If mike works during the oath, Games will be "grand success"!

So low are our expectations from the Commonwealth Games thanks to the confusion and corruption

sureshmenon

Suresh Menon | August 7, 2010




So low are the expectations from the Commonwealth Games that all they need is for the microphone to be working when the oath is taken or Indian athletes to last the opening ceremony without fainting and it will be declared a ‘grand success’.

Any official who can say, while watching a leaking roof that “there are no faults in any of the roofs” is special. Sports minister M S Gill, who said that, is obviously being wasted in his job. He needs to be our spokesman to the world, pointing out from a slum that there is no poverty in India or emphasising while accepting money under the table that there is no corruption either.

The capital looks like something out of a black-and-white war movie. Doubtless to those responsible for the Games, it resembles Arcadia, and anyone who thinks otherwise is anti-national.

How those caught with their hands in the cookie jar will be treated will make for more riveting television than the Commonwealth Games, the most anachronistic sporting event in the calendar! It is rather like having the ancient Roman games, complete with chariot races. Seventy one former colonies getting together to showcase the legacy of British rule—the mismanagement, red tape, exclusivity, corruption—is hardly inspiring. Especially when the top athletes decide they have better things to do, like train for real competition.

Infrastructure disasters, technical equipment failures, possible money laundering have been the focus so far. And doubtless by the time you read this, a whole new lot of corruption charges will be revealed. Our wallet-thickening officials are creative, and it will take someone insufficiently bribed to blow the whistle on their activities.

No one wants a Commonwealth Games disaster, that is why the organisers have thoughtfully provided us with a pre-Games disaster. Sports governance in our country is on a par with governance in some of our states and one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Or throw oneself off the roof of one of the stadia—if only one could find a safe place to do it from.

Still, going by the pronouncements of those involved, it is very comforting to note that the Delhi government is not responsible, that the Organising Committee is not responsible, that Suresh Kalmadi is not responsible, that the sports ministry is not responsible for any of the mess. That’s a whole lot of irresponsible agencies, if you ask me.

It is the fault of the rain that the roofs leak. It is the fault of the swimmers that the timers do not work. It is Mani Shankar Aiyar’s fault that he draws attention to the foul ups. And it is our fault, dear sports lovers, that we refuse to see this is a matter of national pride. Patriotism is the last resort of the scoundrel, as we were taught in school.

It may be part of modern architecture to have it rain inside a building when it is raining outside. Not only are the roofs fine, but as urban development minister S Jaipal Reddy has pointed out, even the leakage is an optical illusion. “Whatever the leakage is inside the stadium is because of our water drainage system,” he has declared. “These are being mistaken for leakage points. If there are any leakages, they are being watched carefully.” That last sentence is absolutely true. The leakages are being watched carefully by the media, by the sports lovers and by the rest of the world. His argument is, just because there are leaks, don’t assume there are leaks.

Does that top Gill’s profundity? In fact, an awareness programme for the public outside Delhi largely unaffected by the Commonwealth Games might be a competition to decide who has said the funniest things about the Games. Gill and Reddy might be near the top of the list, but what about Sheila Dikshit, who said, “The way we are functioning, we would be saving money rather than overspending.” This, about a Games event that has already overshot the budget more than 20 times over.

Perhaps, her “we” is not the government, but a collection of individuals who have lined their pockets. Of course the corrupt would be saving money for themselves rather than overspending it.

Then there is the reassurance from the big boss himself, Kalmadi, chairman of the Organising Committee. With corruption charges flying around, the city in a mess, athletes getting injured on half-built sites, everything running months behind schedule, national pride (his own favourite) at stake, budgets having gone through the same roof that is bringing in the rain water, he has said, “There is nothing to worry,” bringing to mind the mascot of Mad magazine, Alfred E Neuman and his famous question, “What, me worry?”

Perhaps I do M S Gill an injustice. What he meant was not ‘roof’, but ‘ceiling’, and he is right when he says that there is nothing wrong with the ceiling. It began as a Rs 1,899 crore project, and is now already a Rs 35,000 crore project, with no ceiling in sight. The government will be forced to throw good money after bad.

In the month and a half remaining, the government can do one of two things: outsource the Games, transfer it to Greenland where athletes not showing up will not matter (officials will show up anyway for the freebie), or get their spin doctors, Gill, Kalmadi, Dikshit to de-link national pride from sporting disasters. If everything fails, they need only to bring in Dom Cobb, the Leonardo di Caprio character from “Inception”, and plant the idea in a billion minds in the country that the Commonwealth Games were a “grand success.”

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