Lagging behind in the race
India’s boast of being only the third developing country — after Jamaica in 1966 and Malaysia in 1998 — to host the Commonwealth Games is starting to ring a bit hollow. Although local and central government agencies in New Delhi —the venue of the Games — have drawn up big plans, there’s no significant progress on the ground, with some key infrastructure projects like building new hotels floundering. The question is whether the authorities can meet deadlines for infrastructure development and convince the Commonwealth Games Federation that it made the right decision in awarding the Games to India. Just as important, even if the authorities manage to save their blushes, can they guarantee that Delhi would not be worse off after the Games?
The last time India hosted a mega sporting event — the Asian Games in 1982 — Delhi received a virtual capital facelift, adding several flyovers and new roads to its sports infrastructure. These, along with some big stadiums that came up then, now lie in a general state of disuse. Similar is the fate of stadiums at many other centres that hosted the National Games since 1985. The government should set up special committees to ensure that all these structures are maintained properly even after the Games and the facilities are extended to the public. Maybe it could learn from authorities in China who are already geared up to ensure that participants in the 2008 Beijing Olympics breathe unpolluted air, eat healthy food, and travel quickly, and to help Chinese athletes win more medals. A think tank of scientists focuses on hundreds of projects aimed at making the Beijing Games a festival of high-technology. These are evidently not one-off novelties, but based on the long-term goals of any country that opts for such international events.
Sports authorities have a huge responsibility to show commitment and dedication in organising such meets as they are an opportunity to display the country’s wealth of human skill and extraordinary achievements. Such events help to transform existing infrastructure and facilities, generate massive employment and wealth, and spawn tax and tourist income for the host government on an unprecedented scale.