A brightly painted highrise opposite Jantar Mantar was frequently in the spotlight in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games, 2010, though often for the wrong reasons.
It was here that games organising committee functioned from. The real scene of action was its ninth floor, the top level that housed the bigwigs of the sports fraternity. A level lower was the conference hall and games time operational centre. The rest of the floors were allocated to other office-bearers, as per their precedence, in the descending order.
The spectator services team, which I headed, was located at levels one and two. In our sports culture, it is the VVIPs who are the prima donna of any sporting event, contrary to the western tradition, where ordinary spectators are the privileged lot. Giving the common man a memorable experience was our motto, but it figured low on the agenda in the larger scheme of things.
One afternoon we had gathered in the conference hall for organising a test event. By 4pm, everyone was seated, patiently awaiting the arrival of the heavyweights. In accordance with protocol, heads of sports federations, a majority being seasoned veterans having spent better years in managing a particular sports discipline, were seated around the inner circle, while other professionals, the silent voices, occupied the periphery. As a majority of the top management members wore dual hats being politicians, trustees or activists with multiple engagements, such meetings usually started late.
Around 5pm, the key figures arrived and the conference got off to a business-like start. Soon, the knives were out. The proceedings acquired political overtones, losing sight of the agenda. The silent voices raised some pertinent issues that left us with more questions than answers. The veterans were in a tight spot to address facets of multi-discipline games, requiring in-depth domain expertise.
To evade the reality and bail out the stalwarts, the organisers decided to play by the ear and sort the issues on the ground. The meeting concluded in confusion. There were plenty of lessons that were driven home when the test event was conducted; the most pertinent one -- experience by itself is no substitute for professionalism.
During interactions, the issue of interface between politics and sports often cropped up. As it emerged, sports activity per se, is confined to the field of play. Beyond this, it is all politics. Therefore, who else can protect the larger interest of the game other than politicians? On one occasion, a sports honcho said in lighter vein, "In a healthy democracy, politicians ought to imbibe sportsman spirit. Through sports administration, this facet is adequately taken care of.
Besides, it also helps to mentor sportspersons for their future role as key functionaries in various bodies. It is a win-win situation, blessing in disguise!" "So sports and politics are a gums and teeth relationship," I quipped. The veteran retorted, "The only difference is -- while teeth desert the gums in old age, in this case the bondage is eternal."
The landmark building later saw dramatic change in fortunes. The ninth level came under the scanner and wore a ghostly look, with most occupants relocating to Tihar. They put up a brave face and assured well-wishers that they'd soon be back to run the show.
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