CWG 2010: Scoring high on glory and ignominy (Year after CWG)

New Delhi: Flashback time or looking at the sporting road ahead? No easy answers even one year after the Commonwealth Games with the grand opening ceremony and rich medals haul almost fading in memory as the men behind the multimillion rupee event continue to be behind bars on charges of corruption and many of the lavish stadiums lie in disuse.

Scepticism runs deep over the 2010 Commonwealth Games, mired in corruption scandals with investigators still unravelling instances of financial irregularities.

For some, the 101 medals won at the Oct 3-14, 2010, Games was a step towards India becoming a sporting nation. For others, the graft cases, involving at least 25 officials of the Organising Committee (OC), are the insurmountable hurdles on the track towards true spirit of sport.

The national capital did benefit of course. Twenty-five overbridges and flyovers, several foot overbridges and sleek-looking low floor red and green buses were introduced. But the much trumpeted Games village lies in neglect as do the many sporting venues.

The excellent performance by players in the CWG saw the government earmarking a record Rs.260 crore ($53 million) for training and competition ahead of the London Olympics.

But questions have arisen on how far the 19th Commonwealth Games (CWG) - the cost of which escalated to Rs. 28,054 crore ($6 billion) - have taken Indian sport. The intense debate continues 12 months later.

"The CWG was a great sporting great which saw Indian players coming from nondescript villages across the country winning medals in events like gymnastics and swimming," said Varun Singh, a college student.

Others are not so optimistic.

"We don`t have a system of checks and balances to ensure transparency in events involving huge sums of money. I don`t think India can hold events at such scale until it sets a system in place to ensure proper monitoring of work and money," said Mrinal Kulkarni, a government employee.

A former official of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) recalled the Asian Games of 1982 when it was said there would be an exponential increase in the country`s sport culture. That never happened.

"A similar claim was made about CWG 2010 but the whole world has now come to realise that the sole purpose was to enable a coterie that has long ruled the Indian Olympic Association gain immense pecuniary benefits," he said.

"Has India`s sporting prowess improved? Well, we might have been second medals tally at the CWG but the reality check came just a month later at the Guangzhou Asian Games, where we were sixth," he added.

"It`s not a question of if and when the next big international event should be held. That money would be better spent on utilising the existing facilities across the country and in creating facilities at the grassroots."

Lack of residential facilities and high rentals have scared national sports federations away from holding their training camps or major tournaments at the state-of-the-art venues in the National Capital Region.

"We prefer to have our national camps at places where there is good residential accommodation...," said Athletics Federation of India (AFI) director M.L. Dograsaid Dogra.

The fact that the corruption taint has deepened over the last year has led to global embarrassment. Investigations into the people overseeing India`s biggest sporting event has so far resulted in 15 registered cases and 25 arrests.

Former OC chairman Suresh Kalmadi and secretary general Lalit Bhanot are amongst those in Tihar Jail. They have been charged with irregularities in award of contracts, procurement of equipments of inferior quality and purchase of routine items at exorbitant prices.

And it`s not yet over. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is still investigating and a few more cases will be registered, spokesperson Dharini Mishra told IANS.

Despite all this, the CWG 2010 saw India`s best-ever international performance and helped it finish second in the medals standing.

"The Commonwealth Games was organised successfully in Delhi. India, with its rich haul of medals, has emerged as a significant sporting nation in the world," said Sports Minister Ajay Maken.

A year after the Games, some athletes are reaping the benefits of their good showing.

The ministry has spent Rs.6.87 crore on 22 elite sportspersons who are medal prospects at the Olympics.

The biggest beneficiary is ace double trap shooter and Asian Games gold medallist Ronjan Sodhi, who has received a lion`s share of Rs.97.37 lakh.

Sodhi says sportspersons have benefited immensely by the government funding after the New Delhi CWG.

"At the Commonwealth Games, the Indians proved their mettle and promised to do much more at other major international events. The government too was convinced and thus increased its funding for London," said Sodhi.

Millions of sporting fans are hoping that Sodhi`s optimism holds out. And that lessons from CWG 2010 have been learnt.


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