By Soroor Ahmed
The London Olympics 2012 ended on August 12 with the United States, China, Great Britain and Russia occupying the top four positions. This is no big news as it always happens so. The news is that six of the seven countries, which won just one bronze medals are Muslim dominated ones. What is more strange is that three out of five cities, which are bidding to host 2020 Olympics are in the Muslim world. They are Doha (Qatar), Istanbul (Turkey), Baku (Azerbaijan), Madrid (Spain) and Tokyo (Japan).
But the six of the seven who finished at the bottom in the medal tally are: Saudi Arabi, Kuwait, Tajikistan, Morocco, Afghanistan and Bahrain while the seventh is Hong Kong (it represents in Olympics separately and not with China).
Some of these Muslim countries are extremely rich with no problem of diet, health-care and other facilities. In fact there is problem of plenty–– and of course, over-eating.
The only silver lining is Kazakhstan, which finished 12th and Iran which ended up 17th , much ahead than many developed western countries.
The case of Kazakhstan is slightly different because it was a part of Soviet Union for quite long and had a tradition of doing somewhat better in Olympics. Besides, there is a large Russian population in that country.
What is more, Muslim athletes and players living in the West performed better than those in the Middle East Sheikhdoms. For example Somali-born British gold medal winner Mohammed Farah.
Sounds somewhat strange nevertheless true: war-torn Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, one of the richest country of the world, won the same number of bronze medal. Neighbouring Pakistan drew blank.
The United States won highest number of medals––46 gold, 29 silver and bronze each. It is followed by China (38, 27 and 23), host Great Britain (29, 17 and 19) and Russia (24, 26 and 32).
Kazakhstand won 7 gold, 1 silver and 5 bronze while Iran four gold, five silver and three bronze.
India was ranked 55th with no gold, two silver and four bronze medals.
Turkey was also relatively well placed so far Muslim world is concerned. It won two gold, two silver and one bronze while Egypt got just two silver medals. Pakistanis, like Indians, have perhaps forgotten how to play hockey, which was their only hope. India lost to South Africa to finish 12th and last while Pakistan beat South Korea to end up seventh.
Though India has doubled its tally by winning two silver and four bronze there is nothing to boast about this time as the country had not won a single gold. In 2008 Beijing Olympics India bagged one gold and two bronze medals.
In that way the performance of India, with 125 crore population, is like that of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain etc. But then India is relatively much poorer country when compared with these Middle East kingdoms.
The problem with Muslim world is that even fairly developed Malaysia and densely populated Indonesia could not perform better.
Though apparently Iran is derided by the West as backward and Mullah-run country, yet it appeared as the only Muslim country to pose some challenge even in the field of sports––not just in nuclear science, which has become a headache for the world.
The problem with India is that it is often equated with China, but so far sports is concerned it is no match to it.
Special comparison of the Muslim countries has been made simply because countries like Qatar, Turkey and Azerbaijan are bidding to hold 2020 Olympics. In fact Qatar is bidding for the second time. Azerbaijan was the best placed among three in London Olympic as it, along with Poland, ranked 30th. The final tally was two gold, two silver and six bronze.
As Olympic Games needs huge money––in some cases wasteful too––the West wants to rope in the rich Arab monarchies too for this purpose. The problem with Qatar is that it is too hot in summer and would be hosting Olympics––if selected for the purpose––in October.
But the big question is: if any oil-rich Arab country hosts or co-hosts the future Olympics how much medal it would win. Perhaps the local population or expats may end up becoming spectators just as cricket matches are played in Dubai, which ironically is the headquarters of the International Cricket Council. The West would get another venue to share the huge burden of Olympics.