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From Delhi To Guangzhou A tough road ahead for Indian sportspersons

Updated: November 6, 2010 2:01 pm

The 19th Commonwealth Games had many first to it. It was the most expensive edition of this sporting event. For the first time India won more then 101 medals in any International sporting competition outside the South Africa Federation (SAF) Games and it was also the first time that the country finished second on the leader board of the Commonwealth Games. India won 38 gold medals, the highest improving upon 30, which it had won in Manchester in 2002.

                The medal winners have hit the jackpot as their respective state governments have opened the purses and the athletes are just laughing their way to the banks. The survey in the newspapers shows that the Indians are proud of their athletes showing and think that Country should make the bid for the 2020 Olympic. The same survey says that most of the countrymen feel that India has emerged as a sporting power. Hey just wait for three weeks and we will know where we stand in Asia, leave along the World.

                Prior to these games in last two editions of the Games, India had finished 4th in 2002 and 2006, and in those years in Asian Games at Busan and Doha respectively, the country took the ninth spot. Previously the gap between the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games used to be of at least six to eight months but this time it is less than a month so before we get carried away by our modest win in a truncated field let us wait for the Asiad to be held in China from November 12 to 27.

                Though, it was no fault of the Indian athletes that some of the leading sportspersons withdrew from the Games for various reasons, we should also not overlook the fact that gold in women discuss, which India’s Krishna Punia claimed was not even her own best performance. Same was the case with Women’s relay, which fetched India their second athletic gold. The timing was more than the national record. India also won seven of the ten gold in wrestling in greco roman and women competition. These two categories were included in the Games for the first time.

                Two more gold came in archery and one in tennis. Tennis was being played for the first time while wrestling and archery were inducted. Interestingly, greco roman and women wrestling along with tennis has been dropped from the next edition of the Games to be held in Scotland in 2014. The question being now asked is that having raised the expectations, can Indian sportspersons will live upto the expectation in the Asian Games?

                Well, I have my doubts. It is well nigh impossible to get as many gold medals in Asiad given the tough field. In Delhi Games, we won ten gold in wrestling, including three in freestyle. But In Asian Games the field includes grapplers from Iran, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Iraq and from several other Central Asian countries and they are hard to beat.

                With World champion Sushil Kumar opting out of the Asian Games due to shoulder injury it will be a tough call for other Indian wrestlers. Same will be the case with archery, boxing and shooting. In archery, China, Korea, Japan the powerhouses in this sports will all be there to display their wares. In boxing the Chinese, Koreans, Central Asians will all be there and the marksmen will find it difficult to garner as many gold as they did at the Karni Singh Range, in view of the stiff challenge.

                It will take some time for the Indian hockey team to recover from the thrashing it received at the hands of Australia in presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the Commonwealth Games Final. India needs to win a gold in the Asian Games to directly qualify for the 2012 London Olympics but the way both men and women teams played in Delhi it looks a distant dream. Asian Games will also be a test for our track and field stars, who had a good outing at the Jawahar Lal Nehru stadium in the absence of top athletes from Australia, Jamaica and Africa. In tennis, though the hosts managed to win a gold, a silver, a couple of bronze but repeat of this at Asian Games look impossible.

“Political vendetta should stop against me” —Sudhanshu Mittal

“Targeting me as the prime accused in the Commonwealth investigation is nothing but political witch-hunting. It puts question marks on the credibility and intent of the investigation,” said BJP leader Sudhanshu Mittal. He talked to Sonia Chawla to clarify his position after IT Department raided his premises in connection with alleged financial irregularities in works related to the just concluded Commonwealth Games (CWG). Excerpts:

What is your reaction on the IT Department’s raid in your premises?

The action against me is nothing but a ploy to make me a political scapegoat.

But it is alleged that your firm was awarded a contract worth Rs 29 crore.

Rs 77,000 crore spent for the Commonwealth Games are to be investigated. Targeting me as the prime accused in the Commonwealth investigation is nothing but political witch-hunting. It puts question marks on the credibility and intent of the investigation. “Delhi Tents and Decorators” got the contract from various agencies for the Games for a sum of only Rs 29 lakh, including the taxes. It is not Rs 29 crore, or anything of the like. Rs 77,000 crore versus Rs 29 lakh, yet I have been painted as the fountainhead of corruption. I have been demonised.

