Well finally the Commonwealth Games are over and India came a creditable second in the medals tally. What started with a sour taste, thankfully ended with a silver lining. The whole world stood up and appreciated India’s efforts, while the opening and closing ceremonies received special mention in the global press. Indians showed the world that they can organize an event of such big magnitude and make it a grand success. So should we be really proud of ourselves as Indians?
As we bask in the afterglow of the mega event, have we forgotten the rampant corruption which shook the nation a month ago? Did we achieve the main objective of the Games in terms of promoting sports, infrastructure and tourism? Did we manage to showcase India as a progressive developed world power?
Even before we try to get answers to the above questions, interestingly now dear Mr. Kalmadi and the Indian Olympic Association has announced that they want India to bid for the 2020 Olympics! What does this mean? Another chance to fill up their pockets?
Do we really need to spend so much on a mega event, where a country of a billion people cannot even win a handful of medals? Even today nearly 30% of India’s population lives under the poverty line, the overall national literacy rate is just about 65% and most people still do not have basic sanitation facilities. There isn’t even basic sports infrastructure in most Indian cities. Most of our athletes come from rural areas, get basic training facilities and have to undergo tremendous hardships to just even survive. Even today India has less then 25 astro turf grounds for hockey, (is it still really our national game?) while in a country like Holland, which is maybe as much as the size of Goa, there are more than 450 astro turf grounds!!
Interestingly, the budget allocation for sports this year (2010) in India, has gone down from last year's Rs 3,706 crore to Rs 3,565 crore, a major chunk of which, Rs. 2,069, crores was earmarked for the Commonwealth Games. More money is being spent on events than sports promotion and development. Now isn’t this a perfect example of ‘Putting the cart before the horse’.
Instead of dreaming about mega events like Olympics, we should first concentrate on improving our grass root level sports infrastructure. We need a sports academy in every state dedicated for the development of sportsmen (not cricket) and sports. Sports should be made an integral part of elementary education. Scouts should be nominated to visit every small town of India and hunt for talent which can be nurtured. We need sportsmen and athletes before sports events. But only if the Indian Olympic Association understood this!