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Time to go, Mr Kalmadi

Last updated on: October 15, 2010 14:29 IST
Suresh Kalmadi's speech on Thursday night had nothing to do with what happened or did not happen at the Commonwealth Games.

It was probably crafted to rescue him from all the inquiries that will hopefully begin soon after our guests leave the country, feels A Ganesh Nadar.

As the curtain came down on the Commonwealth Games on Thursday, Suresh Kalmadi rose to make his speech.

A speech in which I expected him to mention the fact that 71 countries from all over the Commonwealth -- from distant Antigua, Barbados and Jamaica in the Caribbean to Tuvalu in the Pacific where the athletes have no tracks so they train on the country's only runway -- had participated in the Games.

Like millions of Indians, I expected Kalmadi, chairman of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, to thank the glorious athletes from all those countries for making the Games a sporting spectacle.

We also expected him to congratulate the incredible Aussies for winning so many medals, the most at the 19th Commonwealth Games.

The athletes who won medals and broke records -- the Delhi Games were all about them.

We also expected him to thank the foreign officials, the thousands of police and defence personnel and volunteers who helped make the Games event-free.

Kalmadi started off by congratulating the Indian contingent for winning a record 101 medals. He either ignored Australia or did not know that the Aussies were the top medal-winning nation at this CWG. So what if they thrashed India 8-0 in the men's hockey final!

Among the folks Kalmadi thanked were Commonwealth Games Organising Committee secretary Lalit Bhanot, presumably because the said gent is now recognised as an international expert on hygiene, particularly well informed on why 'their' hygiene standards is different from 'ours'.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh -- who bailed out Kalmadi when the Commonwealth Games had become an international joke -- came in for profuse Kalmadian gratitude at least twice.

As did Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi for watching the Games from the public gallery! Yikes! Doordarshan's ever fawning cameras swung to catch Sonia's reaction -- it was, understandably, an embarrassed grimace.

Neither the cameras nor the millions at home could discern what the prime minister thought of all this; Dr Singh could give the Sphinx a run for its money. No expression ever passes through that face (Helpful hint: The premier's eyes usually give away what he really thinks).

Kalmadi also hailed Jawaharlal Nehru's vision.

A pity he left out Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi and other members of the Nehru dynasty from his speech.

Is there anything Suresh Kalmadi can do right?

If the prime minister, senior civil servants and defence officers had not stepped in with days to go for the event, the Commonwealth Games would have been a lost cause, a national disgrace.

Just like Suresh Kalmadi's speech last night was.

Judging from the jeers that greeted his speech at the opening and closing ceremonies, Suresh Kalmadi is probably the most disliked man in the country.

How long will this government tolerate him as president of the Indian Olympic Association?

Surely, his political patrons (and they must be very powerful for him to get away with so much for so long) know that Suresh Kalmadi is a lost cause, someone who can only tarnish the Congress party and the government as long as he continues in the public focus.

We need to be relieved about one thing though.

Unlike the opening ceremony where he mangled names, changed former President A P J Abdul Kalam to Kalam Azad and Prince Charles's current missus, the former Camellia Parker-Bowles, to his first wife, the late lamented Princess Di, this time Kalmadi had all the names correct.

I am still puzzled though why the chief guest at the closing ceremony, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, featured at the tail end of Kalmadi's recognitions as it did when Commonwealth Games Sporting Federation head Mike Fennell made his speech.

We must also be relieved that Kalmadi did not declare that the IOA would bid for the Olympics, as he has done previously during the CWG fiesta.

Perhaps, he knows that in 2020, the next Olympics up for grabs, he will hopefully be just a distant, but still painful, memory. Even though like the East European tyrants of old, Suresh Kalmadi no doubt hopes he will be IOA president for life.

His speech on Thursday night had nothing to do with what happened or did not happen at the Commonwealth Games.

It was likely crafted to rescue him from all the inquiries that will hopefully begin soon after our guests leave the country.

Finally, there is one man Kalmadi should probably have thanked in advance in his speech -- the director, Central Bureau of Investigation. He is someone Mr Kalmadi could be seeing a lot of in the days to come.

ALSO SEE: The Commonwealth Games at Rediff.com

A Ganesh Nadar