Straying from the path of excellence

A scene from the Indian segment at the closing of the Melbourne Games in 2006. Perhaps that is why the memory of that wonderful 2006 night in Melbourne, when India received the Commonwealth Games baton from Australia, is being fast replaced by images of shoddy New Delhi preparations.

These days, does anyone talk about that night when Indian art, artistry and heartthrobs stormed the consciousness of the packed audience at the Melbourne Cricket Ground? The best sporting venue on the planet was witness to a short and sweet parade of India’s diverse cultural ethos then as this country welcomed the nations of the Commonwealth to its capital city.

“You guys nearly stole the show,” said a wonder-struck South African journalist at the end of that 11-minute cameo during the closing ceremony of the 18th edition. Confidence replaced apprehension and a wave of optimism swept through the Indian ranks then.

Four years on, anxiety and fear rule. Will it really happen? And what will happen if it happens?

A touch of nervousness is understandable but this anxiety is that of an unprepared kid ahead of a major exam.

Around the world, nations use big sporting events to showcase their might and status, and even as a tool to proclaim their ideologies. The culture of a country stamps its imprint on the event, giving it a face and character that stay for ever.

Melbourne memories

Visitors to Melbourne for the 2006 Games – participants, officials and fans – carried home images of a nation madly in love with sport. Of course, they were partisan but the passion with which they embraced sport and their commitment to the job on hand made it a memorable experience.   

It wasn’t very different in Sydney which hosted the Millennium Olympic Games in 2000. Near-perfect organisation and efficient volunteers coupled with great action on the field made visitors feel like they were in sporting gods’ favourite playground.

The Beijing Olympics in 2008 was China’s coming out party. The Communist regime had a point to prove to the world and they put their heart and soul into making it one of the best-planned exercises you would ever witness.

The Chinese, who returned to the Summer Olympics fold after three decades in 1984, had laid stress on achieving excellence on the field before making bids for major sporting events. By the time the Olympics crossed the Great Wall, they were ready to conquer the world, the collective will of the people leading to amazing venues and smooth organisation that earned praise from around the world.

China at it again

Reports from China indicate a similar ruthlessly efficient organisation when they host the Asian Games for the second time, at Guangzhou in November.

In contrast, the mad scramble to the tape and the corruption scandals in the lead-up to the Delhi Games, sadly, reflect the ways of a land that has strayed from the path of excellence. Inability to grasp the task on hand, lack of proper planning and a propensity to duck responsibility have put an indelible black mark on this nation. No success on the sporting arena will help erase this bitterest of memories.

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