Saturday, August 14, 2010

Disgrace in the name of sports

Miracles happen, so the Commonwealth Games may take place without some stadium roof collapsing. But that is not the issue. What we should really be worried about is: How do dunderheads, frauds and double-dealing fixers come to represent this great country? How do humbuggers, thimbleriggers and pettifogging pretenders get the power to humiliate us before the world?

It is possible to see thugs in leadership positions when the Government itself loses its legitimacy and is artificially propped up. This happened during the Emergency. Parliament saw an influx of ruffians and hooligans whose assignment was to shout down opponents. Cabinet positions went to odious men. When Jayaprakash Narayan was arrested in Chandigarh and district authorities there were worried about his deteriorating health, Defence Minister Bansi Lal’s response was: Let the swine die.

Emergency produced a culture favourable to swine. But what about today? India is breaking new ground on the business/industrial front, Britain is relaxing visa rules to attract high-spending Indian tourists, and our government is headed by an internationally respected economist. We build the most modern airports and ports for the countries of the world, take over an ailing icon like Jaguar automobiles in UK and make it profitable, and become a world leader in steel. Surely we should be able to handle a project like commonwealth games with a smartness and flair that is at our beck and call?

Instead, we have a mess on our hands. What we have put on display is not the smartness and flair we are capable of, but the ease with which slimy careerists can worm their way into positions of power in our country. And stay there. We wouldn’t have minded if they made a lot of money in the bargain; we are a traditionally generous people. But to bring such international shame to India is inexcusable. Suresh Kalmadi and company has been bad for India. Period.

Obviously the man is a consummate politician. The Indian politician’s penchant to head one sports organisation or another was taken to dizzy heights by Kalmadi. He became chairman of the Indian Olympic Association (fourth time now), Asian Athletic Association, Athletic Federation of India and a half dozen other organisations. Every move of his has been controversial, to put it mildly. Former Indian Hockey captain Pargat Singh is one man who did not care to put it mildly. He accused Kalmadi of being India’s “sports mafia”.

The dirt that has come out in the current games scandal does point to a great deal of inexplicable things. Congressmen and amateur ministers like M. S. Gill made it worse by trying to defend Kalmadi and failing to find one convincing argument to make the defence credible.

The big question persists: Was this the only man the establishment could find to hold the Indian flag in international sports bodies? With neither qualifications nor a decent track record, how did Kalmadi get the political backing he needed? Are there key politicians also having a stake from behind the scenes in making a sham of our sports organisation?

Kalmadi is also the chairman of the Olympics 2016 Bid Committee on behalf of India. We may think that after the present disaster, India would not dare make a bid for the 2016 Olympics. But nothing is beyond our political manipulators. Imagine what our schemers can do if they get the Olympics to play with.

But the world will save us. After having watched the horrors of the Commonwealth Games preparation, other countries will keep India firmly out. Already many athletes of distinction have announced their decision not to attend the Delhi Games. We are a butt of ridicule already. Kalmadi, his party and his backers will have the satisfaction of knowing that they have disgraced India in the eyes of the world. For someone’s private ego? For thirty pieces of silver?