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False starts and big questions

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Tom Fordyce | 05:25 UK time, Wednesday, 6 October 2010

As the track and field gets under way here in Delhi, here's an interesting and timely question for you: why have so few British Asians ever represented Britain in athletics?

The numbers - or lack of - are startling: over two million people of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage in the UK, the biggest minority group in the country by far, and yet the number who have worn a British vest can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

It sounds ridiculous, but take a look through the record books. There's marathon runner Richard Nerukar, whose father was Indian; 400m hurdler Gowry Retchakan (born in London, moved to Sri Lanka aged four, came back aged 18 and ran at the 1992 Olympics); and (this will surprise some) there is Sebastian Coe, the Olympic 1500m gold medallist in 1980 and 1984 and now chairman of London 2012. His grandmother was Indian.

And that is almost it. While British athletics draws its stars from a rich and diverse ethnic pool (Christine Ohuruogu and Phillips Idowu with Nigerian heritage, Mo Farah - Somali, Jess Ennis - mixed race) there isn't a single athlete of South Asian descent in the England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland squads in Delhi.

So what is happening, or what is not happening?

Girish Patel is a former pole-vaulter (personal best: 5.21m) and now community stalwart who represented England at the 1976 Commonwealths in Edmonton.

"Cultural and social traditions are key," he says. "Parents' priority for kids, in the Hindu community at least, is academic pride. When there is a sporting focus, traditionally it's been on cricket. In India, it's eat-sleep-drink cricket. That's changing in Britain. Hindi parents now allow their kids to take part in all sports, but football bombards them.

"At the temple in Neasden, we say we have three religions - Hinduism, Man United and Arsenal. Athletics just isn't a high-profile sport that triggers kids' imaginations. There are loads of British Indian cricket clubs and football clubs. Our annual five-a-side tournament has 60 teams but there are no British Indian athletics clubs."

Fayyaz "Fuzz" Ahmed, now UK Athletics head coach for high jump, competed for England at the Commonwealths in Edinburgh 24 years ago.

"It's certainly true that many Asian parents want kids to go on to become doctors or engineers, because it's a well-paid profession, and it's viewed well in society," he says. "Asian parents don't prioritise sport to the same extent as education, and when they do they'd often rather their kids become pro cricketers or pro footballers - it's better paid.

"At the same time, the education thing can't be an excuse. There are poor Asian communities in Britain that aren't producing academic kids but they're not producing sportsmen either."

Ahmed thinks other, less palatable forces may be at work.

"In British sport, there are predetermined ideas of what Asians can do. When I was 16, I was told by a football club that I was too skinny and couldn't jump high enough but I went on to be an international high jumper.

"Some people think Asians are genetically predisposed to being skinny but that's nonsense. Bengalis are short, squad, powerful guys. I'm a Pathan and we're strong. I've done training camps in India and some of the guys are big, very athletic. The great power-to-weight ratio was incredible.

"Asian kids are just as coordinated and uncoordinated as white kids. Just because most top athletes are white or black doesn't mean that Asians can't be just as good. I can use the opposite argument - there are lots Asian doctors in Britain, so does that mean everyone else is stupid? No."

Neither are there many young British Asian athletes about to break through. Discus thrower Navdeep Dhaliwal, 23, may yet make it to the highest level but the last that was heard of Monu Miah, who won European junior bronze over 100m in 2003, was that he had converted to Islam and moved to Bangladesh.

"There are so few high-profile role models in athletics for this group," says Nik Trivedi of Sporting Equals, an organisation that tries to promote ethnic diversity and participation in sport. "By now you'd expect to see some representation in sprints or endurance running but participation is low across all events.

"To make a serious attitude change in ethnic communities, you need someone to break through to show kids it's possible. We noticed a real change in the attitude of young Sikh lads when Monty Panesar (pictured below) was in the England cricket team and any sort of success from athletes from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh would make a real difference."

That change might just happen at these Commonwealths. In the absence of Caster Semenya and Jenny Meadows, Kerala's Tintu Luka - coached by the great PT Usha - has a good chance of taking 800m gold in Delhi.

But the host country has a poor record in producing world-class performers down the years. Its sole Commonwealth athletics gold came in 1958, when Milkha Singh - "the Flying Sikh" - won the 400m title.

What of the situation on the front line? Alan Keeler, secretary at the Ealing, Southall and Middlesex Athletic Club, fears his club can do little to attract more members from its large South Asian catchment area.

"In terms of its population in our borough, Asians are definitely unrepresented," he says. "When we last looked at our club membership records, we only had two guys with Southall postcodes. It is a problem and as a club we should be trying to address it. But we have real problems finding enough coaches for our existing athletes."

Stephen Wolstenholme is development officer at Bradford Airedale, another club from an area with a large British Asian population.

"It's only in the last six months that we've had the resources to take on any new youngsters, let alone do any talent identification in the local community," he says.

Over the summer he held athletics testing days in three local schools. The result? A small but noticeable increase in the number of British Muslim youngsters coming to club training nights. Among them are 10-year-old Janaas Khan and his 11-year-old sister Aqeela.

"They absolutely love going down the club," says their mother, Mel. "They do everything - sprinting, long jump, shot put - but they wouldn't be doing it without the club's work.

"It's not the only sport they're into - my son loves football - but hopefully they'll both stick with it in the long term. There aren't many sports facilities for kids round here, so this has been a great way to start. They'll both be watching the Commonwealths athletics on the telly. They love watching the relays."

It's quite possible that there won't be a single athlete with South Asian heritage in the GB athletics team at the London Olympics. So what can be done to reverse the pattern?

"Clubs shouldn't specifically target Asian kids - they need to target all kids," says Fuzz Ahmed. "When I was a kid there were 500 people at my local club; now there are about 100. We need to have more people into athletics, and then you'll have more Asians. And the more kids will bring their Asian mates.

"It's a 'top down, bottom up' thing," Nik Trivedi argues. "Governing bodies need to be more savvy, and work needs to be done in the South Asian community to make it more engaged with athletics.

"For example, if you're targeting an area with high numbers of Bangladeshis, you need to take account that lots of people will work in the catering and hospitality sectors, and think about the timing of sports events you organise. It's a long term game. Until we get local advocates who are pushing this, it's going to be very hard."

