September 23, 2010

Common wealth games

It's a good thing there was no newspaper today. I'm weary of the stream of bad news about the Commonwealth Games, and any form of respite from it, even the absence of my daily paper, is something I welcome.

I mean: a false ceiling collapsing? A bridge collapsing, injuring 27 people? Athletes quarters that are described as "filthy" (check these photos)? A Games official explaining that by saying foreigners have different standards of cleanliness that we do? Bamboo screens to hide slums? Tens of thousands of Delhi-ites thrown out of their homes and the city? Corruption on what looks like an immense scale? Officials from other countries complaining about the "indifference and intransigence" of Indian officials faced with these concerns? All this a day before the first athletes are to arrive, ten days before the Games are to start?

And I'm not even mentioning the security issues, which are another kettle of pomfret altogether.

Does none of this shame the organisers? Or forget as empty a thing as shame and ask instead: why has none of this spurred them to deliver the goods, on time and to standards, instead of delivering excuses? Isn't that a natural thing? (It once happened to me, is why I'm asking).

There is one silver lining to this enormous fiasco. If the Games really turn into the disaster that seems more likely every day, perhaps it will be the kick in the behind that will turn us into what we should have been all along: unforgiving and intolerant of corruption.

I mean that in every sense of the word you can think of. Yes, including bamboo screens and throwing Indians out of their homes.

It's a slim hope, but I'll cling to it.

(Dileep Premachandran had much the same thought, and puts it this way: "For the sake of future generations, perhaps we should hope that it all goes belly up. Only then might we see a generation of parasites evicted from the rotting carcass that they have reduced Indian sport to.")


AK said...

I can think of many such occasions when we should have got our act together but did not. How will this be different?

Rahul Siddharthan said...

I was going to point you to the Dileep Premachandran article, but you got there already.

But one of the first well-known figures to say this was, I think, Chetan Bhagat, nearly a month ago. He argues that hoping the CWG will succeed on the basis of national "honour" is like a battered wife hiding her injuries and domestic situation to preserve family "honour". It has gone on long enough. We should not cooperate on these games, which we never asked for.

Dilip D'Souza said...

RS: in agreement on not cooperating etc, except for one point, about never asking for these Games.

It's not because we never asked for the Games that I find this whole thing nauseating. I can imagine things we never ask for that I would gladly support.

What makes these games objectionable starts with those bamboo screens and doesn't stop.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Well, one good thing -- I hope -- is that nobody now will talk about bringing the Olympics to India. There's another white elephant: even when it is done well, the only benefit is to a false sense of national pride. (The Greek financial crisis is credibly blamed by many on the 2004 Olympics, at least in part.)

Actually my view of organised sports these days is as dim as my view of organised religion... Both are fine for individuals, but when you put a structure around them and elevate them to a pedestal, they get corrupted. Look at what's happening in cricket.

Alternatively one can decide that sports are just entertainment, and anything goes... nobody cares if pop stars do drugs, or get paid to perform certain tunes, or whatever. The WWE has gone that route and seems to be doing fine.

Suresh said...

It's not because we never asked for the Games that I find this whole thing nauseating. I can imagine things we never ask for that I would gladly support.

How does one determine whether "we" want something or not? Arguing along this line means that we should hold a referendum on each and every issue. That might have been possible in ancient Athens or to a lesser extent, in modern Switzerland but it certainly cannot work in India.

Modern democracies are based on delegation. That is, we elect representatives who make decisions on our behalf. This is not a perfect system but for the alternatives which are way too costly (think of the cost of organizing frequent referendums) and are not guaranteed to produce better decision-making anyway. (On complicated issues, there is certainly no guarantee that a referendum will produce better decisions.)

I guess this episode points to the weakness of our democracy. Many of us take pride in our being a democracy but we forget that the quality is very low. As many have noted, our Parliament often passes important bills without much discussion. There are many reasons for this and we need to address them badly and unless we do, we will have episodes like the one that confronts us today. Tarunabh Khaitan has a couple of posts on this point: see here and here.

On the issue of the Games itself, I am in complete agreement in hoping that they are a big fiasco. As Rahul says, hopefully there will be no talk of Olympics or any such thing for at least another 100 years.

I also don't understand why our government is involved in sports itself. Unlike many of our leftists, I admire the US and one thing that I admire in particular is that the government (certainly, the federal one) is not involved at all. We have enough things to worry about and sports is the last thing our government should worry about. The government should, in my opinion, be involved only to the extent that sports are a part of (public) school activity but no more. If someone wants to go to the Olympics or whatever, let she/he raise the funds privately.

But I guess I am in a minority here. I suppose the general middle class attitude is represented by the (idiot) L. K. Advani who after one Olympics was reported as saying that he felt ashamed that we did not win even one medal. I felt like telling him that if he wanted to feel ashamed there were plenty of things (high illiteracy, dismal human development indicators, malnourishment, lousy public schools, starvation deaths...the list is endless) but not winning olympic medals was not one of them.

I apologize for the length of the comment.

Chandru K said...

After all this hand wringing and negativity, some it justified, the games are going to take place, and they probably will succeed. Two sports figures, Vishy Anand and PT. Usha are hopeful and generally upbeat, saying we should concentrate on the athletes and their performances.

Sumedha said...

I just blogged about the CWG too. I haven't been following the news much for a while now, and have recently started to visit cnn etc again. Only to be hit every single visit with yet another report on the disaster that is the CWG preparation.

And yes, it's not just that Delhi is just not prepared. The way the government is trying to "prepare" is no better. I mean, screens?? Throwing slum-dwellers out? Really?

But I don't know whether matters will be better if the Games do prove to be a disaster. Will people care for long? Will the "parasites" be kicked out? I'm not so sure.

Chandru K said...

Posted by "Ajatashatru" in a forum:

"First take pictures of dirty toilets etc 10 days before the event (try to make an issue out of a non-issue – these toilets would have been anyway made spotlessly clean by Shelia & Co before athletes moved into these apartments), create a huge ruckus about it and splash it on BBC etc with the intention to embarrass (so what’s new? Such Psy Op by them to make themselves feel superior has been going on for years now)....then later reluctantly agree to attend the games as if they are doing a big favour by attending these games.

These third rate powers i.e. the UK, Australia, Canada etc with their oh so superior ‘white’ attitude should be told that heavens will not fall if they do not attend the games. I think some of our people from the old generation (esp. born prior to 1947) give far too much importance to the reaction of these “goras”.

One more thing....if India’s economy keeps growing at approx. 9% for the next few decades, bad image (or not) because of the CWG would not exactly make or break our economy. And in the coming years, countries like the UK would need us more than we need them.

And with each passing year, as India grows economically and slowly but surely once again finds its rightful place as a leading nation in the world order, one starts even questioning the relevance of a big country like India being a part of Commonwealth....

Our main focus, instead, should be to bring the corrupt coterie who indulged in open loot during the games to book"

Dilip D'Souza said...

Posted by "Ajatashatru" ... [etc]

Ah, it's the guys who are delighted that we are "growing at approx. 9%" and somehow also manage to believe that growth itself means we don't need the rest of the world.

I'm not sure how, but you can trust that such naivete (to put it mildly) will emerge, every time there's even the mildest criticism of India anywhere.