India in Rio

Incessant rain and a lazy weekend made me prepare the following info-graphic on how India has fared in the past twenty years at the summer games. I hope it is self-explanatory enough (click on the pic for an expanded view)

India in Rio 2016

Here is the post I had done four years back in the run-up to the London games. This time around, the (Indian) sports pundits are hoping for a double digit medal haul. I crawled the web to find medal predictor models which, mercifully, include the lower ranked sporting nations in their reporting as well:

  • olympicmedalpredictions on India at RioThe 6 medal haul in 2012 and the expectations of a double digit winning notwithstanding, folks responsible for http://olympicmedalspredictions.com/countries.php have a very different take. According to them India is to get two medals only. The problem with forecasts is that the moment you start getting into specifics, you run the risk of being dismissed and not taken seriously. These folks should take a lesson from the story of Nostradamus (who, we now know was much more wrong than correct). Case in point: with all the dope around Narsingh Pancham Yadav, I am not sure of seeing him on the podium!Gracedata Prediction India at Rio
  • According to the sports data analytics firm Gracedata (Infostrada sports), India is tipped to get a rank of 43 (which is definitely an improvement over our London performance). The key to a high rank is the number of golds, obviously. In London, we did not win any gold medals. Abhinav Bindra had shot India up to the 50th rank in Beijing – our best rank so far (in percentile terms) thanks to his gold medal. This incidentally is the ONLY individual gold medal that an Indian has won at the Games. Anyways, Gracedata’s number crunching for this year does predict that the Indian mens field hockey team will win the silver medal this year!! Which is awesome!
  • PwC predicton model fitThe PwC model, this time around is much more optimistic about India. It indicates a final standing of 12 medals which is really a 100% improvement over the London performance. Well, if PwC’s prediction were to come true, then the NIFTY would be severely lagging behind at a 66% gain (over this period). BTW, here is an analysis of the accuracy of their 2012 predictions – surprisingly accurate. The chart on the right is an extract from the attached document.
  • The Third I’s “The NIFTY model”. Which is so elegant because of its simplicity! 🙂

NIFTY Model for Rio Medals India

Many have said that it would be disappointing if India did not return with a double digit tally. Stranger things are known to have happened! Let’s see and pray.

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Kicking the Predictions

719px-WC-2014-Brasil.svgBrazil 2014 is finally here – after a 4 year long wait. Interestingly, almost all the predictions out there seem to be pointing towards a Brazil victory. Here are some of the predictions I have come across on the internet:

  • Goldman Sachs: Brazil
  • Elo Ratings:  Brazil
  • A Brazilian s/w engineer called Andrew Yule using his logistic regression model: (not surprisingly) Brazil
  • Prof David Dormagen (Berlin University): Brazil
  • ING: Spain
  • UBS: Brazil
  • EA Sports: Brazil
  • Roo the Psychic dog: England
  • Nelly the elephant: TBD
  • Bloomberg: Brazil
  • Stephen Hawking (OMG!): Brazil

Why watch then? 🙂

 

 

India at the Olympics

Economists, statisticians and others belonging to a similar have postulated a positive correlation between economic prosperity of a nation and its sporting prowess as measured by the success it achieves in international sporting events like the FIFA soccer world cup or the Olympics. China’s ascendancy to the Olympic podium has been rather sharp over the previous dozen years gone by. That has certainly keept the correlation desks busy! I plotted some data points I rather painstakingly collected from the online records of the LA84 foundation. The formats of the reports filed by each Games organizer have never really been consistent and it was not easy to get all this data. Wikipedia doesn’t have it and therefore there may be some errors in my representation.The chart below still does show the general trend. I was not able to get complete data for the 1968 games so that point is not shown on the chart (though India did win a medal in 1968). The number of events that India is participating in has gone by year on year which denotes the trend of village belles and Indian women picking up bows and arrows, boxing gloves, heavy discuses and weights. When I was picking up the data for this chart I was aware of the growing proportion of women atheletes in the Indian camp but I did not specifically pick this statistic so cannot show it on the chart. If you ignore the start of the 20th century (where India was represented by just one athelete), the year 2008 was very significant in Indian Olympics stats. This was the first year that India managed to secure more than 1 medal! Does this mark the beginning of a trend? I personally think that India’s showing at the Olympics is a far better indicator of things changing for the better than us winning the cricket world cup. Let’s see. Btw, the picture on the top right is that of the 4th place winning Indian Football team in 1956! 4th place. Don’t  ask how many nations participated but still 4th was certainly good. 🙂

Here are some links which try to point at the linkage between being wealthy and succeeding at sports;

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World Badminton Championship

Saina Nehwal has won her first two matches and plays 6th seed Shixian Wang tomorrow. Shixian Wang comes into the quarter finals beating Jie Yao, the 11th seed in a slightly more emphatic style. So lets see if Saina can enter the semis. The other quarter final to watch tomorrow is between Hongyan Pi (5) and Xin Wang (3). The winner of this match will clash with the winner of Saina vs. Shixian in the semi final.

Meanwhile current world number one, Yihan Wang is out of the tournament. [update 8PM IST, 27Aug: She’s out of the tournament. Toobad – but I think she was outclassed well and truly in 34 minues flat]

BTW, I made one observation about tags and google searches and hits on websites. It’s quite surprising that not a single soul has stumbled upon my website through google using the search phrase “Saina Nehwal”. So I ran a quick analysis on what search topics have been most successful in diverting traffic to my website and the result was quite an eye opener. Other than searching for me, people who spend their time looking for fairness creams and pani puris are more likely to come up to my site as compared to people looking up John Abraham’s butt or Katrina Kaif. Or Saina Nehwal for that matter. I felt quite let down since the whole purpose of writing about that man’s butt was to get more iballs. I thought about it for a couple of minutes and then guessed what must be amiss with my logic.

It’s the thing about statistical long tails and probabilities. Since Saina, Katrina and butts are much written about the chances of my humble ramblings on them getting shown up early enough in Google search rankings is miniscule. But since the likes of pani puris, fairness creams and IFCI sit on the long tail, the chances that my website will get picked up, if someone is looking up on these topics is high. It runs counter to common logic – that write about hot topics and you’ll get noticed more. Niche positioning. I am amazed at the kind of people that my writing resonates with – imagine being patronised by someone who is interested in “fairness creams for Muslim boys”! Or surfers  concerned if eating “pani puris will cause blindness”.

Some time back I had read a very insightful book called “The Long Tail: How Endless Choice is Creating Unlimited Demand” by Chris Anderson. The book talks about the growth of niche markets and specialist sales on the internet. So taking a leaf from this book and applying the conjecture developed above, I guess the key to getting more and different people to look at my website is to use many many tags (Napster, Amazon, eBay use the limitless potential of online store to stock up an enormous array of merchandise) and tags that are off center. If this post sounds like a pathetic lament to increase the traffic on my site as opposed to writing what really interests me and my core group of readers, then you hear right. Screw it. I dont care how many new sets of feet trample my online space. I will write what I want to write.

Pathways of fate

Two roads converged in the woods and I took the one less travelled. And that does not seem to have made any difference! 🙂 🙂 🙂

In fact even Robert Frost, whose poem “The Road Less Travelled”, admitted that if he were to retrace his path and were to come upon that same fork, he was not sure if would make the same choice yet again.

Some poems, stories, books stay with you. Floating around in your subconscious. This is one such poem that I remember from my school days. I cannot recite the entire poem in one go, but I remember the theme and the imagery that it had left in my mind back then. “The Pied Piper of Hamelyn”, “The Highwayman”, “Hiawatha’s Wooing”, “Satpura ke Ghane Jungle“, “Jhansi ki Rani” are some of the others.

Speaking of personal paths, I had drawn the locus of my movements on Earth sometime back. In my much younger days, decisions of my elders moved me around on the paths that I was takinng. There was no questioning and full trust. And i have had a whale of a time. Later on, as I entered the last few years of my teens, the path that I took have largely been my doing – with useful help and advise from others. So if I should regret, its on me. If I should celebrate, its on me.

Here’s how my domestic path looks like. These are the cities that I have been to, spent time working and/or visiting. From all these places I have learnt something. Some good things, some bad. Transit cities are not shown. So, for example if my journey takes me to Xanadu en route to El Dorado, I would not show the former on the map.

And below is how my international footprint looks like. A lot to cover, a lot to learn. When a group of us friends had decided to take a snowed in break in Auli (Uttaranchal) we had met a guy who had been to 120 countries. One of us had wondered aloud if those many countries even existed in the first place. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the formation of the various stans, I am sure this guy would’ve been thrilled. More to add to his travelogue. His Fodors was expectedly, very frayed.

