India needs a legacy plan for the Games

India needs a legacy plan for the Games

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has stepped in to save India’s blushes by trying to make sure that all the infrastructure such as the various sports facilities are ready by the time the Commonwealth Games begin on 3 October next year.

But, assuming that everything gets ready on time and nothing comes crashing down, what happens to all this new stuff once the event is over on 14 October. Given that India’s long-term sporting vision has never really extended beyond the next meet on the calendar, the answer could lie in matrimony.

Also See Mint’s coverage of the WEF India Summit

“If we don’t come up with a proper legacy program, we might have to give the infrastructure out for weddings," said Shailendra Singh,joint managing director of sports marketing firm Percept. “A lot of weddings happen here," he said, just in case the overseas delegates at the India Economic Summit delegates didn’t get it.

India needs to draw up a comprehensive long-term sporting program so that the money that’s being spent on the Games doesn’t go down the drain. Montreal, which held the Olympics in 1976, was saddled with debt and sporting infrastructure that ended up as “white elephants,"said Boria Majumdar, research fellow at the University of Central Lancashire.

Tarun Puri, managing director of Nike India Pvt., said getting Indians into a more sporting mode was important for the nation’s long-term health.

“Six out of 10 deaths from heart-related ailments will occur in India in 2010," he said. The key to avoiding this statistic from getting any worse would be to foster a sporting culture from an early age.

The panelists at the session on the Games lamented the dominance of cricket. The game gets 92% of all sponsorship money, Percept’s Singh said. The figure assumes importance in view of the fact that government spending on sports amounts to Rs500 crore annually, he said.

Singh said India has been late to start a legacy program and suggested that the country should swiftly consider the option of privatizing the infrastructure and letting professional agencies run the facilities.

“If we don’t do it now, we are not walking the path of making ourselves a sporting nation," Singh said.

However, the organizing committee of the Commonwealth Games is confident that the Games will help promote sports, especially among school children. As a result of the Games, a “couple of million Indian kids will start playing sports," said Manish Kumar, director of press operations for the committee, told the gathering.

Kumar pointed to the difficulty of getting a sporting culture to take root. For instance, he said, an African child who lives far from school would probably take to running long distance. An Indian child would be more likely to drop out, he said.