Olympics pales out cricket craze in India

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New Delhi, Aug 22 (UNI) With Abhinav Bindra clinching gold in the 10m air rifle event, Sushil Kumar bagging an unexpected bronze in the 66-kg freestyle wrestling category and boxer Vijender Kumar winning a bronze in the middleweight class, the Olympics has changed the focus of sports in this cricket-obsessed country just a wee bit.

Indians can't live without cricket but the younger generation, grown on a steady diet of live world-class sporting action on their television screens, regard the Olympics as a must-watch.

A recent poll conducted by one of the Games sponsors found that almost 70 per cent of city-bred Indians will closely follow the action in Beijing even as cricket goes on in Sri Lanka.

Even the ministers are showering rewards on these players.

Cash rewards to the tune of Rs 1.66 crore and other goodies were showered on India's first Olympic individual gold medallist Bindra.

Whereas, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, distributed laddoos (sweets) to celebrate Sushil's bronze, the grappler, who is a railway employee, has been promoted to the rank of assistant commercial manager from a ticketing inspector and also received a cash award of Rs 55 lakh from the railways.

The 25-year-old wrestler hails from the same neighbourhood as that of Virender Sehwag, the uncrowned Nawab of Najafgarh.

Meanwhile, Vijender, who bagged bronze, can also look forward to cash prize announcements.

Vijender, an inspector in the Haryana Police, now promoted to deputy superintendent, could make a convincing salesman for several brands.

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