The Commonwealth Games, is a 4-yearly international multi-sport event among athletes from the erstwhile colonies of the old British empire. The list includes countries like India, Canada, Australia, Zimbabwe and internal colonies of Great Britain like Scotland and Wales. The latter two participate as separate entities, and not as part of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Although no longer a colony of Britain, at least politically, India actively participates in every edition of the Commonwealth Games. The recently concluded 2022 Commonwealth Games at Birmingham, England from 28 July to 8 August 2022, was India’s 18th appearance. In terms of medal count, India ranked at 4th, a praiseworthy performance given the many challenges faced.
In the 2018 edition of the games, India had won 66 medals, with 16 medals from shooting including 7 gold medals. However, the Commonwealth Games Federation decided to drop archery and shooting from the 2022 edition, and this was a cause of great concern for the Indian contingent at the beginning of the tournament. Despite these challenges India managed to win 61 medals, almost same as 2018 edition and ended the games as the best nation in badminton, table tennis, wrestling and weightlifting, a commendable performance indeed.
The individual players are of course to be lauded for their sterling performance, but as a nation we must ask, if perhaps we could not have done better. When I say better, I mean much better. There is always scope to improve, and we will take a look at what India’s performance means on a relative basis. Things became clearer when we scale our performance with respect to some fixed parameter; we also ensure that we are comparing oranges with oranges and not apples to mangoes.
First, we scale, the number of medals in terms of area of the nation/ entity. Canada and Australia are larger than India in terms of land-mass, whereas the others are much smaller. As the table below shows, India has a rank of 9 in this scheme whereas England, Wales and Scotland are ranked as 1, 2 and 3 respectively. In terms of absolute medal count, Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) outright beats everyone else. With 255 medals in total, they would again have been ranked first if they had participated as one entity. Only Canada is worse off than India, with 10 medals per million square kilometer.
When scaled with respect to population (million), India has the lowest rank of 10. The British counties are still among the top 5. Tiny counties like Scotland and Wales have outperformed India on a per-capita basis. To put things in perspective, India has won 0.04 medals for every 10-lakh people, whereas Scotland and Wales have performed 200 times better than India, by winning 9 medals for very 10-lakh people. This is definitely something to ponder upon.
In other words, India as a nation is at the bottom of the list, both in terms of population and area. Given India’s huge population and land-mass, India has the potential to produce 100 the current number of world-class athletes, create massive top-notch sports infrastructure and win at least 4 to 5 times more medals going forward.
Excuses like exclusion of shooting from the list of events, or India’s non-expertise in 3×3 basketball, beach volleyball, netball and rugby sevens are not acceptable. We have done well, but we cannot rest on our laurels.
The final message is that, while it is true that we have improved massively in the last few decades and that sports corruption has come down, in order to be world class and a real vishvaguru, we need to produce a much higher number of good athletes, at least ten times more, and do way better than our current performance. Here is hoping that in CWG 2026, India gets at least 100 medals!
 “Medals.” Birmingham 2022. Retrieved on August 12, 2022 (https://results.birmingham2022.com/#/general-medals)
 “Birmingham 2022 proposes three new sports to Commonwealth Games schedule.” The Commonwealth Games Federation. Retrieved on August 12, 2022 (https://thecgf.com/news/birmingham-2022-proposes-three-new-sports-commonwealth-games-schedule)
 “Commonwealth Games 2022: How absence of shooting affects India’s medal tally in Birmingham.” The Hindu. Retrieved on August 12, 2022 (https://sportstar.thehindu.com/commonwealth-games/faqs/commonwealth-games-2022-shooting-absent-from-birmingham-games-india-past-performances-cwg-medal-tally/article65689611.ece)