Chris Jones, head of marketing and strategy at England Athletics, has been working closely with Sporting Equals. "It's a big challenge that the sport faces," he says. "You can only wonder how much talent there is out there. There could be so many new champions.

"In the past, clubs haven't had the resources to reach out to other communities. They've had to focus on their existing membership. But there's been a lot more investment over the last 18 months.

"We've invested £4.7m over four years from Sport England directly into clubs at a local level, so they can employ community activators, start school holiday schemes, run coaching courses and do coaching in the community with after-school clubs.

"We're also investing £4.5m into coach development and leadership, and hopefully one result will be more qualified coaches in the British Asian community, particularly among women and girls. The more we can reach out to diverse communities with good local leaders and coaches, the better chance we have of attracting more participants.

England Athletics work with schemes like StreetGames and Athletics Activators to get a more informal version of the sport - what Jones calls the "jumper for goalposts" approach - into schools and communities, particularly in deprived areas of London, Leicester and Birmingham, and in the last two years have invested £250,000 in schools-club partnership.

"The fantastic work of Bradford Airedale and the Bradford Athletics Network shows how important that is to solving this issue," says Jones.

The problem, as with many areas at the moment, is in the finances. "We've got a long-term strategy but short-term funding," says Jones. "Seventy-three percent of our funding comes from government, and we're racing a ticking clock there. We're trying to extend the sport to as many communities as possible in a limited time."

Girish Patel, now 56, will be in Delhi to watch the athletics. "It's going to very tough to get more Asian kids into our sport," he says. "But if I can succeed in athletics, anyone can. I was born without any special attributes. But I became fascinated by jumping after watching Lynn Davies and Bob Beamon in the 1968 Olympics, sitting with my dad in front of the telly at home in Forest Gate. That got me hooked."

Maybe, just maybe, these Commonwealth Games in the Indian capital might have a similar effect on another young child or two in the British Asian community.


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  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    Yes Yes why there are no "star" white basket ball player ?Cannot they jump ?

    Anybody has video link for yesterdays India AUS Match ?


  • Comment number 3.

    Where is English football manager ?

  • Comment number 4.

    Not just athletics, but sport as a whole. I recall reading similar BBC blogs relating to football, and cricket (somewhat surprisingly) in recent times. As 'bigotboy' rightly states, this seems to be a problem internationally though, so perhaps we should be looking for answers from within the south Asian community, rather than British athletics/other sports' set-ups.

    I have several Asian friends who excell at sport, but have been brought up by their families to believe that sporting prowess is very much a hobby, and must be left behind when the time comes to focus on university, career etc.

  • Comment number 5.

    Just to correct you a bit on your Commonwealth Games "History" Edmonton hosted the 1978 Commonwealth Games, the Summer Olympics were held in 1976 in Montreal.

    Also to Baked Beans Ever hear of Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns? White Canadian NBA superstar born in Victoria, British Columbia.

    And also for the record our Canadian flag-bearer for team Canada Anthony Periera is "Asian" or what we Canadians call "Indo-Canadians" He is a huge hit with the Indian Press at the Delhi Games.

  • Comment number 6.

    Does it REALLY matter? Do they have to be forced to take part? If any person, whatever his creed is not good enough, do we have to lower the standards so they can take part and fulfil someones "desire"?

    There is too muuch "why is there not enough black/white/asian/chinese/muslim/jewish/carribean/whatever" questions flying around.

    Please, just let people do what they want to do, and stop making up stupid statistics. I am not really bothered who does what from where.

    The reverse can also apply

  • Comment number 7.

    Being a Indian who was in swimming i honestly feel that Indians should think outside the cricket box.

    Look at the number of spectators watching the commonwealth sports :(

    The reason why Southasian kids get involved in cricket is simple, that is the sport which gets a lot of attention and watched in their household. other sports solely depends on the child interest to pick up.

    @PMG no one has said anything about dropping the standards. Its only through exposure and encouragement they can can be integrated in to the wider sporting world and not just one. the more diverse it is good for the wider community

  • Comment number 8.

    Much as I'm sure Navdeep would love being 23 again, she is actually 32 but has recently thrown a lifetime best in the discus and is still a stalwart in the Scottish team!

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    I am with Luton Athletic club, again a large local Asian community and yet we really struggle to get Asian youbgsters into the club, especially girls. Chris Jones is right about all the things being done and there is a very large school/club link programme but still we don't attract Asian kids. The issue is very much in that community although to borrow an English phrase and use it literally, athletics is 'just not Cricket'. Interestingly we do occasionally coach Monty Panesar to help him with his cricket!

    Colour and background make no difference, Asians are perfectly capable of doing athletics, its just that currently they don't want to. We yhave talked to the previous Mayor who is fro mthe Asian community to see how we can reach out to Asian youngsters and their families. Parental support is always important regardless of race or creed and we have issues with that in all communities but a lack of interest in Athletics is endemic in the Asian community.

    In fact as somebody else said there really is a lack of interest in any sport other than cricket and that is perhaps demonstrated by low crowd numbers at the CWG (all sports) in Dehli whilst the test match was of course well attended. Although there are finally more Asians attending Luton FC matches and that might show that there is some light at the end of the tunnel but it will be a hard battle for sports without football's omnipitent presence to make headway. We will however keep trying.

  • Comment number 11.

    amazingly true, tom thanks for bringing it to the notice of the world... In India, people tends to follow sports that gives them more money... sometimes i wish to see a regular Indian athelete winning gold occasionally like how Britain and US has... but the point is, the Indians have very different taste for sports... like shooting, hockey, cricket, chess, tennis...apart from hockey most of the sports in which India is good at is ones where you need to control your emotions... rarely has Indian excelled in an emotional driven sport...

  • Comment number 12.

    i would like to go in boxing as a sikh british asian but the rules in boxing as in no beard is stopping me and religion is first.

  • Comment number 13.

    I think Girish Patel's reasoning that there are no British Indian athletics clubs is a poor excuse. Athletics struggles for funding enough as it is, so at present, the creation of athletics clubs exclusively for ethnic minorities is a bit of a pipe dream. Besides, surely we should be encouraging British Indians to integrate with everyone else? And sport seems to be a good way of doing this.

    That said, if people don't want to do athletics, then they simply don't want to do it. It's like anything else really. Given time, I'm sure it will come, but as already mentioned, there is more focus on academic prowess and/or cricket in many south Asian families.

