If the facial expressions of the bosses who have come from the Olympic Council of Asia to evaluate New Delhi’s bid to host the 2014 Asian Games are any indicator, then the Capital could well come out ahead of Incheon in Korea.
In what is a two-way battle for hosting the Games, it has been left to Messrs Celso Dayrit, chairman of the evaluation committee and his team — Natalya Sipovich, Abdul Ghani Tabbalat, Haider and Vinod Kumar Tiwari — to choose the city.
Friday was the first day when New Delhi made its case to being the hosts. And Indian Olympic Association boss Suresh Kalmadi, who has seen this all quite a few times before, spoke eloquently on how it was not just New Delhi bidding, but the whole nation being behind it. After all, India has won the bid to host the Commonwealth Games in 2010.
“After the inaugural edition was held here in 1951, New Delhi was again the venue in 1982. So, it would be effectively 32 years later if we get the Games. India is prepared on all fronts to host the Games and from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to CII boss Gautam Thapar, and the youth of the nation, we have everyone ready for this,” said Kalmadi.
These views were endorsed by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Lt Governor BL Joshi, and Union Sports Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar.
After the morning speeches, it was time for the evaluation panel to sample what the youth of the nation wanted. And what better venue than Delhi Public School, RK Puram, where students voiced their desire for the Capital to host the Games. There was a short cultural presentation as well, with two dance pieces presented by the students that caught the eye of the visiting delegates. It reflected the ethos of a nation with vast diversities.
And when Celso Dayrit, addressing the children in the open, asked if they wanted the Games in 2014, there was a loud roar in unison. “Yeeesss.” On his part, Dayrit said New Delhi had a good chance, but then, the final decision would come only in April.
In the afternoon, the delegation visited the Dhyan Chand Stadium. They saw the area at the reception where the first Asian Games flame was lit in 1951. And inside the conference hall, DG, Sports Authority of India, RP Watal, made a presentation on the five SAI stadia which could be used even in 2014 with proper upgradation.
And as the delegation prepared to leave for the next stop, the Nehru Stadium, they had to take a break and go for the photo-op before Dhyan Chand's statue. They had heard of his wizardry in the past when hockey was played on natural turf.
Being at the Dhyan Chand Stadium was like revisiting a historic venue, which surely will still be standing in front of the majestic India Gate even in 2014.
So does New Delhi stand a chance? It seems to have a strong case, especially since in the case of Incheon, the city is behind the bid and not the nation. Moreover, it was only four years ago that Busan hosted the Asian Games, in 2002.