So often we hear ourselves or our friends, associates fret and muse about choices and chances missed. About milk spilt. BTW, I don’t feel bad about any milk that’s spilled – because A) AMUL is not listed and B) I hate milk more than I hate luv storys. Coming back to the sombre mood, many of us love to regret, retrace and draw out imaginary probabilistic paths of alternate realities. Good fuel to feed the fire.

Does the Buddhist Baggio regret not hitting the target during the penalty shoot out against Brazil in the 1994 FIFA World Cup? Columbian Andres Escobar was not even allowed to be around to regret his faux pas of scoring an own goal against the USA in the same tournament. He was shot. And then some personal anecdotes that I have lent a sympathetic ear to:

“If only I had listened to my inner voice and pursued architecture from Sir. J.J. School of Art, I’d have been so much more successful. But my father wanted me to be an engineer”.

 

Kaash hum kuch aur padh lete bachpan mein. Hum bhi private gaadi ke driver hote, parking attendant nahi. Driver hone ke liye kabhi kabhi angrezi aani chahiye“. (I wish I could have studied. I would also be a chauffeur today instead of a parking lot attendant. Sometimes, knowledge of English is required of a chauffeur).

 

“If only I had waited for the birth of my son. I would not have to give up a promising career and become a housewife”.

Charles Dickens gives us young ‘uns some hope when he says that “Regrets are the natural property of grey hairs”. But then there is a perplexing (to me) remark from Henry David Thoreau telling us that “To regret deeply is to live afresh”.

 

Here are two paintings – which one is regret and which one is sorrow?

        

 

 

Sorrow and regret seem to be two sides of the same coin. Maybe nothing cleaves the two. But regret is not the same as guilt. See the painting alongside – is it regret or sorrow or guilt?

 

 

One lesson that I have learnt from my investment related readings is this: When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade. Just cut your lemons (i.e. losses) and run.

Uncommonwealth games

Wish I could ask this question to someone in the Finance Ministry: Why the fuck should I pay all these taxes and bear the indirect heat of the GST (at least in the short term) if this is how your team is going to use up the money? Given that method of GST implementation makes the Union Finance Minister all the more powerful, these questions will surface.

I am referring to the collosal waste that is being planned in Delhi in the name of Commonwealth Games. The latest issue of India Today carries a story on the issue – and that is just the beginning. Many more voices of dissent will start surfacing as the date comes closer.

Maybe we should call it Cogresswealth Games?

The total expenditure of the Games is now estimated to be Rs. 40,000 crores! That’s roughly 3.8% of our total external debt. Crazy.

Shera is the mascot of the Games this time around. Thats a tiger. In the last 9 years the tiger population in the country has dropped from 3,600 to 1,400. Just 1,400 – less than the number of employees in a mid sized Indian company. I wonder what even a sum that’s as little as 5% of Rs. 40,000 crore could do for our tigers.

We will have to face a lot of humiliation and embarassment at the world stage for this seemingly idiotic decision to host the Commonwealth Games here. It will be a good test to really see how thick skinned we are as a nation; how moribund the opposition (BJP and its allies really are) is and how the ruling Govenment manages to grin and justify – as the days roll by. And I wonder what is Rahul Gandhi doing? I think these type of events are a good platform for him to get into and be known even more. Good test of organisational skills and gives international exposure too. Not that he needs them – but I think young and younger Indians would be more impressed by performance than lineage.

The Chief Minister of Delhi, Ms. Sheila Dixit (or Mr. Suresh Kalmadi) had boasted that the Commonwealth Games are a small thing for India and that we would like to see the Olympics come to India. Olympics, my foot. I have full trust and faith in the International community and the Olympics organising committee to not lose their sanity. We seem to have lost our way in planning for these Games. I doubt if I will be alive to see the day when the Olympics kick off in India. Any hopes surely seem to have been dashed by the manner in which these games have been organised. Despite spending those crazy sum of monies, almost every stadium, every activity seems to be plagued with delays. The recent rains in Delhi have effectively washed away any hopes that a few may have been harbouring. Here are some examples:

