The vote of no-confidence from Union sports minister Mani Shankar Aiyar on India’s plans to bid for the 2014 Asian Games has not deterred the sports bureaucracy. Bid we will, not only for the Asian Games but even for the 2016 Olympics, seems to be the prevalent mood. Mr Aiyar’s charge that such sporting events have no relevance for the common man is taking things too far. If such events generate enough revenue, this could be used to the benefit of the common man through investing in relevant infrastructure. The spin-off benefit could be that India’s image will get a boost on the global stage. The worrying part is that none of this is likely to happen. Sports officials concede that preparations for the Commonwealth Games are way behind schedule. On paper, there are grand plans to renovate airports, improve roads, add more surface transport and improve security. But, as we all know, the capital is reeling from several civic problems, ranging from lack of power and water to traffic congestion. Can we expect that all this will vanish in just three years?
The argument that the infrastructure that will be put in place for the Commonwealth Games will stand future sports meets in good stead is specious. We are notoriously poor at maintenance and all the structures put in place will most likely fall to pieces shortly after the Games. The capital’s overstretched infrastructure is ill-equipped to cope with the influx of 8,000 athletes and officials, not to speak of tourists. If we are hoping to enhance our image, the opposite could well take place, given the uncouth behaviour of many Delhiites. To prevent any untoward incidents, security will have to be stepped up in the capital, adding to the woes of ordinary citizens. The Games village will need uninterrupted power and water. Where will we get this from?
Yes, granted an aspiring global player cannot afford to think small, but let there be no doubt that we must be realistic. Sports officials would do well to be transparent about why they are so optimistic. Perhaps this would dispel some of the misgivings many have about India trying to host these mega events.