    I agree with the concept however that a good role model would help the process along, ala Panesar in cricket, Amir Khan in boxing, etc...

  • Comment number 14.

    It seems to be a cultural thing, IMHO. Look at all the empty seats in Delhi at the moment!

  • Comment number 15.

    Why do people always include race or background in sports. In my opinion if someone is good enough they will most likely get their chance to show their talent. Look at the large exposure to different sports in UK. Given the asian population i'm pretty sure if they are good enough at athletics they'll make it.

  • Comment number 16.

    Why are you not reporting on India taking a lead on gold medals in CWG games ahead of British. Why has your medals scoreboard suddenly changed to alphabetical order instead of ranking according to the golds. You lot are funny i find it really amusing !!! TOM you are a joker!!!

  • Comment number 17.

    Would Seb Coe really be considered Asian because one of his grandmothers was Indian? With 75% of his grandparents being caucasian would he not be considered white, or mixed race?
    Anyway I don't think the idea here should be to encourage asian kids in particular to take up athletics - is that not discriminating against other ethnicities? Surely all kids of all ethnicities should be encouraged equally, and those who enjoy and excel at the sports can go on to represent their countries if they are good enough, irrespective of their ethnic race.

  • Comment number 18.

    There often seems to be almost a desire to find an 'issue' - find some terrible glass ceiling that's stopping some minority group from achieving their dreams, when actually there's overwhelming evidence in sport that certain cultures continually prefer certain sports - is that actually a problem?

    Does the world desperately need people of South Asian descent in athletics any more than it needs Brazilians to leave football and turn to rugby or the Japanese to say that's enough wrestling, let's play cricket? Accessibility isn't the issue its made out to be - 'we don't live that close to a sports ground' etc, is, let's face it, an excuse. If a Fijian wants to become a top golfer or an inner city American wants to win Wimbledon, it can be done if they want it enough. Truth is, most South Asians of a sporting mindset dream of emulating Sachin, not Seb. Nothing wrong in that.

  • Comment number 19.

    Typical pointless journalism, who cares where our athletes are from, sounds like the last 10 years of Labour nonsense shinning through.

    Everyone must be equal, everyone must be represented, and everyone must be the same!

    In the end the best athletes will shine through regardless of colour, creed etc.

  • Comment number 20.

    @ Macca2 spot on
    We could say other sports take priorities over athletics in asian families but aside from cricket and boxing how many top asian athletes do we have.

  • Comment number 21.

    @PMG it matters because diversity is crucial to selecting the best players possible. Imagine if the British Athletics squad failed to select from the other c.3% of ethnicities - we'd have lost half of our best atheletes! It's not about representation for representation sake (otherwise they'd be far less 'black' British atheletes and more 'white' ones), but about making sure we are making sure we are picking from every single possible Briton. We could say the same about any ethnicity in several sports (e.g. Asians in cricket, or whites in several others) - excluding them would weaken our sporting prowess immensenly.

    @Several others of course there is a huge cultural aspect - that is exactly what Tom Fordyce is saying. But that's not a solution nor a reason to ignore it - it just means those in the sport need to do more work. I recall the same argument being thrown around in golfing circles in America a decade or so ago - but when barriers to entry were loosened a certain Tiger Woods came on the scene and threw stereotypes out of the window.

    IMHO this really isn't a discussion about race or PCness - simply, how to we make sure we get every single schoolkid who could be a great athelete, to consider it?

  • Comment number 22.


    What 'barriers' were loosened to allow Tiger into golf???!

    Perhaps you should read about Theodore Rhodes v US PGA if you want to talk about race barriers in golf. Now that was a time & an event when the word barrier was truly applicable.

    Lee Elder was playing the Masters (the tournament with the most questionable race relations over the years) in 1975, so I don't think 'arguments thrown around in golfing circles a decade or so ago' created the Tiger phenomenon.

  • Comment number 23.

    Fair point but really how many other black golfers do you see. In my opinion it might be genetics or cultural background but there's always a suprise like tiger woods or christophe lemaitre in the 100m.

  • Comment number 24.

    Here we go, yet another stupid "why are minority x underrepresented in sport y" blog.

    Funny how there is rarely if ever an outcry over the relative lack of Caucasians represented in Basketball, Sprinting, Boxing or Cricket.

    Why can people not understand and accept that different cultures have different traditions and interests, some cultures embrace sport more than others and nearly all cultures veer in their own directions when talking about popularity of different sports. Most British asians are first-third generation, by and large their sporting interests are still very much influenced by their family and hence heritage. They CHOOSE which sports they with to participate in.

    There is enough exposure and encouragement already, there are next to no barriers left to kids from any background who wish to participate, face it, they do not because they choose not to, now stop reprinting the sam lazy blogs all the time and actually do what you are paid to do and tell us something new.

  • Comment number 25.

    Interesting stuff here. Quick question: What would have happened if the British Empire brought athletics to Asia when we decided to rule India? or Football? Surely it was a question of timing?

  • Comment number 26.

    At 11:21am on 06 Oct 2010, rockeyjuniour wrote:
    Why are you not reporting on India taking a lead on gold medals in CWG games ahead of British. Why has your medals scoreboard suddenly changed to alphabetical order instead of ranking according to the golds.

    By British I take it you mean English? As "I" comes before all other British teams Initial letters India would be first anyway.
    However, If you take time out from your busy schedule of moaning about everything you will see the medal table is showing by medals won.
    May I also suggest if your dissatisfied with the service you go and find an Indian webpage that will no doubt provide you with informative up to the minute news and blanket coverage of the games.
    Providing it doesn't crash every five minutes that is.

  • Comment number 27.

    Look a new issue to moan about

    ''England women's hockey coach Danny Kerry slammed Commonwealth Games organisers after his team were forced to play in baking and 'dangerous' 40-degree temperatures''

    Give up guys what do you expect when you got play in different country. I hope they might not ask for indoor hockey stadium with air conditioning.
    Haaaaaaaaaaaa Bloody whimps

  • Comment number 28.

    >>>>''England women's hockey coach Danny Kerry slammed Commonwealth Games organisers after his team were forced to play in baking and 'dangerous' 40-degree temperatures''

    Captain has stopped the ship but whinging never stops

  • Comment number 29.

    lets get some personalised air conditioning sets hanged on each player whoever thinks the temperature is too high or let them take breaks(in air conditioned rooms) as they do in tennis.




  • Comment number 30.

    Honestly, why on earth should this even be an issue?

  • Comment number 31.

    As someone else pointed out, what's the problem?
    A high number of 'South Asians' are doctors, lawyers, dentists etc.

    Why doesn't the BBC ask better questions which we really need answers for, like why are so few Muslim Pakistanis women in jobs let alone participating in Sports.

    According to the Office of National Statistics only 20% of all Muslim women are even SEEKING employment.

  • Comment number 32.

    Who cares this has been going on for generations and will be ignored. The english sporting UK infrastructure will prevent ethnic groups from being top sportsman. Stereo type views are everywhere - if you were 5 ft and a fantastic can you play basketball in the NBA, another examples can Asians be good at track and field or Can there be an Asian Manager running a premier club or a cricket team? etc.... Skin colour and culture are the facts, there will always be a white guy at the top even he is not the best sportman, manager etc. You see it in Hollywood where the biggest stars are no Asian.

    India is a third world country in development to become a first world one, the problem is the level of intense bureaucracy and political corruption. The facts are it is poorly governed country with corrupted leadership.

  • Comment number 33.

    Thank God there aren't many (or any) British Asians representing the country, else xenophobic idiots will shout 'Immigrants are taking up British jobs'.......
    It is the unfortunate truth, live in UK for decades, work for decades, pay taxes and obey rules for decades, bring up your kids here, but at the end of the day they will still remain 'Immigrants'

  • Comment number 34.

    BumSmasher: The english sporting UK infrastructure will prevent ethnic groups from being top sportsman.

    There are ethnic groups represented i pretty much every sporting arena where they wish to participate, there are no longer any real barreirs in place other than those those minorities place on themselves by choosing not to participate. If there was an Indian kid in the UK who could run a sub 11 second 100m by his early teens and he wanted to become an athlete he would have exactly the same oppertunity as a white or black kid.

  • Comment number 35.

    Hello gang. Matthew L - that seems to be a familiar tale.

    PMG - apologies, but not quite sure what statistics you think I've made up. Point is, as Fuzz Ahmed and Chris Jones say, there is huge amounts of talent in the British Asian community. It's not a question of "not being good enough" or "lowering standards".

    whatisauser name - nice point. Scotsport - thanks mate...

    PaulA2012, singhy - very interesting.

    Aru, BakedBeans - who mentioned hockey?

  • Comment number 36.

    I don't understand the basis of this article... the question refers to 'British Asians'. Who is they? Britian isn't in Asia, it's in Europe. There is no such thing as a British Asian. Any qualifying athlete from Britain needs to be a British citizen and therefore European. Caucasian British athletes have genetic and cultural roots from celtic, Norse and Anglo Saxon ancestry, what does it matter, there is no distinction made. What I assume Fordyce is trying to do is perpetuate and move into the sporting arena the devisive concept of race and colour that already segregates and alienates British people in other walks of life. Leave it out.

  • Comment number 37.

    Hi Tom,

    People of some origins enjoy doing some kind of work or love some kind of game/ sport... If you say "False starts and big questions" I think we need to look beyond the so called "Big Questions"...

    British Asians are good traders, bankers, doctors, IT programmers... They find inspiration from British Asians who have done well in similar sectors... Swaraj Paul, Laxmi Mittal, James Caan, etc are good examples who have risen above all, they inspire other Asians...

    Asians love cricket and players like Monty Panesar, Ravi Bopara, Owais Shah, Adil Rashid, Sajid Mahmood, serving England for long...

    Don't you think this post is like asking Britishers of African origin "Why are you not doing good in the IT sector or Finance Sector or the Medical sector; like the Britishers of South Asian origin?"

    May be one day a great athlete of Asian origin will inspire a whole generation of British Asians but for now lets all concentrate on cricket... We need to win the Ashes... :-)


  • Comment number 38.

    Surely the simple answer is that Asians don't represent the UK in athletics because they are Asian. The same way British nationals don't represent Asian nations because they are British.

  • Comment number 39.

    Dear Sprout,

    'I don't understand the basis of this article... the question refers to 'British Asians'. Who is they? Britian isn't in Asia, it's in Europe. There is no such thing as a British Asian.'

    Like I said earlier, this refers to the people who were born in UK, are British citizens, work in Britain, speak with a British accent, but at the end of the day are still 'immigrants' to a large section of xenophobic white British population, since their melanin production is higher than others.

  • Comment number 40.

    4. At 08:48am on 06 Oct 2010, Matthew Lewis wrote:

    Not just athletics, but sport as a whole. I recall reading similar BBC blogs relating to football, and cricket (somewhat surprisingly) in recent times. As 'bigotboy' rightly states, this seems to be a problem internationally though, so perhaps we should be looking for answers from within the south Asian community, rather than British athletics/other sports' set-ups.

    I have several Asian friends who excell at sport, but have been brought up by their families to believe that sporting prowess is very much a hobby, and must be left behind when the time comes to focus on university, career etc.

    Err, how is that bigotry? It's a CHOICE they have made.

  • Comment number 41.

    This has been a party political broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation.

  • Comment number 42.

    Who cares what Ethnic group our Athletes belong to , what matters is how they are supported by sports associations and teams and then there performance nothing else should matter.

  • Comment number 43.

    @Duffer5167 FYI......British is a nationality ie. the country you are born in.
    Asian is not a nationality. It is an ethnicity.

  • Comment number 44.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 45.

    As many have already noted this article raises many questions. Indirect discrimination? Direct discrimination? Institutional racism? Lack of opportunity? Lack of education on the subject? Inhibition of various social factors? No role models? Ignorance regarding what 'race' is, and the so called related genetic factors? What does 'race' even mean? I'm sure we can all think of more.

    This issue is clearly not confined to asian participation in athletics. Its all ethinicities and all sports (and incidently all others aspects of life). Focussing on sport: How many 'white' sprinters are there? How many 'black' quarterbacks? How many 'asian' swimmers? I would like to point out that 'genetic factors' and 'race' are a myth. Don't believe me? Good luck finding a study showing a correlation between skin colour and athletic ability.

