Games Village That Was Not To Be
The Commonwealth Games village which brought so much negative publicity and shame for the country was actually meant to be hostels and other sporting facilities for the students of Delhi University. However greed and corruption overtook as the plans for the Delhi 2010 began to be executed and in place of the promised hostels and “world-class” Games Village was built with sole aim to sell the flats at huge price after the event. The Organisers of the Games, in their bid document in 2003 had very clearly stated: “Games Village would be turned into hostel accommodation for Delhi University after the Games.”
In their book Sellotape Legacy: Delhi and the Commonwealth Games, authors Boria Majumdar and Nalin Mehta say: “CGF documents are unambiguous on this
count. Leading up to the crucial vote of Commonwealth countries in November 2003, when Delhi finally won the Games, it gave an undertaking that “post-Games, the Village will provide hostel facility for the Delhi University. This was done, it seems, to make Delhi look as committed to education as Hamilton did with McMaster University”.
The Indian Olympic Association(IOA) officials wanted the 2010 Games by any means, though enough hints were given to them that Delhi may get the 2014 Games provided it withdrew in favour of Hamilton (Canada). The IOA even promised to pay 1,00,000 US Dollars to each of the 71 members of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), for developing sports infrastructure in their countries, if Delhi won the bid.
Not only that the Indians also gave a written commitment to all the member countries that as a host Delhi will provide free boarding, lodging and pay the air fare of all the participants(sportspersons and officials). No country had ever given such a commitment before and no wonder Delhi defeated Hamilton with a huge margin. This angered the Canadian delegates who openly accused India of having “bribed the Games”. Thus the very concept of hosting the Games in the National capital of India was mired with corruption from its very inception.
But what takes the cake is the blatant disregard of commitment for the promised students hostels for Delhi University and in its place a Games Village was constructed on Yamuna river bed. In Sellotape Legacy: Delhi and the Commonwealth Games, Boria Majumdar and Nalin Mehta claim that the story of the Games Village characterises why everything went wrong and deserves a close look. They write:
In 2003, Delhi was in serious danger of losing its Games bid to Hamilton, the Canadian city that hosted the first version of the Commonwealth Games in 1930 (it was called the British Empire Games then). In a two-horse race, both cities submitted detailed plans to the CGF in May 2003. When they were opened, Delhi found itself on the back foot on one of the most important questions that determine sporting mega-events: legacies and long-term impact on the city. Hamilton had put the local McMaster University at the centre of its Games concept.
It put academic partnerships as the second-most important objective of the Games and the university was slated to benefit from the entire new infrastructure that was to be built. The Games Village and three of the other five new sporting venues that Hamilton proposed were to be built on the 300-acre campus of McMaster University. The idea was to create a permanent legacy of world-class and accessible sporting infrastructure for students in this small city of 500,000.
In contrast, Delhi’s original bid proposed to build a Games Village and to sell it as luxury apartments after the Games concluded. Compared to Hamilton’s focus on its university, Delhi seemed on shaky ground. Even more seriously, India’s sporting czars said that they would finance almost 40 per cent of the then-estimated cost of the Games from the sale of these flats. This looked decidedly risky.
The flats could only be sold after the Games. If they were also supposed to pay for the Games, how would the Games be held in the first place? And what if the flats failed to yield the expected revenue? The CGF’s technical experts rightly saw this as a major financial risk for Delhi. Delhi needed to win the bid. So, when the CGF’s experts raised these questions, Delhi’s organisers agreed to a major change. The plan to sell the flats to finance part of the Games was ‘subsequently amended’ to ensure that the budget would not be reliant on the sale of the accommodation. By October 17, 2003, Delhi submitted a revised budget wherein the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) took over the risk and responsibility of the Village and the CGF Evaluation Commission reported that the ‘sale of residential apartments is not [any more] a risk to the Games budget’.
Basically, government agencies agreed to pay for the money that the flats’ sale would have provided. One of the most disturbing but little-known stories of these Games is that at the same time, Delhi’s organisers also promised that its Games Village would be turned into hostel accommodation for Delhi University after the Games. CGF documents are unambiguous on this count. Leading up to the crucial vote of Commonwealth countries in November 2003, when Delhi finally won the Games, it gave an undertaking that ‘post-Games, the Village will provide hostel facility for the Delhi University’. This was done, it seems, to make Delhi look as committed to education as Hamilton did with McMaster University.
India’s sports managers championed this idea and the notion of the Village as a university hostel was prominently displayed in Delhi’s revised bid documents. As the CGF noted, “The Games Village will provide an excellent hostel facility for the Delhi University and will remain available for residential use during hosting of future international events.”
This plan was published in cold print but was never heard of once Delhi won the bid. Delhi’s Games masters had always intended on selling the real estate and the much-needed DU hostel plan was given a quiet burial. Few people knew of the commitment to the Delhi University and there was virtually no public protest when it was cancelled… the authors concluded.
This is a devastating indictment of the Organising Committee, Delhi government and other agencies who indulged in all sorts of subterfuge to get these “modest and friendly” Games and then hyped them out of proportion reducing the country to a joke. These Games are not world-class nor is the Games Village but they have left India bleeding.
By Harpal Singh Bedi