After Rio de Janeiro won the 2016 Olympic Games bid, many in India began nurturing hopes of staging the world’s largest sporting extravaganza in 2020. But those hopes came crashing down on Wednesday when Sports Minister MS Gill said a poor country such as India should not be thinking about hosting the Olympics.
“I’m not sure if India should be thinking of the Olympics. Look at the poverty here...China spent $50 billion for the Beijing Olympics. Are you ready to spend that much?” Gill said in the Rajya Sabha, during a discussion on the status of preparation for Commonwealth Games 2010.
In Gill’s words, the cost of the competition and training venues for the 2010 Games works out to around Rs 4,100 crore. Besides, the government has sanctioned Rs 1,620 crore for the Organising Committee. Going by that logic, why is India then hosting the Commonwealth Games?
It was Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan who broached the subject by suggesting that efficient conduct of the Games could pave the way for an Olympics bid. “Some of our colleagues and people outside casually say we should be bidding for the Olympics…. I don’t think so,” Gill said. He said a certain class of Indians favoured the idea of hosting the Olympics because of the entertainment value.
Jaya Bachchan took offence at Gill’s remarks, saying he had made “a personal comment.” A range of political parties raised doubts over the government’s ability to pull off the 2010 Games in the Upper House during the “calling attention” on the preparation for these Games.
After Gill assured the House that the govt and the Organising Committee were committed to completing all preparations for the 2010 Games, Jaya Bachchan said, “It’s such a big joke…kab (when), kaise (how)? It will be the most humiliating experience for India.”
Members bombarded Gill with a volley of questions ranging from security, infrastructure, accommodation, misuse of funds to completion of projects. According to Gill’s eight-page reply in the House, only one out of the 14 competition venues has been completed so far. Gill said, “Let’s come out of it with dignity and honour so we do not have to face an embarrassment.”
Just before India was planning to send its bid for the 2016 Olympic Games, the then sports minister Mani Shankar Aiyar shot it down reportedly saying that India was not in a position to spend such large sums.
With the 2020 Olympic bid process scheduled to start in 2011, India's chances have again been dealt a big blow — this time by MS Gill.