  • Siri Fort Badminton complex – wooden floor has buckled due to water seepage. It is here that Saina is expected to deliver us our gold in badminton. The entire floor will have to relaid. Super.
  • Yamuna Sports complex – this is brand new. Environmentalists are crying hoarse that this will damage the fragile Yamuna ecosystem but the Supreme Court quashed their petitions are ordered the fun and games to resume. Resume they did, but have been abruptly halted since the false ceiling has fully caved in and the ensuing waterlogging that. Divine intervention?
  • Dr. S.P. Mukherjee Swimming complex – (this is my favourite) When it was being inaugurated, a waterpipe burst and it sprayed water on the people present during the function. But no one seems to have been bothered, since why would you not expect to get wet when visiting a swimming pool? 😐
  • The cycling velodrome – We built one. Then some grim international governing body came in and said that we need timber cycling tracks. The velodrome was reconstructed and now its been flooded. cool.
  • Talkatora Boxing Stadium – Virender Kumar will have to first learn to swim then think of the winners’ podium for there is/was more than a foot deep of water surrounding the stadium
  • etc etc etc

Then there are the delays in the Games Village. 34 village towers need to be prepared to house the teams and their entourages but only 6 of them seem to have seen the light of the day. ITDC is now constructing these (see box) and shortage of manpower is being cited as reason for the delay. All my non-Indian readers, I really don’t understand what you mean when you seem to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of people in India! Speaking of the foreign hand and foreigners, I feel that the organisation of these Games is a brilliant case study to demonstrate the continuing Indian fascination for anything foreign. The underlying lack of self confidence in our society and polity seems to be coming out here.

I smell a rat here. Kickbacks? Favourites being granted contracts? Subversion of the bidding processes? I do not know how many medals will come to India but I do not think that the Opposition parties will let the ruling Congress and its allies get off so easily on this. As I said earlier, this drama is yet to enfold and will be a good test to see if there is any life left at all in the BJP.

The balloon will cost Rs. 40 crores. If it gets used in the closing ceremony as well then the bill will increase further. The helium for this ridiculously expensive balloon is coming from Russia and the management of the balloon is going to be carried out by an Italian company called K-Events. For all you know, maybe the balloon is coming in from China. I don’t know if you know that the Adidas Jabulanis (footballs used in the recently concluded FIFA World Cup) had an Indian connection – the latex for the bladders came from Kerala. But why should we use anything that’s Indian? It’s only imported maal for us. Will the balloon have anything Indian at all? Maybe the ropes used to hoist it up? That’ll be the great Indian rope trick. And yes, the money of course is as Indian as it can be!

Another painful action item is the removal of filth, beggars and animals from Delhi’s streets. Garbage is fine; animals may be fine; but beggars are NOT. They are citizens of India. You can’t just pick them up and dump them somewhere else. This sounds like what they used to do with people during the emergency. Not that I was around to understand anything during that Congress induced madness, but read Vikram Seth’s tragic, A Fine Balance to get one view of that era. Already some terrorist groups have seem to have become active. Some 10 – 15 kilograms of RDX have been seized. China banned vehicles from some roads in Beijing for the Olympics. That move is good according to me, as long as it does not severely inconvenience the lives of the locals. Having been in Delhi, I know that cordoning off any major road there will cause havoc. Add a bit of rain. And the famous Delhi spirit of agitation. You get a perfect recipe for disaster. A local NGO seems to have estimated the number of beggars in Delhi to be around 120,000 and the number of stray dogs at around 250,000. The cleanup operation of these beggars and dogs is expected to cost around USD 65 million. That’s around 325 crores of INR! Fantastic.

Delhi is trying to spruce up its image. Or being made to. Union Home Minister, Mr. P. Chidambaram has apparently asked Delhiites to change their “behavioural patterns”and adopt manners befitting of residents of “an international city”. What crap. What someone needs to tell these panjandrums is that yes, clothes do make a man. But for that, the man needs to fit into the clothes. He needs to be trim, tucked in and tight. Delhi is our capital and an awesome city in terms of infrastructure (as compared to the rest of India!). But it is not, and cannot be what these people are forcing it to be. Only hours and hours of sweating it out in the gym can tone your muscles and make you trim. There is pain involved in that. And love. And determination. The Congress party is feeding steriods to Delhi.

And you and I and the father of the pretty girl next door are going to foot the bill.

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