Indefensible act

Indian Olympic Association chief Suresh Kalmadi’s attack on Commonwealth Games Federation representative in New Delhi Mike Hooper is in bad taste and totally indefensible. It is well-known that the preparations for the Games, to be held in Delhi in 2010, are well behind schedule, with some constructions yet to start, when the entire work should have been over by May this year. Many in India, including the Comptroller and Auditor-General, have pointed out the delays and the prime minister’s special attention has been drawn to it. It was Hooper’s responsibility to take note of the situation and report on the status of the work to the CGF and he has done just that. CGF president Mike Fenner, who was in Delhi last week, observed that time was Indian authorities’ enemy now in hosting the meet, and announced the setting up a committee to monitor the progress of the work. He has also rightly rebuffed Kalmadi, by rejecting the demand for Hooper’s withdrawal.

Kalmadi’s argument that the idea of a monitoring committee points to a ‘colonial’ attitude and would compromise India’s sovereignty is ridiculous. It is not a professional response but a poor political reaction from a bygone period. It is either naivete or a malicious disrespect for people’s intelligence on the part of Kalmadi that made him think that such an imputation would carry any credibility. The right response should have been to accept the criticism in good spirit and promise to make amends. It is not Hooper but those in charge of the many bodies which are responsible for the preparations for the Games who need replacement.

The unpleasant spat between India’s sports authorities and the CGF cannot enhance the country’s prestige. The conduct of the Commonwealth Games is expected to improve Delhi’s infrastructure and raise India’s standing in the world. Till now it has only exposed our inability to plan and execute major projects in time. The latest developments have also shown our lack of respect for the rights of others who have a legitimate stake in an international event like the Commonwealth Games. The existence of different agencies which have worked without co-ordination has not helped. There is the need for a central authority, as in the case of the Asian Games of 1982, directly reporting to the prime minister, to ensure that the remaining months are best spent so that the country does not lose its face.

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