    I could discuss a hundred topics but I'll focus on this. Comments above suggest different ethnicities choose certain sports so what's the problem? The problem is why! Skin colour obviously doesn't give you a predisposition to a certain sport. Impact of culture you say 'hackerjack'? Consider the implications. What is culture? What is the link between culture and ethnicity? Do ethnicities 'choose' certain sports because, for example, its what their family has done, what is supposedly common within 'their culture', or what similar ethnic role models do? How much choice do you really think is going on here? How much opportunity was there to play or even consider another sport? These are just a few potential influences on one's decision. I'm not saying people are forced to pick a certain sport, but its that there's more to an 'independent' decision than you think.

  • Comment number 46.

    Interesting article, once again, great to read your and Fuzz's thoughts on this phenomena. British Asians, or Asians from the Sub Continent, are very talented this is something I have witnessed myself and heard for most of my life.

    I think the issue you are addressing i.e. talent alone doesn't get an athlete/sports person to the very top, is the crux of the issue and universal.

    We know as well as being talented you need to have a very coherent support network i.e. the athlete's family needs to be on board, Coaches that care about academic as well as sports development need to be found and schools/colleges that works around an athlete's requirements.

    We should also recognise that the most important part of this support structure is the first element - Family. In order to get British Asian parents on board the myth that sports development means sacrificing career prospects needs to be addressed.

    The US have been very successful here, as their scouting network is wide and very active, furthermore colleges and Universities there offer very comprehensive sports scholarships, which means that if a talent can't be transformed into a top athlete, then in the least they will be equiped well to have a career.

    Once, we have something like this, only then will we see a change and shift in this pattern.

  • Comment number 47.

    @Dinesh Patel, we already know the answer to this one. They are well provided for by their Engineer, Lawyer and Doctor spouses!

    I was hoping you were going to come up with something more interesting :)!

  • Comment number 48.

    I think there is an issue here for trying to raise awareness of athleics in Asian communities.

    However, the fact that they've had 7 years to prepare for these Commonwealths & the sites & facilities are as poor as we know they are speaks volumes about their attitude towards the sport.

    Asides from giving them the opportunity to host the Commonwealth Games, what else can be done?

    Given the recent shambles with regards to the safety aspects, will the IOC trust them with hosting an Olympic Games?

    I think not. There's only so much you can do to raise awareness. If hosting a major competition doesn't do it, nothing will.

    Other than that, this thread seems to have dissolved into a dwelling on "Don't try to create an issue where there isn't one."

    I agree with this. Maybe that wasn't the original intention, but all too often people look to find issues where there are none. For whatever reason.
    Maybe this blog would've been better asking the initial question & then addressing why there have been such problems with hygeine, security & the like. That has cost these Games the presence of many top stars, the absence of whom will only serve to further hinder the growth of the sport in communities where it is already seemingly non-existant.

  • Comment number 49.

    @PitbullSprinter - were you reading the same article the rest of us were? Tom's talking about the lack of British Asian Athletes represented in UK Athletics.

    You seem to have got the wrong end of the stick and think the article somehow was related to the organisation of the CWG in India.

  • Comment number 50.

    maybe their belly button is in the wrong place.

  • Comment number 51.

    It is all to do with genetics.
    The world best long distance runners all come from a very small area of Africa. They represnt Ethiopia and Kenya. There is always an exception to the rule, in this case Paula Radcliffe.
    All the worlds best sprinters are African. Represnting mainly the USA and Jammaca.
    Asians are good at Cricket. I'm sure a gentics expert could tell me why that is.
    White people are useless at sprinting genetically we just can't compete.

    As a White person I know that I can't run as fast as a Jammacan or have the stamina of a Kenyan, or be able to box like an African. I just except that my gene's don't allow me to do it. It's not racist, it's called diversity, it's called genetics.

  • Comment number 52.


    I was referring to the so-called minorities overall in terms of the lack of their presense within British Athletics.

    Using the CWG debacle, to highlight how athletics doesn't capture the imagination as football does, for example.

    The article does relate to the CWG because if there was more awareness of athletics, then I highly doubt we would be seeing the problems there that we are doing.

    The World Cup is South Africa is another example of this. Do you think the stadiums would have been so grand if the South Africans were not football-crazy?

    Let's bring it down a notch, do you think the facilities in India for the CWG would have been so shabby if they had been athletics-crazy?

    And let's bring it down a notch again, so you can see the pattern here.

    If the 'minorities' (such as British Asians) were athletics-crazy, I'm sure there would be more representetives.

    I was using the CWG as an EXAMPLE of how raising awareness will change things.

    I'd use another example, but it's based on tennis and you probably won't be able to see the relevance.
    Oh, go on then I'll give you a chance.

    Check out tennis courts a month before Wimbledon. Check out tennis courts a week after Wimbledon.

    Most youngsters (most, not all) don't see tennis as being their number one hobby. Suddenly, right after Wimbledon they all want to play tennis.


    It's raised awareness.

    I'll repeat myself once more, just to make sure you don't start thinking I was reading an article about tennis, as you seem to have problems understanding the concept of using examples. So this time I'll keep it as simple as possible for you.

    Raise awareness = increased participation.
    Increased participation = more chance of a breakthrough star.

    Simplified further...Raise awareness of athletics in the British Asian communities, and there is a higher chance of having British Asians representing in International athletics competitions.

  • Comment number 53.

    I realise that this is what would be classed as off topic but couldn't find anywhere else to raise this point:

    I am slightly frustrated by the set up of the BBC sport commonwealth games pages. Although I would like the England team to be successful at the games, as a Scotsman I am more interested to read specifically Scottish team news. However there appears to be no links to sections solely for each of the home nations. Currently the commonwealth home page is filled with articles about the England team (admittedly there are more winning medals to report. However the majority of feature articles are english orientated too eg."have england got the right national anthem"). This is making it very difficult to learn how the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish are doing. Remember its BBC sport not EBC sport

  • Comment number 54.

    Asian always been pushed back in football, athletic etc by white coaches. I know few people who were very good in their game but when it comes to enter country level they been pushed back after making rediclous excuses by coaches.

  • Comment number 55.

    I absolutely hate the term 'British Asian' - I am British, that's it. I was born and brought up in the UK just like everyone else, and yet due to the country of my parent's birth/colour of my skin i have to be labelled British Asian. And yet a friend of mine in the same situation but with parents from Russia is labelled 'British White' which most people just assume means 'normal'. When will people stop use ethnicity as a descriptor instead of nationality??

  • Comment number 56.

    Asian always been pushed back in football, athletic etc by white coaches. I know few people who were very good in their game but when it comes to enter country level they been pushed back after making rediclous excuses by coaches.

    Rubbish. Certainly in football there are hundreds of clubs all desperate for players of any real ability. If they are good enough and feel they are beign held back then they should find another club. If it keeps happenning then maybe they aren't as good as they or you think.

  • Comment number 57.

    I don't know what point is being made. By my reckoning about 20-25% of the world's population live in the south asian countries but I don't recall india,pakistan,bangladesh or sri lanka winning any medals at the last world athletics championship. I can only recall one world class athlete (a female sri lankan sprinter) coming from these countries in the last 20 years. There is not therefore a wealth of athletics talent in these countries.
    On the other hand, athletes of west african (in shorter distances) and east african (in longer distances) descent sweep the board whether they are representing countries in africa, europe, the caribbean or the americas. At this elite level tiny margins in physiology matter a great deal.
    I appreciate that this is dangerous territory but it does have a basis in what we see on the medal rostrum time after time.
    The lack of british asians in our athletics may just have something to do with the fact that, when they are young kids, they don't see "someone like me" on the rostrum. Were the south asian countries to produce world champions (as they do in cricket and hockey) we may just see an explosion in numbers - don't hold your breath.

  • Comment number 58.

    Can anyone explain why GB is bad in tennis? Although we have one of the best tennis tournaments in the world and great infrastructure... Anything to do with ethnicity?

    I guess it is because England, Scotland & Wales are a Rugby, Football & Cricketing nations! Its a choice everyone has made... Live with it... :-)

  • Comment number 59.

    I've run really fast 100m at 10.9/11.0 during my young age without any training or proper facilities. And I've always seen tougher competition even at college level meets.
    The point I would like to drive is exposure, encouragement and creating opportunities simply changes trend and we may get world class athletes from India who is not known to the world yet. I believe CWG is definitely an eye opener in Indian athletics.

  • Comment number 60.

    I surprised this question needs to be asked. If it's not Cricket then they're not interested. You only need to look at the empty arenas to see that!

  • Comment number 61.

    Obviously it makes no sense, especially with 3rd generation Asian Brits.

    I think there still is a lot of cultural lock-ins which Asian families MAY still instill in their youngters. But make no doubt, these boys and girls are ever bit "British" as anyone else.

    Norman Tebbit said something 20yrs ago, which I found quite offensive, as a young white man. Can't quote directly so no offence or libel to Sir Norm, but it was something along the lines of a "cricket test". The general idea was go to an ENG v PAK test match at say Headingly, and be "annoyed" at Brits of Pakistani origin who dared to cheer for Pakistan.

    Not really a helpful comment, although that still happens 20yrs later. Is that a resentful feeling of how UK treats anyone from the Indian sub/cont or just loving the heritage - I don't see them as mutually exclusive.

    It would be easy to summise that football, rugby clubs might be innately rascist .. I think there is a little bit of that; as a middle-aged white man with plenty of friends from every "minority" I THINK it's more about upbringing and expectations from parents.

    Anyway as the above is a bit heavy, perhaps we should just welcome ANY UK young lad or lass who wants to do any sport.. instead of being some blob in front of their console.

  • Comment number 62.

    Simple. It's not a part of their culture as it is with British Africans. They would be good enough, but they don't see it as a part of their culture as British whites or British Asians do.

  • Comment number 63.

    Another pointless article by Tom Fordyce highlighting the self-loathing of his own race. Our license fee pays for this tripe.

    Only a few weeks ago, according to Tom, Christophe Lemaitre's skin colour was irrelavent - becuase he is white. ***** TYPICAL BBC DOUBLE STANDARDS *****

    As for the question, why aren't there more Asians in British sport? Well the fact that they are Asian as you correctly state, how exactly does that make them British? And why is Tom so upset about this? Is this something to be upset about? Should I be celebrating the fact that native British athletes are becoming a lesser percentage of the national squad year after year? What future is there for us natives? Not that Tom would care.

  • Comment number 64.

    Asian people living in Britain from my experience have in most cases made little effort to integrate or contribute in a 'visible' (I'm not talking about employment or taxation) way to British Public life. Their close ties with the sub-continent have them springing back to their Asian Heritage at the first glimmer of fame to Lord it over their distant relatives.

    An example of this in these games is Amir Khans younger brother.

    This extends through other aspects of British public life. When was the last time you met an individual with Pakistani, Bangladeshi or Indian(with the exception of Sikhs) heritage who was/had served in the Navy, Army or Air Force?

    In summary. An overly agreesive infatuation with wealth and fame as a sign of achievement has overwhelmed any other sense of personnal worth in this minority

  • Comment number 65.

    Jessica Ennis is not mixed race. Nobody is mixed race. There are no such things as separate human races. If you believe there are. you are, by definition, a racist, just as if you believe there is a god, you are a theist. You can not have a mixture of something that does not exist. Jessica Ennis is British just like Sebastian Coe. End of story.

  • Comment number 66.

    You are correct Bagpuss (64.). Many sports people are happy to revert back to their actual nationality when it suits them: Ameer Khans brother, Tosin Oke and many others. Even Christine Ohoragoo threatened to compete for Nigeria when she served her drug ban.

  • Comment number 67.

    does it really matter if its British asian or british black or british white at the end of the day its all british irrespective of any racial or cultural lines if a person is any good at any sport who cares if they're black white or asian. we're all british at the end of it.

  • Comment number 68.

    Imagine this:

    Hi, I'm Raj Singh and I'm your sports correspondant from India Broadcasting Corporation. My article today is focusing on why there are so few Europeans in Indian Athletics........

    Ok, stop imagining, you know this sort of thing would never happen.

  • Comment number 69.

    17. At 11:22am on 06 Oct 2010, Macca2 wrote:

    Would Seb Coe really be considered Asian because one of his grandmothers was Indian? With 75% of his grandparents being caucasian would he not be considered white, or mixed race?
    On the information provided all of Seb Coe's grandparents would be the same race. Many people don't understand race, so I dare say it's not worth talking about.

