India’s last-minute dash to bid for the 2019 Asian Games is coming undone, with the government worried about the financial implications and political costs, in case of a scandal, as the event coincides with an election year.
India decided to enter the race last month after Vietnamese capital Hanoi that was awarded the Games in November 2012 pulled out in April, citing financial issues.
Reeling under the Commonwealth Games scandal, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) had not participated in the initial bidding. But this time, the government seems to have some reservations. It was worried about the huge costs involved when fiscal deficit was ballooning, sources said.
“The infrastructure required to host such an event has huge financial implications. If we choose Delhi as venue, then everything that was created for the Commonwealth Games is of no use. Most of the money was pilfered and very little infrastructure was created,” an official told HT on Monday, on condition of anonymity.
Moreover, the Games coincide with the next general elections due 2019 and even a whiff of scandal could prove detrimental for the government, sources said.
The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), the continent’s sports governing body that conducts Asian Games, had extended its July 1 deadline to month-end but that might not help.
“We were very positive in trying to bid. But there was serious time constraint,” sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal told HT.
“We got the first letter from the IOA on June 26 when our government was just over a month old while the OCA deadline was July 1,” he said. “We had very little time to finalise the bid document which we failed to do despite our best efforts.”
IOA was never serious about the bid, a ministry official said. It had not even applied for the mandatory clearances from the ruling party, main opposition party and the mayor of the host city as required by the Asian Games authority.
The IOC bid proposal, said another official, sought R5,500 crore just for the Games. Total cost -- infrastructure, security, Games Village etc. -- could easily be about R40,000 crore. “Where would so much money come from?” the official said. The government sought details of proposed expenditure but the IOA didn’t get back, the official said.
The IOA conceded it was over. “We have not received any response from the PMO or the sports ministry or the OCA. It will be very difficult now to make the bid,” IOA secretary-general Rajeev Mehta said.
New Delhi hosted the first Asian Games in 1951 and the ninth in 1982.