Add the country’s defence forces to the list of those affected by India’s sorry performance in the Cricket World Cup.
As fans and advertisers have grown disillusioned with the game, the Indian military, co-organizer of the upcoming fourth Military World Games in Hyderabad, is finding it difficult to raise Rs30 crore, a deficit it had hoped to bridge through sponsorship.
“Sponsors have dried up after our show in the World Cup,” says Ashok Kapur, who retired from the army as lieutenant general last week, and is now a consultant to theorganizers. “Everyone has been hit…even after (the win in) Bangladesh, no one iscoming out to sponsor sporting events.”
And there are only four months before the Games from 14-21 October that will see 3,500 soldier-athletes and 1,500 officials from 127 countries descending on Hyderabad and Mumbai, the host city for sailing events.
Like the Olympics, the military games promote a campaign of “peace through sport” and it would not be uncommon for rival countries’ armies to take to a ball field, instead of a battlefield, to compete. The Games started in 1995 in Rome and have grown steadily. This marks the first time it is being held outside Europe.
The Operations and Administrative Committee, the military body set up in August 2005 to organize the Games along with host Andhra Pradesh, has now asked the defence ministry for an additional grant of Rs20 crore, hoping the remaining amount would come from sympathetic corporate houses over the next month.
If it doesn’t, says Kapur, some corners will have to be cut—such as having a “solemn” Republic Day type of march past during the closing ceremony, instead of something “more grand.”
Plans can only be made with the money that has been committed, he says; the opening and closing ceremonies have been allocated Rs1.5 crore, and Kapur says Rs6 crore would have been ideal.
The Andhra government and the army have earmarked about Rs105 crore for creation of new infrastructure. The army has allocated Rs40 crore as its share of the Games’ kitty; it’s spending another Rs75 crore from its Major Works Project budget to create accommodations for about 3,000 athletes—the facility will be used by Indian soldiers after the event.
The Andhra government is spending about Rs35 crore to house about 2,500 contestants and officials; the premises have been earmarked to meet the shortage of accommodation for state government employees after the event. Most of the existing infrastructure though was built for the Afro-Asian Games in 1995.
In comparison, the more hyped 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games that will boast of about 70 participating nations, has a budget of Rs3,312 crore, while next year’s Youth Commonwealth Games in Pune have been sanctioned Rs210 crore.
Marketing agencies associated with the Military Games, organized under the aegis of the Paris-based International Council of Military Sports, the largest authority for military sports activity in the world, have started meeting companies, hammering away at one message: the event will be the biggest sporting meet in India outside the 2010 Commonwealth Games in the next 15-20 years, and provides a platform for corporate campaigns.
Mumbai-based company Media Center, which was entrusted with marketing the Military Games this March, signed on media advisors, Group M, on Friday. Media Center is also talking to some of the biggest corporate houses and multinational banks to be associated with the event. “There are deliverables that are being negotiated, we hope to sign on between 10 and 15 sponsors by the month-end,” says company chief executive Ajay David.
Business group head of sports consultants Group M Sports Harish Khatri, who reckons the soldiers’ meet to be “even bigger than the Commonwealth Games”, says inquiries had begun trickling in from the corporate sector. “Monday was our first day of work...but I’m confident we’ll have enough sponsors in the next four months.”