The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president and chairman of the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, Suresh Kalmadi, has been at the helm of Indian sport for ages.
Kalmadi believes that bringing mega-events to India will enhance the country's prestige, and that's why India pushed hard for the 2010 Delhi Games, spending millions on its bidding. The Games are finally upon us and Kalmadi is in the hot seat.
Are you satisfied with the preparations?
The preparations are on track in every field, including infrastructure, training of athletes etc. Work on some venues is ahead of schedule, while some venues are lagging behind slightly. We were lucky that we got the Commonwealth Youth Games (CYG at Pune last year).
It has helped us shortlist the core group of sportspersons in each discipline. Very soon we will finalise the list of foreign coaches and trainers. Negotiations are on with states to get access to their training facilities and hostels.
We are going to have world-class test events like the hockey World Cup etc and several CWG preparatory competitions before the mega-event. Ten sports federations have been awarded Asian and world level competitions before the Games. We are expecting 8,000 sportspersons and officials for the Games, so we have to test everything right from transport to Games Village facilities etc.
Have you been to any of the venues preparing athletes for the Games?
The process has started and I'll be going to each and every venue to see the progress.
You drew a lot of flak for spending crores on showcasing India at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games and the fact that you pledged astronomical sums to 71 Commonwealth countries for preparing athletes for the Games. Can a country like India afford this magnanimity?
It's customary that wherever the Games are being held, the next country hosting the event has to be part of the closing ceremony. The whole world is watching, so you cannot ignore that fact. In the end, everybody appreciated.
As for giving the 71 Commonwealth countries money to prepare their athletes, you should understand that the bidding process has got very competitive. Canada once proposed a huge amount and we lost the bid. We then formulated a policy to give money to participating countries through the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF).