Much has been made of the sloth that our sports policymakers and bureaucracy have shown in creating infrastructure for the Commonwealth Games that are around the bend. There is ample truth in that, but there are bigger matters at hand.
There have been two different criticisms levelled against the Games. One, as mentioned above, that we’re hardly prepared for them and that the country will lose face from the poor show that seems more likely with every passing day. The second argument is more substantive: The Games entail a serious opportunity cost—of the funds that are showered on the stadia, roads and other “assets” that require more money after construction if they are not to rot away slowly. When former Union minister for sports Mani Shankar Aiyar wants rains to spoil the show, he is only stating this in different words.
There are wildly varying estimates on how much money is being splurged on the Games. Figures range from a low of Rs10,000 crore to as high as Rs80,000 crore. In the end, one must ask the question: Are there any multiplier effects for the Indian or even the local (Delhi) economy? It seems unlikely. The South African experience of hosting the football World Cup could be a comparison. Though the country stayed in the news and “limelight” for a while, it is not clear if investment in sports infrastructure has given a boost to the local economy. Perhaps it is unfair to talk of such effects before the Games have started. If experience is any guide, these effects are minuscule at best. In any case, for such effects to pan out, investment needs to be made in a well-thought-out and systematic fashion. The manner in which tenders for rush jobs were handed out in New Delhi leaves one with, to put it mildly, many doubts on this count.
Then there is the question of the choices we’ve made: We have favoured stadia construction over money being spent on discovering and nurturing sports talent, talent that could have fetched us Olympic glory in the times to come. This needs answering, for our government appears to be so blind that while sportsmen languish, sports administrators are willing to spend obscene amounts for a few fleeting moments of limelight.
Money for Commonwealth Games: misspent or well-utilized? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org