Asian Games in B'lore?

Getting out of Delhi

China seems to be excelling itself in the conduct of international games. The spectacular opening ceremony of the Asian Games in Guangzhou, the third largest city in China, has been rated better than even that of the Beijing Olympics held two years ago.

The purpose of this article is not to make any comparison with the Commonwealth Games held earlier in Delhi but to raise an entirely different issue about the venue of the games. India has till now hosted two Asian and one Commonwealth games and all of them in Delhi. The question is whether all such events should be held in the national capital. There is no doubt that as of now, Delhi is the best equipped city in the country to host such international events. It has the necessary infrastructure in terms of stadia, accommodation and other facilities. No wonder, it is eyeing the prospect of bidding for Olympics at a future date.

Notwithstanding the superior advantages of Delhi, it is time we give serious consideration to holding some of the future international games in some other Indian city. There are good reasons for doing so. First, India is a vast and diverse country and equity considerations demand the benefits of such a global event be shared by different states.

Secondly, there are at least another five cities spread across the country capable of hosting such games — Mumbai in the west, Kolkota in the east, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad in the south. The existing infrastructure in these cities will of course not meet the requirements to conduct world class games. However, a big sporting event will, apart from giving a fillip to sports in the region, provide an opportunity to upgrade the infrastructure and other facilities in the city where it is held.

If the powers that be could spend an astronomical sum of Rs 70,000 crore towards the CWG (how much of it was misspent or misused is another matter), why not make a similar or appropriate investment in another city?

Let us look at some examples in other countries. In the United States, all the Olympic games till now have been held outside its national capital, Washington, which, of course, is not such a large city. Nor was the megacity, the premier international urban centre, New York, the automatic choice. In fact, each time, a new venue was chosen.

It was St Louis in 1904, Los Angeles in 1984 and Atlanta in 1996. In Germany, the Olympics were first held in Berlin in 1936 and then shifted to Munich in 1972.

Similarly, in Australia, the choice was Melbourne in 1956 and Sydney in 2000. In China, while the Olympics were held in capital city of Beijing in 2008, the authorities opted for Guangzhou for the Asian games this year. So also in South Korea, a much smaller country, while its capital city of Seoul hosted the Olympics in 1988, the Asian games in 2002 were held in Busan and the next one in 2014 is proposed at Incheon.

A pampered city

In India, for some reason or the other, Delhi seems to be the favoured city, not only for sporting events, but in other respects too; it is indeed a pampered city. The munificence of the Central government on the capital is all too evident in the huge investments made on its infrastructure.

The first phase of the much acclaimed Delhi Metro has been built at a staggering cost of Rs 10,500 crore and the latest showpiece, the international airport has consumed another Rs 12,700 crore. Don’t be under the impression that the citizens of Delhi are burdened with high taxes for all such blessings. In fact, they pay much less for services than their counterparts in other cities.

Take the case of petrol and diesel. Their prices are the lowest in Delhi compared to other metros. This highly subsidised city has also ensured that the country’s governing class, the ministers, the MPs and senior bureaucrats enjoy the luxury of living in sprawling bungalows and the babus of all grades comfortably reside in government quarters, all paying a pittance of their salaries as rent.

And behold the benefits heaped on Delhi by the CWG, to give the city a new look. A new games village to accommodate 8,000 athletes and officials was built at a cost of Rs 2,000 crore. Another Rs 8,000 crore were spent in improving the city’s infrastructure — roads, bridges, flyovers and five new stadia, apart from upgrading the existing ones.

A 2.2 km underground tunnel was constructed between Lodhi Road and Trans Yamuna. The bus fleet was augmented by adding 2,276 extra buses and the Metro network was extended. The power plant capacity was enhanced from 4,500 to 7,000 mw to ensure adequate and continuous power supply. Terminal 3 of the new international airport was got ready with 130 check-in counters and 55 aerobridges.
Imagine all such benefits flowing to Bangalore! To realise this, I suggest that the Asian Games in 2018 should be held in India’s IT capital. It may appear a long wait, but mind you, the preparations have to start right now. It’s one sure way of making the civic authorities wake up to the tremendous task ahead and work with vision and zeal to make the city what it should be for a big international event. It will galvanise all the stakeholders and the citizens to work for a common cause. And a substantial amount of money will come from the Central government.

Above all, it would be a great opportunity to transform Bangalore into a truly world class city.

(The writer is an advisor to the chief minister of Karnataka)

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