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India CWG Organisers Have No Sense Of National Pride

Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
CWG organisers have no sense of national pride


Saturday, 25 September 2010

By Amulya Ganguli

A sporting extravaganza is more than just a matter of fun and games. Hitler was one of the first to realise that a successful event can burnish a country's image, especially after a humiliating setback as in World War I in Germany's case.

China, too, realised that it would not be accepted as a legitimate member of the international community after its self-inflicted wounds of the Tiananmen Square massacre unless it staged the Olympics. Both these totalitarian countries understood that the value of "soft" power could be greater than their military might or economic prowess.

Similarly, South Africa was able to put its demeaning past as a racist pariah behind it by hosting the recent World Cup football championship to announce the success of its experiment as Nelson Mandela's rainbow nation.

India had the opportunity of similarly underlining its emergence as a new economic power from the shadows of an "area of darkness" by making a success of the Commonwealth Games. But it botched the chance. The Games might still be held, perhaps with fewer attendees. But the disgraceful manner in which it neglected the preparations for the show has already shown it up as a blundering nation of incompetents and worse.

Yet, it isn't that such events had not been held in the country earlier. The Asian Games of 1951, which announced India's arrival on the world stage as a free nation, were a success. So was the repeat show of 1982. Both were held in New Delhi while the Afro-Asian Games of 2003 were held in Hyderabad. There were no major complaints then of either widespread corruption or shoddy infrastructure. Although India's was a "command economy" at the time with the country advancing at the snail-paced Hindu rate of growth, such supposed handicaps were clearly not a disadvantage.

In contrast, the current persistent high growth rates of the market economy and the virtual explosion of entrepreneurial talent have been of little help where the Commonwealth Games are concerned. It is even possible that the worst features of the new economy have manifested themselves in making a shambles of the preparations.

Perhaps this is not surprising since India's position on Transparency International's corruption index has slipped to 85 in a list of 180, with Somalia holding up the rear end. What is even more significant is that the slump has taken place in the recent past with India dropping down from 70 in 2006.

However, even without Transparency International's damning assessment, every citizen is aware about how corruption is stalking the land from the lowly officials siphoning off money from the development schemes to members of the union cabinet.

In a way, this has always been so. As Satyajit Ray noted in his film," Jana Aranya", showing a corrupt businessman, the Sanskrit word for corruption - utkoch - underlined the ancient nature of the phenomenon. But there has apparently been a massive increase of sleaze at a time of economic buoyancy because of the large number of development projects - new and more s{censored}y airports, express highways, special economic zones, et al.

While the corporate sector no longer has to keep the ministers and officials in good humour as during the earlier licence-permit raj in order to secure clearances for their projects, the very considerable investments in infrastructure development have seemingly opened new avenues of corruption.

The Commonwealth Games fiasco belongs to this category since it entails huge expenditure in stadiums, the residential "village" for athletes, landscaping and so on. It is obvious from what has transpired that the organisers saw in the vast monetary outlay an excellent opportunity to line their own pockets. They apparently evinced little interest in building world class venues. Instead, like the ordinary contractors of housing projects, they tried to cut corners with only marginal concern for quality. The matter of national pride was not uppermost in their minds.

It was only when the disastrous effects of their greed became glaringly evident that the government finally stepped in. But even its intervention was half-hearted. The choice of Jaipal Reddy was not a happy one given his lacklustre record as urban development minister.

But if a list of villains who are responsible for the mess is made, then Suresh Kalmadi, president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), will head the list. He evidently did not have the organisational skill to manage an international event of this magnitude. In addition, the charges of malfeasance against him and others in the IOA have cast a further shadow on their association with the Games.

The next on this long list is Sports Minister M.S. Gill, whose injudicious comparison of the show with a Punjabi wedding failed to amuse the CEO of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Mike Hooper, for it showed the casual, unserious, chalta hai attitude with which the outside world associates India. Hence Hooper's comment that India was "allotted" seven years to complete the project because of the "work and energy" which it required.

However, the governments at the centre and in Delhi state are equally to blame for, first, depending on the IOA until the various scams in which it was allegedly involved came to light. And, second, for not intervening till a footbridge and parts of ceilings collapsed and the filthy conditions in the Games village were televised all around the world. As if to show that the event is jinxed, even music maestro A.R. Rehman has failed to replicate in his theme song for the show what he achieved with his stirring signature tune, "Jai Ho", in "Slumdog Millionaire".

source: http://www.punjabnewsline.com/content/cwg-organisers-have-no-sense-national-pride/24270



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