Why does India win so few Olympic medals? So asked Marginal Revolution and a billion Indians.
Firstly, congratulations to Abhinav Bindra for winning India's first ever individual gold. But looked at in the national medal tables , we are slightly behind Mongolia and Kazakhstan. In fact, on a per capita count, scaled to population, we would do even worse.
Not everyone dares to suggest genetic factors. I do. But these factors primarily apply to average performance in particular pure athletic disciplines. There surely must be some events where focus and investment and dedication can bring results, even with a largely fixed genetic pool. The enormous strides made by China, and even by the UK, since the last games prove this.
The usual glib answer is "get cricket into the games". That's only partially true, even if India's most popular sport were to be included, presumably in one-day format, there's still a good chance we'd be beaten by Australia (or Sri Lanka, like today).
There are better candidates, more guaranteed to get us a medal. Billiards. Chess. Kabaddi. And with enough "pressure" any sport can be included in the games. And by "pressure" perhaps we just mean money. According to a BBC investigation: if you are careful enough and clever enough and you really want the golden Olympic ticket for your sport, there is every reason to believe that you can get your event onto the podium.
Yet I still ask, given a developing nation's other priorities, is it worth it?