In defence of the Commonwealth Games

Last Updated: Thu, Aug 12, 2010 07:57 hrs

Of late it has become very fashionable to criticise the Commonwealth Games: We are a developing country and we cannot afford them. They are a waste of time. They are ruining the city of Delhi. How can we have these Games when people are dying of hunger all over India? Etc and etc..

Most of this wisdom was absent when the voting for selecting the host was going on way back in November 2003, when for most it was a matter of pride in securing the Games for India.

But what is the real issue here? If a town requires a road and one is built, but is full of potholes and leads to a spate of accidents, then is it the fault of the road or the people who built the road?

CWG stadia to be managed by public-private partnership

Paraphrasing a US election slogan, one could easily say in this case: It's the Corruption, stupid, and not the Games!

Why we need the Games

The 1951 Asian Games (which incidentally were postponed by a year due to lack of preparation) put us on the sports map in our post-Independence era. The 1982 Asian Games gave a fillip to New Delhi, upgrading the infrastructure and transforming the city. TV watching in India got a boost and we got sports grounds like the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

The Asian Games Village still houses top officials in Delhi while the buses used to transport athletes in the Games became the backbone of the Maharashtra state transport with the term "Asiad buses" still in use long after the original buses fell in disuse.

When the Olympics started in 1896, it was the single biggest international sporting event till that time, a precursor to the modern sporting spectacle. In the 1908 London Olympics the White City Stadium could house nearly 70,000 and was seen as a "technological marvel" in that era. In 1932, Los Angeles hosted the Olympics in the midst of the Great Depression and is actually believed to have made a profit of $1 million!

Commonwealth Games 2010

Hitler used the 1936 Olympics to further his cause. But it was the first to be filmed and have live TV coverage. In 1948, London managed to host the Games on a shoestring budget, due to the effects of World War II. The 1964 Olympics transformed Tokyo. Train, road and airport infrastructure was upgraded. Japan got an undersea communication cable and global public opinion became very favourable towards Japan after the suspicion of World War II.

Atlanta was another city which got modernised thanks to the 1996 Olympics and infrastructure was upgraded in all walks of life. The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games were a recent success story.

While there have also been Olympic failures, it depends by and large on the governments in power how they can extract the maximum mileage out of any Games.

The Commonwealth Games may be a success or not, but Delhites will be left with more roads, flyovers, under and over-bridges and buses than before. Projects like the Metro, IGI Airport expansion and power upgradation were put on the fast track thanks to the Games.

The tourism industry will benefit. Medical tourism will take off even more. There also many other little things. The government has taught English to thousands of drivers, workers and staff as part of a drive. The capital will also have another Games Village to utilise once the event is over.

All is not as bad as it sounds.

The Mani fallacy

It is quite amusing to follow the ravings and tantrums of the politician Mani Shankar Iyer. He would have us believe that tens of thousands of crores were lying idle in the coffers which would have been distributed to the poor and they were suddenly diverted for the Games.

What would have happened if the Games had not take place at all? It is doubtful that the Government would have ear-marked a similar amount for schemes related to the poor. The money raised to spend on Games is a complicated process where money is amassed from all sorts of sources. Not all of it goes down the drain.

When every project in India is riddled with political partisanship and corruption, did anyone really expect the Games to be different? On what grounds?

More on Sports

Sports are a very important part of any country and go a long way in keeping people from various sections occupied and one can not wish them away. There’s another factor that has been overlooked. From 2011 onwards, the increased infrastructure of Delhi will be enjoyed by the lower, middle and upper classes alike.

The real issue

The real issue is not whether we should host major sporting events or not, but whether politicians should handle them or not.

Politicians have made such a mess of sports in this country that it is simply not funny. The only reason we do well in cricket is because there only eight cricketing powers in the first place. It is much easier to excel in a Club of 8 rather than a Club of 100 or Club of 200 as most other sports is.

Secondly, there is so much money in cricket that even is most of it is mismanaged, then there's still enough left for the game and players.

In fact, the only person who can make a change is the Prime Minister himself. All it needs is a legislation to put genuine sports people in charge. If sports is too lucrative and politicians absolutely refuse to let go, then at least let the Chairman be a politician and the Chief Executive be compulsorily be a sportsperson who has represented the country at the international level.

That will at least be a start.

But will the Prime Minister ever involve himself with something as ''lowly'' as sports?

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