Our wealth, their games!

It is common knowledge that politicos love to play with common money. That the Common Wealth Games, due in sixty days, is already being dubbed as ‘Corrupt Wealth Games’ or ‘Contractor Wealth Games’ is, therefore, quite in tune with our national political culture. Since the loot spectrum has quite a huge bandwitdh and can easily accomodate all the elements, from mud to thin air, it is obvious that nothing in the public realm can remain unsoiled and unspoiled.

Still, the new, novel and nifty ways in which such shady schemes are being implemented right under public watch does thrill us, mute audiences, to the marrow. So, hats off to Suresh ‘Kalamity’ for a Perfect 10 in financial acrobatics! We are impressed. How did one man with sundry cohorts get to wield such unlimited power? And such unchecked access to public money? A point needs to be stressed here. Many good samaritans have bemoaned that all the money could have been used more purposefully. But samaritans, for all their goodness, are not smart characters. Used, may be right. But purposefully? Well, if not K-madi, some other carpet bagger would have arrived and even reduced our K to just k. We told you this is India, folks! Here the old order changeth only to usher in more disorder!

So let’s get back to those arithmetic acro stuff and other similar sterling shows. Number crunching is not one of our media’s strenghths despite its obsession with ‘figures’. For instance, if your friend pays you ` 1000/- and you pay it back to him, both would deem the accounts squared and nil, subject to interest. The media however would dub it a ` 2000/- deal! But even the wildest speculation of the media or your blind guesses will fall way short of the markers set by Kalmadi & co. The rentals for chairs, vehicles, sports equipment etc ‘approved’ by them make even the current gallopping inflation seem like a tortoise’s gait.

But the treadmills take the cake, though cakes are the antithesis of a treadmill. What would the best quality one cost, I mean the treadmill, not the cake? ` 4 lakh for even the fattest of pers…, pardon, purses. But the Organising Committee of the CWG has doled out almost ` 10 lakhs (well, ` 975000 actually, but my media mindset made it plus- ` 25000) only to hire it for 45 days. The justification was that it cost ` 30 lakhs (my nominal quota included for rounding off) when it did not. Fat lies too. The treadmill saga looks stranger than fiction. Treadmills of all kinds have gone for fabulous rentals, marked up 800 to 1000 %, according to some media reports. Indeed, if you find your Delhi friends and relatives heavier than you last saw them, blame it on the sudden shortage of TMs for the common people in the NCR. That Kalmadi’s uncommon logic of hiring when it is cheaper to buy beats a common man’s common sense is no issue because it is public money, and, therefore, nobody’s!

So, the next best option, if we have options that is, is to ensure value for money. Of treadmills and chairs, we will know only if you and I get to walk or sit on them, which is wishful. What of the huge constructions and structures that have come up only for the games? Well, many of them are coming down or are on the verge. And for those worrying over financial seepages, here’s more seepage to worry about. Just when sports minister Gill was inaugurating a stadium and waxing eloquent on the quality of construction, the roof above him started leaking some liquid. The swimming pool defied gravity and water poured from the top. It is said that many of the structures are unsafe. In fact, the whole scam erupted with the exposure of faked quality certificates of stability. Many ‘completed’ works have since been damaged. The unfinished work on stadia, tracks and a host of complexes are legion. Really, the sportsmen will find their athletic acumen inadequate as they will be up against not just other sportsmen but would have to contend with hurdles that they did not train for.

The areas outside the venue and many parts of Delhi resemble Hiroshima after the bomb. The digging and debris have survived many deadlines. Gold, silver and bronze are in for some severe competition from sand, stones and hard rock. Kalmadi’s spin that the games are an occasion to parade patriotism and national pride falls and fails on dead tracks. Sponsors are sulking and many top global stars may skip. Chaotic traffic outside and dubious facilities inside – from housing, catering, broadcasting, to press – are unlikely to enhance pride, here or yonder. Of patriotism, the less said the better for it is coming at a very stiff price – ` 5000/-crs, give or take a few hundreds. Even Delhiites, barring CM Sheila Dikshit, are not much enthused. And whatever interest the rest of the nation had has been consumed by the pre-Games games of K & co!

All of these seamy shenanigans have put not just CWG but sports and sportsmen too on a sticky wicket. The sports administration in the country is in a shambles. All the sports associations are controlled by either politicians or politically influential individuals, who treat them as their personal fiefdoms wherein a seamy patronage culture prevails. And with big money at stake, real sport is the last thing on their agenda.These bosses are immortal and infallible and span political divides. Kalmadi, for instance, has been around for quite some time with virtually the power of God over his domain. That he has turned devil now might not in any way jeopardise his hold and position either, despite his own Congress party suddenly treating him like an alien from Mars. Trust him to survive as his ilk always have; many attempts, albeit feeble, by governments to dislodge them have come unstuck.

But at the core is the question: Should the Government at all be funding and conducting such extravaganzas when neither the sportsmen nor the sports buff have any say or part in them? Sure, a nation of many million should be producing a lot more winners and international events could give an impetus, theoretically. But with politicos meddling, can mere medals have any meaning, assuming they come our way? For, if medals are our priority, Kalmadi can always fetch some for us, at fancy rentals, that is!

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Jawahar T R