CWG-2010 Khel Khatam, Paisa Hajam!
Beating Canada in 2003 to stage the 19th Commonwealth Games was considered yet another feather in emerging India’s cap. But politicians and bureaucrats, not deviating from the established norms, have left no stone unturned to bring ignominy to the country’s prestige. Dark clouds are hovering around the organisation of the Games, but ironically, in a sense, the Games, before being officially started, are already being played—with ‘common wealth’, i.e. with aam aadmi’s wealth. Surpassing all previous scams that rocked the country in the past, ‘the Games’ are bound to be a ‘great success’—in terms of magnitude of corruption and negligence. The outlay has shot up 16 times over the original budget. The authorities concerned have insisted that the Games would be “one of the most successful” in the event’s history, though the ‘showpiece’ is on a knife edge over complaints of filthy housing and growing structural and security fears. And if the authorities concerned are still persisting with their claim, the withdrawal by the high-profile players like the English Olympic 400m gold medalist Christine Ohuruogu and world triple jump champion Phillips Idowu and more, should be enough to bury CWG Organising Committee’s lofty and delusional claims. If anything, its mismanagement and gross negligence has been brought into sharp media focus and worldwide attention. In fact, these players’ decisions came after complaints by some teams about the state of the athletes’ village, safety fears due to the collapse of a footbridge near one of the venues and question marks over security after a gun attack on tourists. Indian officials, however, have struggled to keep a positive outlook on the event, despite the mounting concerns at home and abroad. But adding to the organisers’ woes, Scotland, which hosts the next Games in 2014, Wales, Canada and New Zealand have announced that they are delaying the departure of their athletes by a few days.
With just hours to go for the start of the Commonwealth Games, and given the above-mentioned fiascos, there are merely hollow assurances that all would be well from all and sundry, from the Union Urban Development Minister to the Delhi Chief Minister to the chief engineer of Delhi’s Public Works Department and the secretary-general of the Games Organising Committee. It is all terribly clear that between them, the entire lot of people responsible for every aspect of the Games are taking this country for a ride, and are careening headlong towards a precipice. What has happened has severely tarnished our credibility and reputation. The fiasco is a microcosm of all that ails Indian sport. The country’s athletic failings can be summed up in one word: politicians. Every champion, whether that’s Abhinav Bindra at the Beijing Olympics or Vishwanath Anand in chess, has been successful despite the system—not because of it. Other sports have been ruined by organisational incompetence. More often than not, federations are run by political sycophants with no passion for the game, or empathy for the athletes. So there is no point deceiving oneself that staging the Games will give any kind of boost to Indian sport. After staging the 1982 Asian Games all the infrastructure was left to rot. The games village flats were sold off at ridiculous amounts, thus proving a Hindi catchphrase true: Khel khatam, Paisa hazam.
What this fiasco has done is to expose all that is wrong, not only with Indian sport, but also with the polity and the bureaucracy. Unfortunately, the tendency amongst some Indians is to blame everybody for the mess, but not take any responsibility. It is our responsibility to ensure that these people, who have put India to shame, pay for their shameful actions. Where do the politicians come from? They come from the same society we live in. And surely, if something is wrong with the politicians, there must be something wrong also with the society they belong to. It, however, would be a massive loss of face if the Games were taken away or if they were anything other than a success. But for the sake of future generations, perhaps we should hope that it all goes belly up. Only then might we see a generation of parasites evicted from the rotting carcass that they have reduced Indian sport to. Further, these games were supposed to be a showcase of India’s emergence as a superpower. But you are a major power only if you can provide clean drinking water and sanitation facilities for most of your citizens; if you can provide them education; if you can provide proper infrastructure. None of which we have managed so far even after 63 years of Independence. We really need to get our house in order before harbouring aspirations of becoming superpower.