    I tend to think re athletics it's such a small group of performers able to earn a living that some cultural predisposition must be necessary. Without that cultural connection, a young sportsperson could make a better living, and have a better chance of any kind of living, by going into a popular team sport; soccer, cricket or rugby. Actually they'd have a better chance of a stable career by not going into sport at all. I guess for the Asian community that cultural connection to athletics isn't there, but I'd suggest it's not there for most people. You could ring-fence all kinds of groups and find them under-represented.

    Take public school kids. It's not politically fashionable to look closely at that sector, but if you did you'd see a strong sporting tradition, good facilities, coaches, and talent. But you'd see hardly any transition to professional athletics. For another example I'm indebted to a factoid on another website; that there are 500,000 people of Portuguese descent in the UK. I've never heard of a famous UK sportsperson of Portuguese descent. Should we look into it?

    I think athletics is just a minority sport, it's never going to be representative of everyone.

  • Comment number 70.

    @ Tom Fordyce one question! Because I am a bit confuse what commonwealth country is called mix race? because I can't seems to find any of the British colony called mix race! I also try google! there is no country named mix race this is regards to your post that Jess Ennis is (mix race)isn't she of Jamaican father? based on your post,I have no idea Jamaica name had changed to mix race.because the other athletes countries were named.

  • Comment number 71.

    Re Monu Miah, "who won European junior bronze over 100m in 2003". 1st in that race was Leon Baptiste, 2nd Till Helmke. They haven't set the world alight either. Monuh's career more or less ran its natural course. It just so happened I think that 2003 was his best year:

  • Comment number 72.

    Even more worryingly, despite the condition affecting 1 in 20,000 people, I have yet to see any albino people (or, more PC-ly, persons affected with albinism) represented in professional sport of any nature, never mind at a national level.

    Quite plainly, their plight warrants some investigative journalism.

  • Comment number 73.

    Theres a reason why your name is baked bean - Steve nash, pau gasol, jason kidd, not forgetting some of the legends of basketball, larry bird, kevin mchale

  • Comment number 74.

    So really, don't comment on a sport you quite clearly don't have a clue about!

  • Comment number 75.

    Also, asians have different diets - (curry), so they are lesser atheltes, e.g, you look at some of these indian "atheltes" they are CHUBBY - Point proven

    By the way this comment is totally P.C - lol

  • Comment number 76.

    Genetics dear boy plain and simple

  • Comment number 77.

    I think there has been a limited research into this at Sheffield University and the outcome was due to genetics and diet(I might be wrong)

  • Comment number 78.

    Not sure where to start!! Tom you are incredible. You real lack depth in everything you write....

    First of all, it is not races but people make a country.

    You blog is is an empirical evidence that Britain's multicultural set up is a farce and actually segregates people more than bringing them together. When you say Asian do you mean anybody coming from the biggest continent in the world or just South Asians i.e. people originating from Indian sub continent?
    How many "Asian" family friends do you have to understand the cultural differences?
    The bridging of communities/cultures needs interaction at a deeper level with mutual respect and submission of ego. This means you will have to become comfortable with their way of doing things without judging them and most importantly learn about a culture by talking to different people in the community as every one has their idiosyncrasies.

    Stop suffixing British people with their continent or country of origin. It defeats the idea of nation. Not all fingers in the hand are of same size but all of them are their for a purpose therefore appreciate all of them.

    Hope you get the message. It is funny that I never hear about British-Italian, british-french or british-american or british-german.........why is that !! :)

  • Comment number 79.

    Here we go...........benbo777 has proved it yet again that there is severe lack understanding of minority cultures in Britain. May be because the majority culture is drowning in their superiority complex.
    Curry is not a name of cuisine but can be just a name of a dish coming from anywhere in the Indian sub-continent. Stop calling food coming from Indian sub-continent as curry.
    Eating authentic home cooked Indian food doesn't make you chubby as it is a very balanced meal. But eating unhealthy dishes with lots of oil and spices from a "curry house" or anywhere else does make you "chubby" and so does eating a lot. You can see there is a lot to learn and reciprocate back to the minorities who have been pleasantly trying to learn and contribute to the essence of British society.

  • Comment number 80.

    Very good article Tom.

    I have a little extra insight into this. I coach athletics in primary schools as my day job. I currently coach at a school in an inner city asian area - with the school having approx 90% students from a southern asian ethnic background. I started an after school club there 3 weeks ago and asked the PE Coordinator for a maximum of 24. Today, like last week, I had 24!

    My other two after school clubs this term are in schools with 90%+ white students. The numbers for this week were 16 and 10!

    The kids in the 'mainly asian school' are incredibly keen. I've mentioned that I'll be giving out info for proper athletics clubs before half term, and so many of them said they wanted to go.

    These kids seem to love athletics and I can assure you there's no shortage of talent amongst them!

    However, as with last year's group, they are unlikely to come to the local Club for the following reasons:

    1) Parents lack interest in their kids pursuing Athletics - the cultural reasons for this have mostly been mentioned already.

    most importantly though...

    2) A large portion of the parents work in professions where the hours are long and include a lot of evening work - taxi drivers, shop owners etc. It's simply not possible for them to get their kids to the Club.

    For those who say this issue doesn't matter, I suggest it certainly does purely because the kids who've tried it want to do it and have the talent for it.

    Someone mentioned that the most talented always rise to the top no matter where they're from - alluding to Vijay Singh and the Williams sisters. I know little about Vijay, but the Williams sisters rather heavily relied on parental support! In my exerience, parental support is the issue with talented young asian kids not taking part in athletics, and so most will never get the chance to train up to international standard.

  • Comment number 81.

    @croydonian (no.51). I'm sorry but that is absolute unspeakable nonsense. Its comments like that that perpetuate racial insecurities and self-defeatest attitudes. All races are capable of reaching the heights in all sports. As you can see whites (who currently hold the majority of belts through all weights) and Asians such as Pacquiao, Khan have excelled in boxing in recent years, but this wouldnt have happened if everyone held on to racial myths such as yourself. I.e - if youre not from Africa just dont bother.

  • Comment number 82.


    Is everything for you about race?

  • Comment number 83.


    Why are you not covering the hockey story? About it's the organisers fault regarding the weather?

  • Comment number 84.

    totally agree with wiggit120.

  • Comment number 85.

    Its NOT about the colour of Skin or what religion you are, or about your upbringing or social life.

