Games play an important role in the lives of young men and women. Games enable people to remain healthy and fit. Games inculcate among the people a sense of discipline. They create a spirit of healthy competition. When games are held at an international level with participants drawn from different countries, they go a long way to promote international co-operation and understanding. Games help to direct the energies of the youth into constructive channels.
The credit for mooting the idea of organising a sports festival exclusively for Asian nations on Olympic lines goes to Prof. G.D. Sondhi, a member of the International Olympic Committee, in the thirties. The first step taken in this direction was the formation of the Asian Games Federation in New Delhi on 13th February, 1949 when it was decided to hold the Asian Games every fourth year.
The first Asian games were staged from 4th March to 11 th March in 1951 at New Delhi. As many as 489 athletes from 11 countries-Afghanistan, Burma (now Myanmar), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand-participated. The games covered six disciplines, namely, athletics, basketball, cycling, football, swimming and weightlifting. The participants felt encouraged by the presence of the then Prime Minister of India, Pt. Jawahar Lai Nehru on several occasions. Demonstrating extraordinary skill, the Japanese athletes won the largest number of medals (24 gold, 20 silver and 16 bronze) followed closely by India (15 gold, 16 silver and 21 bronze).
Thereafter, the Asian Games were held at Manila in 1954, Tokyo in 1958, Jakarta in 1962, Bangkok in 1966 and 1970, Teheran in 1974, Bangkok in 1978, New Delhi in 1982, Seoul in 1986, Beijing in 1990, Hiroshima in 1994, Bangkok in 1998, in Busan, South Korea in 2002 in Doha, Qatar in 2006.
The Asian Games have registered tremendous progress. The number of disciplines has increased from 6 in 1951 to 39 in 2006. The number of participating countries has risen from 11 to 45. The number of participants has grown from 489 in 1951 to nearly 13000 in 2006.
The Ninth Asian Games were held at New Delhi in 1982. It was a spectacular show. It attracted as many as 4,500 participants from 33 countries breaking 101 previous records. India was able to bag 57 medals (13 gold, 19 silver and 25bronze) thus improving its 1951 record of 52 medals. For the first time in Asian Games history, Japan had to yield its supremacy to China which bagged 61 gold, 51 silver and 41 bronze medals. Japan came next and was followed by South Korea and North Korea. India finished 5th.
India took the hosting of Asiad 82 as a big challenge for it. During the short span of two years, sprawling stadia, overbridges, hotels, roads and the Asian village complex were constructed on schedule. This work was undertaken on a war footing. However, a section of the people in India opposed the holding of Asiad 82 in India at a cost of millions of rupees due to which a number of essential on-going developmental projects suffered. They also argued that a developing country like India could not afford the luxury of hosting such meets. This criticism was ill-conceived.
Much of the expenditure on Asiad 82 which was incurred on rising of infrastructure would be a permanent asset for the country. When Indian athletes go and enjoy the hospitality of other countries, India cannot escape from its moral responsibility to host such games on a reciprocal basis. It should be appreciated that holding such events serves as a great morale booster to our own sportsmen.
The Tenth Asian Games were held at Seoul from 20th September to 5th October, 1986. These Games were, for the first time, held under the auspices of the Olympic Council of Asia which replaced the Asian Games Federation after Asiad 82. The Chinese dominated the scene by winning 94 gold medals South Korea, the host country followed closely by winning 93 gold medals. Japan was able to bag only 58 gold medals and ranked third followed by Iran. India could get only 5 gold medals out of which 4 were accounted for by India’s P.T. Usha alone. India’s performance thus was quite dismal.
The 11th Asian Games were held at the Workers’ stadium in Beijing’from September 22, 1990. The Chinese President, Mr. Yang Shangkun, formally inaugurated the sports festival that involved 36 nations participating in it. 4,684 contestants fought a very hard battle for 308 gold medals in 27 events. In winning medals, China dominated the scene, followed by South Korea and Japan. China captured 183 gold medals while South Korea and Japan got 54 and 38 gold medals respectively.
But the performance of the Indian squad was not satisfactory. India began the Eleventh Asian Games in search of more medals than the 37 it got at Seoul four years ago. Taking part in 16 of the 27 disciplines, India was able to bag only one gold, 8 silvers and 14 bronzes and got 11th placing in the medal tally. The only gold was captured in Kabaddi, which was included for the first time as a medal sport. The Indian track and field squad led by P.T. Usha, the queen of track in the Seoul Games in 1986, could clinch only four silver and two bronze medals. Iraq, which used to perform well in the games, was suspended from taking part in the Asian Games.
The 12th Asian Games, with its theme of Asian harmony, concluded in Hiroshima (Japan) on October 16, 1994 on a colourful and nostalgic note after 15 days of tremendous excitement and drama. A record number of 5,300 competitors, besides 2,000 officials, from 42 countries had vied for the continent’s top honours in 34 sports disciplines. China left the rest of the field far behind with a tally of 137 gold, 92 silver and 60 bronze.
South Korea came second with 63 gold, 53 silver and 63 bronze, Japan had to be content with the third spot with 59 gold, 68 silver and 80 bronze, India improved upon its performance in the Beijing Asiad, increasing its tally from one gold, to four, to end eighth in the medal standings. India also won three silver and 15 bronze. A total of 25 world records and 60 Asian marks were broken at the Games. The world records were set in the events of archery, shooting, swimming and weightlifting.
The 13thAsian Games were held in Bangkok (Thailand) in 1998. India won 7 gold medals, 11 silver medals and 17 bronze medals whereas China won 129 gold medals, 77 silver medals and 68 bronze medals.
The 14th Asian Games were held at Busan in South Korea from 29th September, 2002 to 14th October, 2002. India won 11 gold medals, 12 silver medals and 13 bronze medals whereas China won 150 gold medals, 84 silver medals and 74 bronze medals. Thus China won the highest number of medals with a tally of308, followed by South Korea with 260 medals and Japan with 189 medals. India was placed at the 8th position with a total number of 36 medals only.
The curtains came down on the 15th Asian Games in Doha, capital of Qatar on December 15, 2006. China proved its invincibility by capturing a total of 316 medals, including 165 Gold, 88 Silver and 63 Bronze medals. Their dominance was complete-the Gold count of the next five countries including South Korea and Japan at second and third places, respectively, put together could not reach China’s Gold count. India won a total of 54 medals, including 10 Gold, 18 Silver and 26 Bronze. The Asian Games 2006 witnessed the participation of over 13,000 athletes from 45 Asian countries.
There is no doubt that the Asian standard in most disciplines is far below the accepted international standard and unless there is much improvement in standard, the Asian athletes might not be able to leave their mark in the Olympics and other international competitions. It appears that the fight for supremacy in the Asian Games will remain confined to China, South Korea and Japan. Unless India mounts a special drive to create sports ethos in the country and improves training facilities by engaging foreign coaches, it may not be able to do well in the Asian Games.