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CWG worst assault on Delhi since 1857!

October 19, 2010 19:23 IST
The Commonwealth Games represent one of the greatest assaults on Delhi since the days of Nadir Shah and the British counter-attacks in 1857, says T V R Shenoy.

2003 was the thousandth anniversary of the year that Rajaraja Chola initiated construction of the magnificent Brihadeswara temple. It took the Chola architects and masons a mere seven years to build that giant structure.

2003 was also the year that New Delhi won the bid to stage the Commonwealth Games. Once again the Indian establishment had seven years to build something that would leave a mark.

What did we get?

Bridges collapsing?

Tiles falling off the roof of a stadium? Roads that lay dug up for months on end, until they were hastily tarred -- so poorly that they might not last a single year?

Trees that were slaughtered and pavements that disappeared overnight?

Delhi was so scarred and pitted that in September a grim Union health minister warned that stagnant pools at construction sites were breeding grounds for mosquitoes -- and dengue fever.

The Commonwealth Games, may I state without hesitation, represent one of the greatest assaults on Delhi since the days of Nadir Shah and the British counter-attacks in 1857.

From beginning to end this giant circus has been a useless waste of money by profligate and inefficient organisers.

Lay aside the allegations of corruption; the original sin was committed when India offered to host the Commonwealth Games in the first place.

It began with a lie. Suresh Kalmadi's Indian Olympic Committee said it required no more than a loan of Rs 150 crore (Rs 1.5 billion) from the public exchequer.

Azim Premji, the visionary chief of Wipro, is a man who knows something about reading a balance sheet; he says the Union government has already picked up a tab of over Rs 11,000 crore (Rs 110 billion)!

Even that figure, Premji points out, does not include the cost of infrastructure. The Indian taxpayer, according to some, could ultimately end up holding the bag for anything between Rs 20,000 crore (Rs 200 billion) and Rs 60,000 crore (Rs 600 billion).

As the insulting icing on the cake of waste, the Organising Committee had the gall to announce that it had no money to reimburse the Indian Army for its services.

Soldiers would have to pay their own transport bills; the rest -- including rebuilding the collapsed bridge -- would come out of the defence budget.

None of this seemed to register on all those short-sighted people proudly proclaiming that they were 'proud to be Indian' after the opening ceremony went off well.

Dare I note that the cost of that evening's entertainment was Rs 400 crore (Rs 4 billion)? Over double Kalmadi's initial projected cost for the entire Commonwealth Games!

Kalmadi has few friends today. But there are still apologists for the Commonwealth Games, and they offer explanations in plenty as to why holding the Games was a good idea.

Delhi, they say, has gained world-class infrastructure, such as the Delhi Metro and the new airport.

India's athletes will benefit from all the new or the refurbished sports facilities.

Indians got to witness the finest athletes in the world in person.

The nation has got a leg-up in the hierarchy of sports by challenging England in the race to be second to Australia.

What a collection of untruths and half-truths!

Has Delhi gained infrastructure?

Construction began on the Delhi Metro project in October 1998, five years before Delhi was allotted the 2010 Games.

The new terminal is part of a pan-Indian project to upgrade airports by handing them over to private parties; Mumbai, Hyderabad, and the like all got better facilities without the fig leaf of the Commonwealth Games.

Will athletes benefit from any new stadia?

We heard that before the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi.

History shows that India failed to win any medal -- even a bronze -- in the Olympic Games of 1984, 1988, and 1992. The drought was broken by Leander Paes in 1996, a product of Chennai's Britannia-Amritraj Tennis Academy.

Come to that, how many of India's Olympic medal winners have trained in Delhi?

Abhinav Bindra, India's solitary individual gold medal winner, had the backing of a wealthy family that could build him his own air-conditioned shooting range.

The truth is that Delhi is a horrible place, at least as far as track and field events are concerned.

Barring a brief and glorious spring and a few weeks between the rainy season and winter, the city is hostage to extreme weather.

That was recognised back in 1982, which is why the Asian Games were held from November 19 to December 4.

What possessed the Organising Committee to run them in the heat and energy-sapping humidity of October this time?

For fear of athletes collapsing, some of the long-distance events had to be staged to begin only after nine at night to escape the heat of the day.

Did Indians get to witness the finest athletes?

In the 2010 Olympics the most gold medals were won by China, the United States, Russia, Great Britain, Germany, Australia, South Korea, Japan, Italy, and France, in that order.

Eight of the top ten are not members of the Commonwealth -- not to mention, say, soccer powerhouses such as Spain and Brazil.

Come to that, while Jamaica is in the Commonwealth Games its world and Olympic record holder, Usain Bolt, did not bother to come. (Without anyone in Jamaica accusing him, please note, of 'lacking a conscience' or being 'unpatriotic'.)

As for overtaking England in the medals tally, that is piffle.

Come the Olympics, and Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, will again join hands to participate under the British flag.

Writing for the Heritage-Cartman's September issue, an angry Mani Shankar Aiyar pointed out: 'The same finance ministry and Planning Commission which solemnly reminded us that we are a poor country when Rs 600 crore (Rs 6 billion) was sought to finance Gram Nyayalayas to bring justice to the doorsteps of the poor became completely open-handed in meeting every demand of the Organising Committee and every estimate of the infrastructure implementing agencies.'

He went on to slam the middle-class and the political class for being so committed to 'false values', for failing to include the poor in their dreams. Harsh perhaps but not untrue.

What is the real effect of the Commonwealth Games?

Thousands of displaced poor, shunted away from Delhi lest the foreign media spot them.

Green areas where Delhi's children could play -- especially around Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium -- despoiled by concrete. Double or triple the number of dengue fever victims.

Crores lost as Delhi was forcibly shut for the opening and the closing ceremonies. And a bill for thousands of crores that taxpayers shall be paying off for decades to come.

But a successful circus and Facebook will see thousands of messages proclaiming their pride in being Indian.

To paraphrase Lalit Bhanot's immortal comment on hygiene, perhaps Indians have different standards of measuring concepts such as 'success' and 'responsibility'.

God save Delhi from hosting the Olympic Games!

ALSO SEE: Dr Singh's message from the CWG probe
Time to go, Mr Kalmadi!
Why India must NOT host the Olympics
Games or no Games, why Delhi won't change
CWG money could have been utilised better'

T V R Shenoy