The ghosts of Commonwealth Games 2010 haven’t been laid to rest yet. But the new government is keen on moving on.
Its wish to host another edition of Asian Games in New Delhi in 2019 has sparked a debate between the optimists and sceptics, who believe that it will be difficult to pull off such an international event without burning their fingers.
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While Delhi already has adequate sporting infrastructure built for CWG, ensuring an honest and disciplined team of organisers will be a different ballgame altogether.
“We can’t go by past failures. Such an event will be a good opportunity for urban regeneration which unfortunately could not happen during the Commonwealth Games. At that time, several areas in Delhi were simply spruced up for athletes and outsiders,” said KT Ravindran, urban design expert and a former dean at School of Planning and Infrastructure.
He added that these events should only be seen as a way to channelise funds towards solving urban problems by intelligent planning. He said while Delhi was better equipped than Hanoi (which was earlier supposed to host the Games), it will still need to upgrade its infrastructure well in time.
“Also, the authorities should think of hosting the Games in another city or maybe in the northeast so that they can see development,” Ravindran added.
Despite knowing that Delhi will host CWG in October 2010, many projects could not be completed till even a few months before the event. But Delhi Government officials are confident they can pull it off again if given freedom and support. A senior PWD official said, “We did in two years what other countries take up to seven years to do.”
He admitted that the actual work then had started at the 11th hour because of multiplicity of agencies and the infighting between the sports ministry and the organizing committee headed by Suresh Kalmadi. “In London, people were still working from 9 am to 5 pm to prepare for the Games. We had to work round-the-clock,” he added.
There were 6,081 athletes from 71 nations who participated in 272 events across 21 sports in the 2010 Games.
But the Asian Games are likely to be much bigger than CWG. “Asian Games are longer and have several sports which CWG does not have. For instance, Delhi will have to create infrastructure for football. India is obsessed with hosting events. The Junior Football World Cup is also coming up in 2017. I think we should first get our own Indian Olympic Association (IOA) in order,” said Novy Kapadia, associate professor and sports commentator.
Former sports minister and Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyyar termed the idea a plan of the BJP to prepare for general elections in 2019. “It’s tragic. It was BJP that got us to host the CWG also. They should rather use the money to build sporting talent in India. The BJP’s priorities are all wrong. I will pray that it does not win the bid,” he said.