Kabaddi for Olympics - why not?

Its recent World Cup saw 12 nations competing.

 |  4-minute read |   24-10-2016
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The just concluded 2016 edition of the Kabaddi World Cup marked the coming of age of kabaddi. The contact game that originated in Tamil Nadu has come a long way from being played in unorganised style in the hinterlands of the subcontinent to becoming a organised sports gaining popularity in dozens of nations.

The World Cup itself saw 12 nations, including Argentina, Australia and England, Japan, Kenya and the US (prominent nations of all inhabited continents), competing.

The event which was held in India saw a healthy turnout of crowds in the stadium. And many more watched the event on television. The unprecedented interest in the event has sparked demands for including kabaddi in the Olympics.

Already kabaddi, which features in the Asia Games, has addressed the shortcoming of lacking a well-organised international body (with the formation of the International Kabaddi Federation whose membership comprises 31 national associations), had been a demonstration game in the 1936 Olympics, has a wide base and growing audience, and also has its own World Cup with diverse participation.

Thus the demand for including kabaddi is not without ground.

So, here are five reasons why the International Olympic Committee will do well to give serious consideration to including Kabaddi in the Olympics.

A display of individual physical strength, agility, presence of mind and team play

Kabaddi is a game that requires good fitness and agility from the the 14 players (seven each from the two sides) who play in the standard form of the game. The game requires individual astuteness and strength but being a team game also calls for team play.

In so far as Olympics are about promoting physical fitness, team play and presence of mind, the cause is well served by including kabaddi in the list of sports there.

The inclusion can provide new prestige to kabaddi and encourage more people to embrace the game and benefit from improved physical and mental well-being that the sport ensures.

olympics-embed_102416035629.jpg If included in the Olympics, kabaddi can easily fit in its tight schedule.

Well suited for the Olympics which is a time-constrained event

Many a times, sports popular in the developing world don't get included in the Olympics as they are too time consuming to fit into the tight schedule of the event. Cricket is one prominent example.

Even the T20, the shortened version, takes three hours. The traditional form ODI takes a full working day. This along with cricket's limited spread are important reasons why it has not been included in the Olympics.

But kabaddi is a more fast-paced game. It gets over in 40 minutes. Thus, if included in the Olympics, it can easily fit in the tight schedule.

Also, the minimal time requirement apart from little requirement of accessories or facilities makes kabaddi a good candidate to be promoted for adoption in a world where time and space are increasingly scarce.

Will make Olympics more inclusive and true to spirit

The Olympics event is often accused of being a rich man's extravaganza dominated by rich nations, and collecting medals in games too expensive for poor folks from poor nations. By including Kabaddi, the Olympics can partially address such concern.

Here is a sport that does not require much expenditure from those interested in playing and has been exported to the developed world from the developing world. The sport can also provide a fairer avenue for proving the mettle for all nations, than many of the expensive sports that figure in the Olympics.

Thus by including kabaddi, IOC can prove its commitment towards making the event more equitable and raise its legitimacy among the deprived nations and ensure it is more true to its mission.

Will bring new viewers for the Olympics

Embracing kabaddi is not merely morally desirable but also practically beneficial for the Olympics. The world of the Olympics and the world of kabaddi are quite divergent. While the more empowered sections constitute the former, the latter is comprised of the subaltern.

So when kabaddi is included, the Olympics can attract a large section of an audience that has remained outside its reach. This will also help promote other sports that are already included in the Olympics, as the audience that will follow kabaddi is likely to get interested in the other sports too.

Puts little burden on host nations

While including kabaddi will have positive outcomes, the icing on the cake is that the sport is among the least costly options for host nations and organising bodies. The recent Olympics have faced protest for being inordinately expensive.

In such circumstances, kabaddi has an edge when it comes to deciding which sport is to be added to the Olympics.

Also read: Why Pro Kabaddi League may throw IPL cricket out

Writer

Apoorva Pathak Apoorva Pathak

The author is alumni, IIT Roorkee and writes on politics, economy, policy.

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