CWG for corrupt working group?

Indias shame... Participation by world players in the Commonwealth Games is still on a knife-edge

Extensive work remains to be done with just a week to go for the start of the Commonwealth Games on October 3.  AFP PHOTOCommonwealth Games 2010 was India’s big chance. It was meant to be a platform to announce to the world that the country had left behind the disturbing shadows of corrupted and indolent bureaucracy and political high-handedness.

But in the last two months or so, the CWG has become a vehicle to carry precisely those images that India desperately wanted to erase forever. Now, a country of unmatched manpower, unlimited resources, ever-growing economy and an ambitious population stand in front of the world red-faced.

Instead of the gleaming stadiums and proud athletes dishing out awe-inspiring performances, images of stray dogs jumping on beds, bathrooms caked in mud and water-logged compounds are being flashed across the world. Hardly the picture of Incredible India!

A number of top foreign athletes have withdrawn from the Games, some are still mulling about the logic of travelling to a controversy-ridden CWG, and many countries have delayed their travel to India after the hullabaloo -- an unimaginably sad state for an event that should have portrayed India in bright colours in front of the international sporting community.

Collective bungling

So, who is responsible for this mess? Is it Suresh Kalmadi? Well, he seems to be the popular choice. Many believe that in his capacity as the Chairman of the Organising Committee, the seasoned politician should be held accountable for all that has gone wrong.

But the on-going chaos has not been created by Kalmadi alone. The collective responsibility of the trouble should be taken by the Organising Committee, a body that consists of more than 400 members of little or no background in sports and other incompetent officials working in various capacities who saw the Games just as a money-milking cow than a matter of national pride.

That the authorities concerned had seven years - CWG was awarded to India in 2003 -- to complete the work of Games Village and venues has only added to the magnitude of their crime. A point Mike Hooper, the CEO of the Commonwealth Games Federation, stressed upon recently.

“We have given CWG to them seven years ago. If the Village is still not completed, if all-round work is still going on then the responsibility of all this is entirely on the Indian authorities. We can only give them ideas and guidelines, implementation is solely their job and I think seven years were a good enough time frame,” Hooper said.

As an important member of the CWG, Hooper cannot wash his hands off the responsibility for the trouble going around. But there is an element of truth in his words. Glasgow, host of the 2014 CWG, has already completed 75 per cent of the work, including the Games Village. While nobody expects such kind of professionalism in a public sector undertaking that the CWG largely has become in India, work should have been finished at least six months ago.

But we preferred to sleep over the entire preparation process, leaving everything for the eleventh hour as evidenced by the collapsed foot over-bridge near the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the main venue of the CWG. The woes have been compounded by faulty allocation of contracts, nepotism, extensive corruption in handling the funds and heavy in-fighting between the officials. The squabbling among the officials had reached such a stage that they even could not agree upon the number of cleaners to be employed at the Games Village.

Squabbling mess

“We needed at least 1,000 workers to clean the residential blocks. But what they finally allotted to us was some 90 workers.  We even tried to tell them about the consequences but to no avail. The disaster in the Games Village was bound to happen,” an official with a cleaning firm said.

Olympic dreams

The image of India’s organisational ability has faded to a large extent after the CWG fiasco. It, perhaps, has also taught India the downside of conducting an event of the magnitude of the CWG; anything less than a Perfect 10 effort will be viewed as a failure and the need to thrust aside politicians and bureaucrats from sports administration. The 19th edition of the CWG was projected by Kalmadi & Co as a leaping-board for the 2020 Olympic bid, but that desire now certainly can be thrown into a trash bin.

But has India lost its moral right to bid for another international sporting event in the future? The answer could be in the negative but the global community will need large-scale assurances now for India to get another big sporting event. That’s not impossible.

As a nation with a rich history of defeating odds and changing perception, India needs to script another splendid tale of grit in one of its biggest crisis hours.

 

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