Here’s the face of sporting disgrace

Vineet Sharma

It is truly a loathsome sight when the realm of sport is encroached by the filthiest of politics, ego satiation and rampant corruption. Athletes of this planet dedicate every breath to the game that they worship and strive for excellence in the hope that their sportsmanship will pave way for sublime harmony amongst all.

However, we in India have managed to take from the not-so-inspiring unethical precedents of the world to deliver the Commonwealth Games 2010. Surely, the mascot ‘Shera’ an endangered lion, has been anthromorphed into an embodiment of lies, deceit and treachery.

It is with shame that one writes something like this, but one look at the illogical justifications makes it a bitter pill that has to be swallowed. How can we even attempt to justify the obnoxious amounts spent in the Games preparations when an even bigger event could have been staged along with a lifelong system of producing world class athletes, a rarity for the world’s second largest population, for a similar sum?

India`s bid document for Delhi Games in 2003 estimated the cost of hosting at Rs 1,899 crores. Over the years, official cost estimate has gone up by more than a whopping 500% and unofficial assessments put the escalation at a mind numbing 1575%. After several revisions, the estimates now range from an official figure of Rs 10,000 crore to independent estimates of Rs 30,000 crore. The opposition in the meanwhile is busy trying to gain leverage, bringing in another figure of Rs 1 lakh crores.

Even if the government can come up with tonnes of documents showing that the deals were done according to the fabled Indian ‘procedure’, shouldn’t it consider this a slap on its face that its finest chosen few got the maths of holding an event so wrong? Imagine, we could have been thrown into a deeper economic deficit if we had successfully bid for the Olympics!

It would not be wrong to say that barring the athletes who are sweating it out with almost less than average equipment and training facilities, every other citizen of the country hardly attaches any ‘sport’ related interest in the mega-event.

Is this what the mascot will remind the future generations? Even before the onset of the Games, we have managed to turn them into a blot for the sporting history of India.

The oft quoted ‘1982 Asiad’ had Appu, the kid elephant, as its mascot. It stood for pride and cultural heritage, became a part and parcel of everyday talks and was recognized throughout the length and breadth of the nation. The testimony to his popularity can be seen even today in many Indian households where parents nickname their child as ‘Appu’. Move out of Delhi, NCR and metros, it’ll not be surprising to see that 90% of the country’s population doesn’t even know what the mascot for the CWG looks like or its name, let alone attach any sense of pride with it. What a contrast!

Times have changed since 1982, but our leaders are still basking in the nostalgia, and quoting elaborate ‘shayari’ in Lok Sabha when asked to explain the fiasco.

Indian government’s promise that it would provide USD 100,000 to each participating country, along with air tickets, boarding, lodging and transport is justified, for it brings in an unprecedented number of world athletes and dignitaries, paving another cultural and sporting milestone. But how can we justify renting treadmills at Rs 10 lakh when the latest ones used the world over cost just a fraction. What was the need to rent a USD 60,000 machine that is discontinued by even the developed countries and have been replaced by more efficient, cheaper models? These are just two examples, when the money of this magnitude is involved, surely everything that was touched by the CWG officials will make similarly startling figures.

All of this tax-payers’ money has been spent on the Commonwealth Games- a "Pan-Britannic-Pan-Anglican Contest and Festival every four years as a means of increasing the goodwill and good understanding of the British Empire" – (Reverend Astley Cooper 1891). Surely, we don’t need such expensive reminders of the suppression of centuries by the occident.

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