    The Bottom Line is, Asians and People from the Middle East, are not Big enough, Strong enough compared to Europeans, Africans and Americans.

    It may sound awful to say this, but. Can you see any Indian marking Didier Drogba out of the match. Or a Japanese 5'4 man, over taking Usian Bolt? and running 9.50 for a 100m?

    Top professional Sport now, has become only for the Super Fit, The super Fast and Super Strong.

    Look at the influx of Western Africans from The Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nigeria into the Premier League. Do you see and Kenyans? No because there a totally wrong type of Human Build. But they are the best Long Distance Runners.

  • Comment number 86.

    The main issue shouldn't be race or culture but the simple fact that schooling is the main problem, for every wiggit120 who is trying to encourage the kids there will be a few entire schools whose idea of sports education is that it just doesn't matter or the BS excuse of funding priorities.

    It doesn't take an expert to spot the increasing waistlines around the country, similarly the causes of this are fairly obvious, poor diets and a more sedentary lifestyle, as with most things in life, if we address the issue in young children we're half way to solving the problem.

    Sports need to be a part of every schools curriculum and not just one lesson per week but an hour per day as a minimum, the government needs to push local sports clubs, no matter what sport it is, into getting directly involved with the schools, get expert teachers/coaches into schoools even if they only do a day each per week, get school teachers involved in the clubs too so that there is a natural progression for the kids.

    If things are left as they currently are, we'll have a nation of slobs dying at 50 within a generation, if things are changed now we'll have a healthier and generally a happier nation and with all kids getting appropriate coaching we'll spot all the talent and have the opportunity to nurture the best, no matter what their background, into future gold medalists.

  • Comment number 87.

    @wiggit 120 - thanks for commenting, it really helps to get a sense of perspective from someone who is working with this group of people.

    For the rest of you who are too caught up on the race issue - get a life!

    Tom keep up the good work.

  • Comment number 88.

    There are amny things that makes a good athelete, fitness apart, motivation, culture, financial rewards, role models etc. I guess not all the factors are seem to be coming in at the same time in India, and south asia in general. I dont think infrastructure has anything to do with this. A little bit of pushing and change in attiture will create the required change, but not overnight may be over decades.

  • Comment number 89.

    Get your facts right Mr Tom, monu has always been a muslim since birth and his still living in the UK. next time u write pathetic articles like this, check your sources.

  • Comment number 90.


    What will it take for you to be a real man? one with some spine? It will be nice to see you actually report on other races with the venom you have been reporting so far.

    Clearly the brtisih, aussies and kiwis own you and you would do nothing to upset them.

    Come one, trying to help. is this about making you get your award? i know indian don't vote for that.

  • Comment number 91.

    come on tom, get around to impartial reporting, show some spine.

    you do have one dont you?

  • Comment number 92.

    @JOHNADAMS2010 (no.85)

    Your comments are misguided. Particularly as you went on to relate it to football. If everyone in the world thought like you, then the closest Messi would ever have got to the pitch would be from the stands.

    Drogba is not a great player because he is physically big, but becuase he is skillful and a great finisher. Its not all about size and build in football - well, at least it shouldn't be (i must admit sometimes in the premier league i wonder!). The most successful teams of late (such as Spain) are made of predominantly small to average sized players. A similarly sized Asian team could do just as well.

    I know some incredibly fast, strong and talented Asian players, and you have clearly have bought into the widespread stereotype in the US of athletic racial superiority.

  • Comment number 93.

    @Johnathan (92)

    Ok well, lets talk about athletics then, not Football.

    What athlete from what Nation could compete in the Blue Ribbon Track Events, Because lets be honest here, Nobody really cares that much about the Steeple Chase. People want to see the 100m, 200m, 400m, Long Jump, Triple Jump, High Jump.

    Who can compete up against the likes of Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay, Jeremy Warnier, Dwight Phillips, Ivan Ukhov?

    I personally would Love to see somebody to come along from anywhere in the world and knock these guys off the top spots.

    The only people who can compete against these men, are men who are as physically big and strong, And People from the Middle East do not have the physical attributes, to compete with these athletes.

    Also if Drogba was 5"9, 9 stone, Do you think he would score as many goals? He would be a totally different player.

    As for Messi, he is one in 100 million. Thats why he is the best player in the world.

  • Comment number 94.

    I feel every person is best adopted to his geographical surroundings and climate -Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay, Jeremy Warnier, Dwight Phillips, Ivan Ukhov? are examples of standardisation of sports /also alot is attributed to drug suppliments and hormone boosters that these sportmen are fed on - theres not a single natural athlete out there. as far as why asians are not wearing the england jersey is truly a question displaying the inability of the british to be broad minded enogh to assimilate different cultures into the main stream.

  • Comment number 95.

    Shame there isn't an event called 'being touchy', 'shoulder chip carrying' or 'jumping to rediculous conclusions'. Quite a few of our Asian brothers on here who'd clean up the medals I reckon.

  • Comment number 96.

    I'm a sports journalist and athletics is one of the sports I cover on a regular basis. I'm a british-born of pakistani decent. Tom, you could also question why they are not hardly any asians covering the sport of athletics? Or even asians presenting athletics on the TV screen? From the time I've been covering meets (for a good 12 years now) both here and around europe I've never seen asian journalists in the press/media areas. Tom, just because a big major athletics event is happening right now in the indian subcontinent that you decided to write about this subject. So why didn't you write about this and make people aware about the lack of British asian athletes from the day you started this job?

  • Comment number 97.

    Errr, because it's 'topical' mate?

    Thought you were a journalist?

  • Comment number 98.

    Hmmm this is the power of the media -a single report gets thousands of people across the globe thinking - but mind you what we see and hear is not always the truth -consider this as if you are eating a bunch of grapes -you throw out the rotten and sour ones and eat only the juicy ones .please dont get provoked by any comment from any tom dick or harries of the media world. tc

  • Comment number 99.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 100.

    Going through your posts, it sounds like you are on a personal fault finding mission.

    When India provided a truly spectacular opening ceremony for the common wealth games, you reported on the poverty near by. when India is in the 3rd place in the overall scores so far, you report of lack of athletes??

    Wonder if this is simply attention-seeking (for creating more comments and complaints)or you just dont like Indians and is out to find faults?

    you have got to do better than this boy!!


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