What has been your association with Deepali Designs and Exhibits?

It has been claimed that I owned Deepali Designs and Exhibits, which has been awarded a contract of Rs 230 crore. The fact is that neither any family member of mine nor I have a single share in the company. Its shares in the overall contract were to the tune of Rs 35-36 crore for the supply of generators and electric cabling, and not the items which have raised eyebrow in the public for their exorbitant rates. It may also be added that my company and Deepali have been competitors for more than 25 years. I had only accepted the non-executive directorship of the company for a brief period of fiive months but relinquished it. How do I become a beneficiary of prime accused with this involvement? You might also say that I had no direct benefit, and was simply helping my distant family. To this, I would like to ask you which illegal means are being talked about, for there were none.

Your name has also been linked with a real estate company called IREO.

I state categorically that I have absolutely no relationship with the company as I do not hold even a single share in that company. However, a close relative of mine holds a senior position in the company, and this is being misconstrued as my ownership of the company. This is preposterous; a complete lie. Further, IREO had no contract for the Games.

Why have all these charges levelled against you?

Efforts are being made to divert the attention from the real culprits who are occupying high offices. I think the people of this country have the right to know the truth, rather than being misled to me. The probe should not be trivialised or politicised to suit the political convenience of the government of the day. This political vendetta should stop.

Having said this, it does not mean that one should not praise the performance of the Indian sportspersons in the CWG (Commonwealth Games). They deserve all the accolade but they should be aware of the pitfall of the hype because the same people who are hailing them as heroes/heroines will waste no time in dumping them, if they fail in Asiad and they will suddenly turn villains and vamps.

                The 12-day extravaganza in Delhi which for first six days was played before the empty stadiums left many records and stats. There is no doubt that success of these games has proved most of the Western and some Indian critics wrong. But now the question is being asked whether such colossal expenditure was necessary to host these Games. And how much money has been siphoned off by the officials and administrators, who were involved in the running and conducting the games?

                It was not secret that Games were mired with scandals but it was hoped that a good showing by the Indian athletes and successful conduct of the event may lead to issues of corruption being pushed under the carpet. But that was not to be and a day after, the Games government and congress party made their intentions clear. Government set-up an inquiry commission headed by former CAG VK Shanglu asking him to look into the whole issue of corruption and submit the report in three months.

                Prime Minister Manmohan Singh facilitated the medal winners but did not invite chairman of the Organising Committee of CWG Suresh Kalmadi. Kalmadi was again ignored by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, when they honoured the players but did not invite him. However, main opposition party BJP raised the pitch when its president Nitin Gadkari was lashing out at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for irregularities in the Commonwealth Games.

                Gadkari, however, was in quandary. On the one hand he wanted strict action against those who he said were involved in rampant corruption but was in fix when he came to know that sleuths of Income Tax and Central Bureau of Investigation had raided the house and office premises of senior party leader and industrialist, Sudhanshu Mittal, at least 25 places in Delhi. Mittal is the party’s co-convener of the North-East Affairs.

                Besides, raids were conducted at the residence of Lalit Goel, his brother-in-law. It is alleged that Mittal used to run fake contract companies in the name of his wife and her brother. Mittal’s companies got contract of Rs 230 crore for supplying materials for Commonwealth Games. The raids came as a big embarrassment for the BJP, which was busy attacking the Manmohan Singh government for rampant corruption in the CWG. The congress trying to take the heat off went on the offensive saying the decision to hold Games in Delhi was taken way back in 2003 by the then Vajpayee government. Many of the initial works started during the previous government. Therefore, involvement of BJP leaders can not be totally ruled out.

                In between there was a slugfest between Suresh Kalmadi and Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dixit both trading charges and counter charges forcing the party high command to read riot act to them and directing them to keep quiet. The last word has not been heard and if one goes by what the experts have been saying, nothing much is expected from the inquiry because too many big wigs seemed to be involved. Only time will tell whether all those pronouncements made by Prime Minister or Ms Sonia Gandhi that corruption will not be tolerated and guilty will be punished will come true or CWG scam will also died as has happened with so many other scandals. Meanwhile, all eyes will be on the sportspersons with the hope that they will perform well in China and prove critics wrong, who say that CWG show was fluke.

 By Harpal Singh Bedi


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