This was one of those expansive statements that the then mayor of Montreal, Jean Drapeu, would never live down. “The Montreal Olympics can no more have a deficit, than a man can have a baby.”
It is estimated that costs for the 1976 Summer Olympics went over four times what was originally planned. One-sixth of every cent Montreal’s smokers spent went towards clearing up the financial mess. And Quebecois and Canadians were paying off the debt till at least November 2006, 30 years after those Games, leading to the Olympic stadium being nicknamed “Big Owe”.
When you look at that figure, the thought of Delhi 2010 is rather scary — a possible rise of 600-700 per cent and all the agencies involved, public and private, still want more money. We’re just talking of the funds here; the larger picture is far gloomier.
Over the last four days, we’ve tried to bring you a picture of how things actually stand with the Games in Delhi, but it’s a picture that is necessarily hazy — because everyone involved is still confused. Here are four basic issues that we hope someone is looking at.
After the Games, what?
The 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester had several pre-fabricated temporary structures that could be taken down because the organisers were aware that some of these places would be of no use later.
Manchester’s City of Manchester Stadium, specifically built for the Games, was given over to Man City FC for their use in 2003, so that took care of the associated costs of building the stadium. All Delhi’s structures will be permanent, which is fine if they will be maintained and utilised but going by the way we let our stadiums rot following the 1982 Asiad, the possibility of wastage of funds and resources is high. Is someone looking at that?
Ignoring the public
Most countries that have hosted major games have had active public participation. Volunteer programmes have begun up to three years in advance, dummy runs have prepared the public for traffic problems. In Beijing, there was a separate lane on all major roads for Olympic-related traffic, no one crossed into that lane. India promised a similar lane. Two questions here: One, where is the space for a separate lane on the congested roads? And two, given Delhi’s notoriously bad traffic sense, will people stay off a relatively empty lane? Who’s going to educate them?
Normally, organising major events is given over to a dedicated group who then handle all aspects from conception to completion. We have a revolving door policy. In the time since India initially drafted and then won the bid in Montego Bay in late 2003, we’ve had six Sports Ministers —Vikram Verma, Sunil Dutt, Prithiviraj Singh Chauhan, Oscar Fernandes, Mani Shankar Aiyer and now, M.S. Gill. We’ve
had four Secretary (Sports) and four DGs of the Sports Authority of India. All of this has contributed to the chaos. Will this finally end?
Instead of having an elite group of athletes to train, the Sports Minister announced to Parliament recently that “state of the art training” would be provided to 1280 sportspersons in 18 disciplines and about 700 crore is being spent on this. ‘Everyone’ (many with no chance of participation) has obviously been accommodated! This defies logic, both because coaches cannot concentrate on an elite few and because this will divert funds meant for training those few.
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