New York: Continuing his tirade against the just-concluded Commonwealth Games, former Sports Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar on Sunday said India should have focused on improving the plight of its poor instead of spending thousands of crores on the event which only "denigrated" its image.
"Tell me if your stadium is empty why not invite the children of those labourers who built the stadium to come in and sit down," Aiyar, the most vocal critic of the Delhi Commonwealth Games, told a news agency here. "But no, this was a middle class party."
"So only PLUs (people like us) were given the opportunity of coming in and they didn`t come in adequate numbers," the Congress MP said, noting that Rs 960 crores spent on renovating the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium could have been put to better use.
Aiyar also claimed that no single event had done more damage to India`s image in the past 63 years since independence than the recent Commonwealth Games.
"I don`t think the world has ever denigrated us and in such obscene language as we have seen happening in the past few weeks," he said.
"Rs 70,000 crores to get ourselves a bad name," the former minister said, referring to the total amount spent on the 12-day mega sporting event.
On whether the Games were a success as declared by the Indian government, Aiyar claimed that the event had failed to position India as a top player on the global stage.
"I`m not sure we`ve attained the objective we had of projecting ourselves as a great rising economic power to the Western world or even to Africa," he said.
Given India`s poverty and inability to provide basic health care to millions of women and children, Aiyar said that the question is not whether the Games were successful but whether so much money should have been invested in the event.
In view of talks that India is ready to host the Olympics as well, the former minister urged that CWG should be seen as a deterrent for India hosting mega sporting events, and noted that sports in India would be better served if the money was spent on the athletes and not stadia.
"I see no reason at all why we should create this perversion of national priorities," Aiyar said. "We must get back to the fundamental goal of poverty alleviation."
"95 percent of our youth have no access to organised sports and games," he said, calling for "making India a sporting nation rather than a nation that hosts sports events."
On being pointed out that China and South Africa had pulled off the Olympic Games and the football World Cup respectively while dealing with developmental issues, Aiyar stressed that China was already a "fantastic sporting nation" and South Africa had plenty of financial help from outside.
"Huge number of Chinese children and Chinese youth are given full facilities to develop their sporting talent," he said. "They are a sporting nation that then hosted a sporting event ... we are not ... we have to become a sporting nation first."
On whether the criticism of the CWG was fair, Aiyar said, "Why are you making the Games a test of patriotism."
"Is it patriotic to have done the games in such a way that the first action of the Prime Minister after the games are over is to appoint a probe team to look into malfeasance, inefficiency and possible corruption," he said.