Daunting journey ahead

Three years ago in Melbourne, India wowed the nations of the Commonwealth with a spectacular 11-minute show that encapsulated the best this nation has to offer in terms of entertainment. When Bollywood stars Aishwarya Rai and Saif Ali Khan rubbed shoulders with the legends of Indian sport at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in a dazzling parade of talent, the Commonwealth Games torch seemed to have passed on to a worthy host nation.

A touch away from the 19th Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, those wonderful moments at the closing ceremony of the 18th edition seems almost unreal, much like the films that Bollywood churns out year after year. The veneer of confidence the Indian officials sported then has been cracked open by a series of controversies on many fronts. A rocky road it has been, and the journey forward looks no less daunting.

With the benefit of hindsight, it could be said that the wounds on the New Delhi organising committee are self-inflicted. For long, the Indian Olympic Association has been clamouring for a chance to host a major international event. It failed miserably when it came to the Asian Games in 2006 but succeeded in the Commonwealth arena, thanks to methods which could not be termed genuinely sporting.

Problems beyond infrastructure

At the 2003 Commonwealth Games Federation meeting in Montego Bay, Jamaica, India won the bid to host the 2010 Games after swaying many a vote in its favour, thanks to the offer of 100,000 dollars to each member federation to boost its training fund. Their rivals then, Canada, fumed and uttered cries of protest but no one else was complaining. If the smiles on the Indian faces are looking weary now, the reasons go beyond mere problems about infrastructure and organisation.

Excellence all the way

For any venture of this magnitude to succeed, it calls for expertise in many areas, with trained personnel and men with will and vision to guide them properly. Planning and precision of a high order are a must at every stage, as many host nations of big events have shown in the past, China being an excellent recent example.

Sadly, no sports federation in the country has acquired it even after exposure to a wide variety of competitions over the years. At every major international event, India is well-represented by officials who land there in order to study infrastructure and organisation. That precious little is learned from these trips is apparent in the shoddy conduct of every national-level meet, including the National Games, whenever or wherever it is held. Excellence at the grassroots is a must for excellence at the top, a fact the IOA is unaware of or has chosen to overlook.

CGF president Mike Fennell, in spotlight for his comments on inadequacy of the 2010 CWG preparations, had a taste of Indian expertise or lack of it when he visited the country during the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune last year. The Games were touted as an important build-up exercise for the New Delhi CWG but it only served to expose the chinks in the Indian armour. Fennell pointed these out then and there, and urged the organisers to get cracking before it was too late.

Obviously, his words have not had the desired effect, forcing the Jamaican to hit out once again. Incomplete infrastructure is only one of New Delhi’s problems. Getting its team of men to work in unison, putting plans into proper practice, is its main challenge. If it doesn’t happen post-haste, the country will be left with a blot hard to erase, wrestling with controversies it had every chance to avoid.

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