Common Wealth Games – Another Disaster for India?

BY SAJEEV K
Sep 29, 2010

Security woes, incomplete infrastructure, dirty Games villages, overspending and corruption scandals... Even the Indians are finding all this hard to digest.

125 The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games as well as the athletics events. (Photo credit: Bhaumik J)

 

There is one obvious advantage of the yet-to-begin 2010 Commonwealth Games. It made even the most non-political person raise his voice against corruption (at least temporarily), when even the recent 2G telecom scam failed in that account. Suddenly the Kashmir issue and Naxal problems have disappeared from the front pages; papers stopped giving the photos and statements of “Laliat Modi” in the sports pages. It is a happy time for journalists; they are completely drawn into the floods of news – if they don’t have any news, they can just go to any of the CWG venues – either something will collapse (Is there any more foot over bridge in CWG venue to collapse?), or some other country will publish their doubts on whether to participate or not in the Games.

I don’t know who coined the name Commonwealth Games for this sporting event, whoever it may be; this CWG - Delhi 2010 took it in full spirit (literally). People really made it “Common Wealth” Games.

Corruption is not new in India. You have to pay money from village offices to police stations to make the system work. If you know whom to approach and have the money to spend, you may not have to worry about anything, overnight spirit will be converted to water and the victim will become the accused.

I got the depth of public anger towards the CWG when one of my friends – a hard core supporter of Congress party – started criticising the party and the government for the mess.

But as one of my friends said, this time, with the CWG, it was too much – beyond the digestive power of ordinary Indians. I got the depth of public anger towards the CWG when one of my friends – a hard core supporter of Congress party, no matter what is their policy – started criticising the party and the government for the mess. It’s interesting to note that he didn’t said much against the thousands of crores 2G scam.

 

Back to the Beginning:

From the beginning itself everything went wrong. It was a good decision from the previous government to bid for the games, but the bad part of that bid is – do we really need to bribe other nations to get the games? That, too, at a time when many parts of India – especially central Indian states like MP – have children who are under severe malnutrition. Many reports even compare these parts of India to the war-torn Sub-Saharan African countries where civil wars never end.

Even after seven years, the works are not finished and even the finished structures are coming down. Recently the Army was called to create a foot over bridge in one of CWG venues and they are supposed to finish the work in five days. So what happened to the crores of rupees (some papers reported it as 10 crore) spent on the crumbled bridge?

 

Do we really need the Games?

As a Moody’s report pointed out, CWG created severe damage to the credibility of India’s ability to organise large events. It also created a hole in India’s financial system. Using that money we may be able to give at least three time meals to the under-nourished children of India; for infrastructure development; for new schools; for basic research. We may be able to buy much more fighter planes for IAF than we could ever imagine (the number of new generations planes in Indian Air Force is in an alarmingly low level. It’s better not to talk about the aviation wing of Indian Navy). We may also be able to buy some more submarines (or construct new ones) for the Indian Navy or new tanks for Army.

 

Let’s also look at the problem from another perspective

It is also possible that many of these problems – such as cleanliness – are more hype than reality. It is obvious that the rooms will not be handed over to athletes in such condition, but there is no justification for such a scenario at this point of time – the organising committee got seven years to complete the work. The flood waters also didn’t help the games in anyway. Problems like the collapse an over bridge is not so uncommon during construction scenarios – but it got much attention now as it happened at the last moment and was done up in a mad rush. No one would have given a damn about it if that happened some three years back.

What about safety? Suddenly Delhi becomes unsafe for living, and many countries have second thoughts about coming to India owing to safety reasons. It’s interesting to note that – it was not long back Australians were assuring Indians every now and then that Australia was a safe country to live, Canada was perplexed as to what to do with the Kanishka (an Air Indian flight) bombing and it was not a long time back when terrorists attacked London.