Once again, writes Dalrymple,
the only country of any size that emerges from the Olympics with any credit is India. Accounting for something like a sixth of the world’s population, it has not won a single medal in any event. It has steadfastly refused to measure itself by the number of medals it wins at the Olympics.
New Delhi does nothing whatever to encourage citizens to devote their lives to trying to jump a quarter of a centimetre longer or higher than anyone else in human history, for Hindustanis recognise that such a goal is the kind
that totalitarian régimes set for their citizens (or perhaps they should be called prisoners). Custine observed that tyrannies demand immense efforts of their populations to bring forth trifles, and there can be no trifle more trifling than an Olympic victory. To be the best in the world at something is no achievement unless what you are best at is worthwhile.
India, says Dalrymple,
is the last best hope of humanity. May it continue, to its eternal glory, to win no medals.