By T S Sudhir
Talk to any friend from Delhi and you would have spoken to a very unhappy soul. Dilli which pats itself on being bharat ka dil aur jaan is now caught between a rock and a hard place. And in between a lot of gravel and construction material, large pools of water, the Yamuna in spate, armies of mosquitoes and a monsoon tap that urgently needs a plumber. The list goes on. The dilliwallah with the ubiquitious sab theek ho jayega attitude now mutters profanities at the Commonwealth Games.
If Asiad 1982 transformed Delhi for the better, CWG 2010 has dealt it a body blow. Gora after gora comes and gives gyaan on how unlivable the facilities are. Fennell, Hooper, Tom, Dick and Harry have issues with workers using the toilets at the Games village and canines loitering around the premises. Yes, CWG has gone to the dogs, literally.
In the midst of all this, I read a news item about Glasgow, which is to host the 2014 CWG. 70 per cent of its venues were already in place when Glasgow won the bid in November 2007. In sharp contrast, late-lateef Delhi began the tendering process for the Games only in 2008. I wonder if we can at this stage, swap dates. Glasgow does 2010 and I am sure, if Suresh Kalmadi and team get four more years, we will indeed host a “world-class games”, with “a village that will be better than the one at Beijing Olympics”. More power and optimism to you, Mr Kalmadi.
It is not as though Team Kalmadi hasn’t delivered successful games before. The IOA president will boast about the Afro-Asian Games in Hyderabad in 2003. In fact, it was the successful conduct of these Games that Kalmadi & Co. showcased in Jamaica, that enabled India to win the CWG bid in the face of stiff competition from Canada.
But to credit Kalmadi with the glory of Afro-Asian games would be wrong. Just like Rajiv Gandhi in 1982, it was Chandrababu Naidu who personally drove this event.
Yes, Afro-Asian Games did not have had the glitz and glamour that is associated with the CWG, but then, Hyderabad played host to 96 countries, eleven more than Delhi’s 85. Hyderabad spent 150 crore rupees on constructing all its stadia, Delhi has spent 990 crores just to renovate Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, that was constructed in 1982. The total bill at 65000 crores on building stadia and other infrastructure in Delhi makes one’s heart bleed. Can India afford to spend so much just on one city, even if it is to showcase our national capital?
Kalmadi is everyone’s favourite fall guy, the butt of SMS jokes but don’t forget, the joke is now on us.
Having hung on to the top job in the Indian Olympic Association since 1996, the man from Pune has tenacity in his DNA. And having been in the Indian Air Force and fought the 1965 and ’71 wars, Kalmadi knows a thing or two about being bombed. He still hangs in there, promising all will be well.
Fellow Congressman Jaipal Reddy has caught on too, doing a Rancho Aamir Khan. Ditto M S Gill, who doesn’t realise the country is sick of his “yeh shaadi ke time ka confusion hai and everything will be sorted out last minute” Punjabi metaphor. Are Kalmadi, Jaipal and Gill doing a `3 idiots’ on India?
That’s precisely how the country is feeling like now. A land of idiots. My friend Ganesh Vaidyanathan writes to me from the UK : “Terrible coverage here in the UK of India’s preparedness for CWG 2010. It makes me hang my head in shame as an Indian.” Ironically, India’s bid motto was `New frontiers and friendships’. Dilliwallahs would concur because indeed, sab hadh paar kar di hai.
1982 and 2003 worked because in both cases, there was one man in charge. In Delhi, where power flows from the lal batthi on top of a car and every third person is a VIP, the levers of control and power operate in a rather complicated manner. Too many cooks preparing the broth means everyone assumes the next guy is accountable. Who is answerable for too much or no salt (or cement and nuts and bolts in this case), no one cares to ask and the result is the foot overbridge at the Nehru stadium collapses.
It is not rocket science to comprehend that a lot of uncommon people have made a lot of wealth in the Commonwealth Games. Sports is all about character building. Here commentators are accusing CWG 2010 of being a cash and carry enterprise. Mani Shankar Aiyer, one of the early whistleblowers on these Games, calls it “a circus and a stupid set of Games”.
Caesar’s wife should be above suspicion. Yet none of those, at who the needle of suspicion pointed when the can of worms opened a couple of months ago, have been kept away from CWG work. Prime minister Manmohan Singh, widely spoken of as a man of integrity, needs to answer how he can tolerate unclean men and women around him, and in charge of a prestigious event. Only a blind government could have turned a blind eye to the corruption and quality of work. High time the PM gets his hands dirty and becomes a part of the solution.
Ten days to go, the countdown is well and truly on. India has landed with muck on the face, after spending 65000 crore rupees. Rather costly muck this. It is the taxpayer’s hardearned money that has been dumped in the Yamuna. No wonder, the river is repeatedly flashing the danger sign.
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