A sports story gone awry

A sports story gone awry

The run-up to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi is sure to bring some choice metaphors to mind. Delhi Lt governor Tejendra Khanna reportedly called India’s Capital a “kitchen" to try to explain why some projects—like cooking dishes—were on schedule and some weren’t. But the metaphor that best captures the haplessness of the hour is when Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit likened the Games to an “Indian wedding".

Dikshit merely suggested that after a wedding’s pandemonium comes the happy ending. But with Suresh Kalmadi, president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), attacking the Games’ CEO Mike Hooper last week, the analogy is starting to take on new meaning.

It’s a crazy wedding where, first, preparations haven’t been satisfactory. The Comptroller and Auditor General in August found that 13 of the 19 venues aren’t on schedule. The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), the international overseers, is now nudging Kalmadi about this, leading to acrimony.

Second, instead of mending their ways in reaction to the marital discontent, the Delhi organizers are busy devising distractions. After Kalmadi blamed Hooper for being an “impediment", IOA’s V.K. Malhotra has taken refuge behind the garb of jingoism by saying last week that “these are Commonwealth Games, not Imperial Games".

Third, this is turning out to be a wedding that will make prospective in-laws think twice about India. Though the 2010 Games haven’t been yanked away from Delhi, other international organizing bodies are sure to note that some matches just aren’t made in heaven. What then happens to India’s Olympics ambitions?

Yes, politics and nationalism have always surrounded international sports events, whether it be Adolf Hitler’s resolve to show a mighty Berlin in 1936 or Barack Obama’s attempt to win the 2016 Olympics for Chicago.

Politics, however, cannot be a substitute for poor management. Any visitor to Delhi can see that the infrastructure is far from ready. CGF has every reason to express concern at this plain mismanagement. Considering that India routinely faces such mismanagement at sporting events, there really doesn’t seem to be a happy ending here.

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