Mani on Money : Common Wealth

“Every five years, it is the masses who determine who will form the government. And in between those five years the classes determine what that government will do”.  This is one of the most popular quotes of Mani Shankar Iyer. It is a paradox that this same man, who is very much part of the classes, complains like a little child (one of the helpless masses) “I am delighted in a way because rains are causing difficulties for the Commonwealth Games”. He went on to say ”Basically I will be very unhappy if the games are successful because then they will start bringing Asian Games, Olympic Games and all those”.

Coming from a former Sports Minister, it drew sharp criticism from all and sundry. The BJP says he is ‘unpatriotic’. The Chairman of the CWG Organising Committee Suresh Karmadi lost no time in dismissing Iyer’s remarks as ‘ridiculous’, ‘irresponsible’ and ‘anti-national’.

As Kalmadi and BJP would have us believe that any one speaking against the Commonwealth Games is unpatriotic, I am surprised at the sense of false prestige and misplaced sense of pride of all the people who is linking the Commonwealth Games to ‘national pride’. Unlike China which prepared itself as a nation to win all Gold Medals when they organised the Olympics and reap the benefits of being the host nation, we are not talking of winning medals. We are only talking about organising the 10 day sports extravaganza.

When asked why the stadiums are not yet ready for the Games, which are just 70 days away, even though the Games were allotted to India 7 years back, or how the initial budget of Rs. 150 Crores got revised to Rs. 35,000 Crores, Kalmadi has no answers. BJP has a smirk, as the verbal slugfest goes on, as it exposes the internal fissures in the Congress Government and is not directed at them.

But fact remains that using the same ‘national pride’ argument, in 2003, the Indian Olympic Committee lead by Kalmadi hoodwinked Atal Bihari Vajpayee to authorize the IOC to anchor the Indian bid for the Commonwealth Games on a solemn assurance that the Organising Committee would require a loan of Rs. 150 Crores. The Organising Committee agreed that all of this public money will be reimbursed to the exchequer from the ticket sale proceeds, advertisements and sponsorships.

Only thing poor Vajpayee and his successor Manmohan Singh forgot to ask is the infrastructure cost. The cost of the brand new stadiums at the most prosperous part of the national capital (unlike Manchester when it organized the Commonwealth Games in 2002 used the opportunity to rejuvenate the most rundown Eastern section of the city), the swanky new airport in Delhi, roads and other infrastructure. The organising of the games have actually become ‘Conmen Wealth Games’.

But one thing is sure ‘Mani is talking on Money’ not because he cares for the ‘common wealth’ of the country or because he is passionate about building India into a sporting nation but because he couldn’t dip his fingers in the honey-pot called Common Wealth Games.

Video : Copyright with NDTV and YouTube

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