A Commonwealth Shame


July 21, 2017 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Online Auction


Mani Shankar Aiyar may or may not be comforting an old grouse by mouthing curses for Commonwealth Games 2010, but he does have a point that is getting sharper even though he has now vowed silence till the Games are over.

At the outset, let’s put one thing in perspective: no body in their right mind would be against an international event coming to India. It undoubtedly makes for great pride and is a golden chance to showcase the emerging superpower that we believe we are. An event such as this also gives the economy a push by creating jobs and infrastructure apart from promoting sports.

And usually it gets the country excited and galvanised. Only till now we haven’t really experienced that which is why we need to take a hard look at what is happening around us in the national capital.

To begin with, why did India win the bid? Not in the least because we were the ‘jewel in the crown’ or because we have world class sporting culture and infrastructure. Economic powerhouse may be an answer, in a twisted way though – India won the bid for the Commonwealth Games 2010 by promising that it would provide USD 100,000 to each of the 72 participating countries, along with air tickets, boarding, lodging and transport.

Forgetting the eight Indian states that are poorer than 27 poorest African countries for a moment, 100,000 dollars is no big deal for a country with a billion-plus population harbouring global dreams. But why would so much money be risked in order to hold a sporting event which is no more than a relic of the Raj, held lightly even by Britain? And some may say by Indian authorities too considering Kalmadi couldn’t even persuade the BCCI to postpone the cricket matches which will clash with the Commonwealth Games Delhi 2010.

To be honest, the Commonwealth Games have neither the magic of FIFA, nor the old world charm of Olympics. With no Usian Bolt, Andy Murruy, Chris Hoy and Asafa Powell to watch, who will come here to watch group dancers perform in regional attires? And a truth that may again hurt our sense of national pride, most of these players are skipping Commonwealth Games because they have to participate in far more significant events – World Championship in 2011 and Olympic Games in 2012, as admitted by Bolt himself.

London is almost ready for 2012 Olympics. And we are presenting a shabby, sordid picture to the world due to our unprofessional approach where the organisers are indulged in turf battles with each other as well as the Commonwealth Games Organisation. For us, the event is a symbol of the country’s economic progress, a picture that we want to exhibit to the world: a successful, prosperous nation capable of holding big, successful events. But what we have presented till now is everything that we are not or won’t aspire to be.

While one doesn’t hope, a la Mani, that the Games turn into a fiasco, it remains to be seen if the authorities will take a lesson from what’s going on. Meanwhile, will somebody please tell me what all comes in the Rs 50,000 ticket of the inauguration ceremony? Do we get to keep the baton?

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