Once again they claimed to be attracting the masses, but only catered to the upper classes.
This past weekend saw the inaugural Indian GP, and despite what the drivers and the organisers say I am sticking by my original evaluation. There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that the only reason India got the race was because of the potential market they hold. But for those real racing fans they will know that an Indian GP will never match up to the tradition of a race such as Monte Carlo or the Nurburgring in Germany. Those are races that were built on tradition and legends of the sport. Unfortunately for India, they have ditched their true culture for a fusion of Western and Indian and in doing so have lost all essence. What is more disappointing is that once again, money has been the controlling factor in this event. Now I know that Formula 1 is built around money, but FIA and Eccelstone used to be able to do it with class. In Monte Carlo you’d have the yacht owners lining their boats up against the track to watch from the comfort of their floating mansions. India, with all its money and class, chose to pack in thousands upon thousands of fans in to a stadium which had been built on the grounds of a ‘planned sport city’.
It is sad that India, who has given us sporting spectacles in the past are unable to repeat the feat. Cricket lovers around the world must really miss the noise from a packed Eden Gardens, it has now been replaced by subdued fans who are bored and rich team owners whose only concern is how much more they can squeeze out before the final ball is bowled. Looking at what Indian sporting culture has done to world sport I guess the cliche saying ‘money is the root of all evil’ certainly is accurate.

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