Friday, September 24, 2010

Saving the Commonwealth Games

Enough has been said, but evidently not done, about the Commonwealth Games. You wouldn't have needed an astonishing amount of foresight to predict a few months ago that procrastination and corruption would ruin India's coming-of-age act; that the target audience is a handful of countries that comfortably excludes some of the major sporting giants, the USA, China and Russia among them, is a different matter. What we would have liked to see was the top runners, most of whom come from the Caribbean countries, and other major athletes lend their names to India's first major sporting event. (No, I don't consider the Afro-Asian games big enough.)

Despite all the logistical problems and the concerns over large amounts of money being siphoned off to unheard-of quarters, perhaps it wasn't unrealistic to expect that somehow, at the last moment, the people in charge would pull themselves together to present a decent front and save the country from getting lambasted in the world press. I should have known better. Admittedly, there has been much embarrassment over the way the Games have been handled, and the people involved in the fiasco need to be pulled up as early as possible. However, in a country where traditionally justice has taken long to arrive or sometimes been entirely elusive, does it make any sense to call for a mass boycott so that the oversized egos of certain individuals are ground to dust, and those of others satisfied in the bargain?

When experienced politicians like Mani Shankar Aiyar and the "face of Indian writing", media darling Chetan Bhagat ask the public to oppose the Games to bring to book the parties that have brought so much disgrace to the country, I am left wondering if they have placed their brains in cold storage. Tourism isn't expected to bring in much revenues, thanks to all the negative press, the fears over filth and disease, floods and security. So do we really need a handful of smug, self-satisfied men, secure in the knowledge of their own standing and celebrity, to go around asking people to ignore the Games because, well, that's our answer to corruption and mismanagement? Really, now, this coming from individuals who are broadly considered intelligent leaves me genuinely confused- are we really hoping to solve the problems of this country with such ease?

How is this going to affect India's image? We need to ensure Bernie Ecclestone knows more about the revenues than the debacles; the future of motor racing in India could be at stake. Convince foreign tourists that the pictures of the Games Village were doctored. Filth? What filth? Your idea of hygiene isn't necessarily mine. A collapsing bridge or roof is just a minor glitch; if people are injured in the process, we could always give them a compensation and pose with them by their hospital beds.

The Commonwealth Games don't appear to be doing anything for sports in the country. With top athletes from around the world pulling out, the field has weakened considerably- so how much can medals be valued? Not taking anything away from the sportspersons who are braving all the negative publicity and ploughing on under obviously difficult conditions, the main idea of any international sporting event should be to have the best names compete against one another- an aspect in which the Delhi Games can be said to be heading towards failure. And if hygiene, sanitation and the quality of the infrastructure are the worrying factors, then four years is indeed a short duration. Inherent discipline is key, something that we seem to lack in quite a few areas.

If the Delhi Games, with their dubiously large budget, help us pull ourselves together and remind us of all that we're not but aspire to be, then it would be money well spent, and we could also rapidly erase the images we're currently flooding the world with. There are certain chronic diseases we need to eradicate- the sooner, the better. But boycotting the Games is not an option- we're not going to present a disjointed picture when a good chunk of the world has its eyes on us. Let the people with political vendettas and faux-intelligent personas froth away to glory.

8 comments:

Arun Ramkumar said...

well written piece!

but surprising :)

wanderingbrook said...

Thanks Arun!

Surprising? The vitriol?

willwriteforfood said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
willwriteforfood said...

//How is this going to affect India's image? ... Filth? What filth? Your idea of hygiene isn't necessarily mine. A collapsing bridge or roof is just a minor glitch..//

While I do admit the need for some creative spin doctoring to save face here, there is such a thing as foot-in-mouth.
Considering that most of the western world already thinks that India is a cradle of filth lacking basic hygiene awareness, such a misguided (for lack of a better word!) statement coming from an official mouth, no less, signals an epic FAIL for our country.

Rohit said...

Sounds to be an argument for the sake of it... :-(

wanderingbrook said...

@Rohit: I considered the massive corruption and numerous glitches a genuine concern. But I didn't think boycotting the Games was an option either. Our athletes shouldn't have to pay the price for the disgraceful actions of the powers that be.

Rohit said...

Our Athletes? Do you think it was a assessment of talent? We raised the budget more than 10 times. And at the end of the day no star athlete, except form India(Some of em even were reluctant),turned up. As usual fears of the quality of infras. So the significance of the very event got diluted. Will not be surprised if India fares poorly @ the Asian games...

wanderingbrook said...

@Rohit: The athletes aren't happy with the way sport is run in this country, and if they show resentment, it is only natural. For those who did choose to turn up, it was an opportunity to try and prove something- even if they didn't have the best in the world to pit their skills against, agreed. And yes, the Asiad performances are turning out dismal, but I think they should still have our backing.