Reliance Foundation chairperson Nita Ambani has become the first Indian woman to be nominated to the International Olympics Committee (IOC), the apex sports body responsible for the conduct of the Olympics.
Should we be jubilant that an Indian, that too a woman, would be there on the IOC? Is it another national achievement that we have a patriotic obligation to celebrate (to avoid being shipped to Pakistan by Giriraj Singh and company)? Will it portend a new dawn for sports in India? Is it another frontier that Indian women have breached, occasioning celebration by the growing army of women empowerment advocates?
The short answer would be “no”. Nita Ambani’s appointment is neither a conquest for sports in India, nor a victory for Indian pride or the feminist movement. In fact, it is a shame for the following reasons:
1. Trophy wives are a mockery of women empowerment
Nita Ambani, aside from being the wife of India’s richest man has little personal achievements to her credit.
She has not been some outstanding professional, she is not someone with an inspiring tale of overcoming adversity and she is not even someone who has been at the forefront of the struggle for women rights. She is a lady of privilege, a typical trophy wife who gets a ticket to the top by virtue of being a business tycoon’s wife.
Dismantling privilege and unfair advantage (the ones enjoyed by the males) is what women empowerment is all about. Women’s struggle being for equality, cannot afford to celebrate privilege and unfair advantage of any kind.
In fact, when trophy wives get a shortcut to the top, the patriarchal forces get strengthened as they can use such examples to promote the narrative of women being incapable of reaching the top on their own. Thus Nita Ambani’s nomination is not something that the advocates of woman empowerment can cheer about.
2. Reliance’s shady past is at odds with sporting values
The great thing about sports is that the rules of the game are same for every one. Fairness and equal opportunity are foundational sporting values. But Nita Ambani, whose claim to fame is her leadership of the Reliance Foundation, is the beneficiary of a group that has been been famous for breaking the rules (or rather getting rules tailor-made for itself).
Fair play is a word that is hard to locate in Reliance’s dictionary. So when even in sports, such people who have made flouting rules and a contempt for ideals of equal opportunity their calling cards are placed on top, the belief of an ordinary fan in sporting values is shaken and hurt.
Also the claim that the presence of an odd Indian woman may somehow change Indian sports or uplift it is a bit outlandish. First, what does Nita Ambani know about the difficulty sportspersons face in India, having never been a sportsperson herself? Second, the world of IOC is full of intrigues where sports administrators compete to get their aims accomplished. What chance does a novice like Nita Ambani have against them?
3. Is there no other Indian worthy of being nominated to IOC?
It’s an insult to ordinary Indians like you and me that no other Indian – somebody who is self-made and above reproach – was considered for nomination to the IOC.
There are so many within the sporting world and outside whose presence as an Indian member on the IOC could have been really inspirational to sports in India. For instance, why not have Sachin Tendulkar or Vishwanthan Anand as a nominee? They are anyday a better choice than Nita Ambani.
But sadly, even Indian sportspersons seem resigned to the fact that they would be lorded by not just politicians but even wives of big businessmen. So it was not surprising that as if on cue all the sporting giants rushed to congratulate Nita Ambani.
The system seems to have left no scope for truth and merit to triumph and Nita’s Ambani’s nomination is just another act where money and influence trumped merit and credibility.