I write this as the closing ceremony of the 2010 Commonwealth Games is on the television. One look at that idiotic, obscenely costly aerostat (Helium balloon) and you want to put some people before a firing squad.
A 7-point post-mortem of the games:
1. India's high medal tally does not amount to much in the bigger picture.
The level of competition provided in the Commonwealth Games is nowhere near that of the Olympics. For example, India won 22 gold medals in Melbourne games, but could manage only one in the Beijing Olympic Games. Also remember the absence of big stars like Usain Bolt, Stephanie Rice and others.
2. Opening ceremonies and closing ceremonies are actually tragedies.
Forget all that spiel of cultural diversity and national pride. Everything put on show is fake. In the highly successful Beijing Olympics, it was later revealed that that organizers had faked the television pictures of its firework display, and had ordered "cheer squads" to fill venues.
Today, as the closing ceremony goes on, the whole of Delhi has been virtually shut down. Markets are closed in the name of security. Buses are off the streets. Government servants are off duty. All in the service of national pride, huh? And, all this during festive Navratra season.
3. Do not forget the corruption.
One gets the feeling that media wants us to forget all the wrongdoing of Kalmadi, Government officers and private contractors who milked the taxpayer's money to their heart's content.
From a Times of India story:
In 2005, Transparency International said more one out of every two Indians had firsthand experience of paying a bribe or peddling influence to get the job done in a government office. That includes getting a ration card or a marriage certificate or registering an FIR.
In 2009, a survey of Asia's leading economies revealed that Indian bureaucracy was the least efficient and working with Indian babus was a "slow and painful “process.
Last year, India was ranked 84 out 180 countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index
4. Whose Games were these?
The Games people kept the common Indian citizen a prisoner/outcast in one's own city. The government shifted out beggars from the city. It put barrier boards to hide the slums from the visitors. For most part of the games, stadiums were almost empty. This writer preferred to watch India-Australia test matches on Television.
5. Big name international sports events are 'loot fests'.
The Indian Express reported about 32 + officials in the games organizing committee to be relatives of senior officials in the various sports federations. International sports organizations work hand-in-hand with private contractors, famous people and government officials in selling nationalism and (temporary) glory to newly resurgent governments at city and national levels. Delhi is not alone in having a rich roster of corrupt people.
Less than 4 years after the Athens Olympics, Greece faced its worst financial crisis ever. As this Guardian columnists says, 'The truth is that money spent on chauvinism is money freed of reason and accountability'.
When someone in Australia pointed out that Indians bribed other commonwealth nations to 'win' the Delhi games, one forgets to note that it was the people in those countries' sports associations that took the bribe money. Fact is, most international sports organizations are bleak fiefdoms, devoid of any accountability or openness.
The Guardian says this about the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games,
It was in this spirit that the International Olympic Committee encouraged the Chinese before 2008 to spend over $33bn on flattering its members with an array of costly sepulchres, in return for China's admission to "the community of nations", to which the IOC claimed to control entry. Some 1.5 million Beijing citizens were evicted to make way for subsequently useless stadiums, including the celebrated Bird's Nest.
A historic section of the city's remaining hutong area was flattened, protesters were jailed and China's tourism economy was wrecked for a year, a saga catalogued in a report this week from the European Tour Operators Association. It warned against thinking of sports festivals as bonanzas for anyone but building contractors. Similarly the CGF pretended that its Games would bring "hundreds of thousands of tourists" to India. Almost none have materialized.
Celebrities milk the games too: Actors like Saif Ali Khan were paid to dance during the closing ceremony of Melbourne games, 'inviting' people to Delhi. he did not even bother to check out the games himself. Even AR Rehman, who usually churns out hummable tunes, took Rupees Six crores to create a theme song that everyone hated. Later, he modified the theme a bit, and now it hears like an advertisement for nutritional supplement.
6. The concept of Commonwealth itself is outdated and useless.
Did you remember the fracas about who would inaugurate the games? Prince Charles or the Indian President? Now, what legitimacy does Prince Charles have in our democratic, republican setup?
One also thinks that as far as sporting quality goes, the Commonwealth games are way below even the Asian games. It remains to be seen how many medals we would have won in shooting and wrestling with China and Japan participating.
7. Three people were the main villains of the games.
There was Kalmadi and his group in the organizing committee. Then you had the sports minister, MS Gill, an old man, totally uninterested in any sports, whatsoever and his people in the sports ministry. He only wanted to have his pictures taken with the medal winners. Finally, you have Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit, who played the role of a female version of Nero to perfection. One especially liked her cool, unsympathetic responses to the disasters as the games people fumbled at one thing or another.
One gets the idea that the higher-ups deliberately avoided creating a central commanding authority for the games. A sampling of the government departments that took part in the loot
- Indian Olympic Committee, Commonwealth Games organizing committee, Central public works department, Delhi Development Authority, Centre government, Delhi State government,
Final word: Next time you hear about India's chances of hosting Olympic games in 2020, ask whether they are first going to build sports facilities in every school in India. Boss, the kids just don't have any place to play!