When it became public knowledge that the budget of the Commonwealth Games had doubled, a few were taken aback. For the bigger surprise was yet to come – in the shape of a helium balloon. A blimp, truth be told that would be used for a grand total of some 3 hours for the opening and closing ceremonies. Then opinions ran amok. Usain Bolt would emerge from the blimp it was said and then proceed to run for his life. No, it wasn’t a ploy to get him to compete (or so they say). Maybe the sports minister or better, the organising committee chairman would tumble out to imaginary rapturous applause. No, said another voice interested in adding their two pence, the blimp was the new mascot. But what could possibly justify the 40 crore budget for this gas filled extravaganza? A meek voice whispered from the sidelines– “even the gas for the balloon is being imported from Russia.”
Approximately, some 30,000 crore is being spent for the games. With news channels going agog over a certain Mr. Suresh Kalmadi and his purported misdeeds, it would be naive to recount them and find any joy in doing so. For Mr. Kalmadi is but a scab in the deep rooted malaise plaguing our system. Of course, we can humour ourselves with his statements such as– “The games will even be better than the Olympics” or the more recent “All stadiums are ready.”
In this entire melee, the ingenuity of Commonwealth Games committee is not to be underestimated. It will be one of the first to introduce a game called ‘caving roof’. The rules are simple – buy a ticket and enter a stadium. With one eye, give unbridled attention to the games. Keep another eye on the roof. If the roof shows signs of caving in, make a rush for the exit. The committee has yet to pass a resolution on what the prizes would be. A Laundromat in Ethiopia has already been paid an advance for the trophies though. On hearing this, MP’s in faraway Bihar got excited that they took Parliamentary sports to a new level. Apart from the usual ‘breaking furniture’ and ‘calling names’, a new sport was introduced at the spur of the moment – ‘smashing flower pots’. Again, rules are simple – if you don’t agree upon something, rush out find the nearest flower pot and smash it to smithereens.
One look at our achievements in the last 63 years doesn’t paint a very sporty picture. We are still covering ourselves in glory remembering our 1983 world cup triumph. And this when our team boasts of some of the world’s classiest players and the board being one of the richest. How many children know of Dhyanchand as more than just a passing name? Walk into a school and you see sport being relegated to a one hour window. Playtime has been captured by summer camps, tuitions, personality development classes, and other such career furthering activities. See what a mockery our national game has been reduced to. FIFA has had to introduce a new ranking system ever so often to accommodate India’s acrimonious slide. A cursory glance at all the facilities provided to our athletes – dirty rooms, messy food, travel in second class trains, over friendly officials and coaches tell the complete story. No wonder we need 30,000 crore to dress up the wound and make us look good.
And Mr. Suresh Kalmadi surely cannot be held solely responsible for the abject state of our sports. For there are a million others like him driving it into a downward spiral.
Some of the best minds have repeatedly asked – in a country of a billion, can’t we find someone who will set the record books ablaze and bring some respectability to our sporting side. No, we cannot, until we evict the miniscule that thwart the billion.
Until then, our attitude to sport ill be very much like the 40 crore balloon– all hot air and no substance.
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