The Chinese were practicing the Olympics opening ceremony two years ahead. Nothing done to forestall the cyclical outbreak of dengue? It will peak in October. The Village on the Yamuna’s floodplains will be vulnerable. Several participating countries have issued alerts. Outsourcing crucial aspects of the Games to foreigners at the expense of local talent including highly dubious sponsorship, baton relay deals?
Perhaps to keep crony kickbacks outside the purview of Indian taxmen? India Inc and MNCs shying from sponsorships; PSUs rethinking commitments? The failure to stem bad public manners — spitting, littering and urinating?
Beijing’s Spiritual Civilization Steering Committee successfully instilled civic sense in the city’s inhabitants ahead of the 2008 Olympics. This is the state of affairs. Imagine where our much vaunted national pride would be if: once again, India wins only a handful of medals?
Potential home advantage does not exist because self-serving sports administrators have rarely nurtured India’s sporting talent and infrastructure. In contrast, the Chinese withdrew from international competitions for more than a decade to develop home-grown sporting prowess, then modestly tested its mettle from the 1988 Seoul Olympics on. star (white) athletes continue to heed, lemming-like, the call of iconic Australian swimmer Dawn Fraser to pull out because of “lies” regarding the quality of venues and the possibility of another Munich?
A “world-class” venue structure collapses? Laggardly security arrangements allow a terrorist strike and inadequate quality control of catering forces embassies to import food for their athletes?
Empty grandstands flash up on worldwide TV? So far, just 20,000 of the overseas allocation of 1.7 lakh tickets have sold so far. And Delhi’s residents display no visible interest in the event.
The ‘worst ever’ Games are in the offing. Matching Australia or South Africa is a pipe dream. Given the organizational disaster, a vortex of mishaps and glitches is inevitable. They will receive worldwide coverage. The objective of showcasing an emerging Asian power on the world stage is set to self-destruct.
Of late, the surreal optimism about hosting the “best ever” Games has given way to doing “our best”. At last, there is implicit acknowledgement that an ignominious fortnight is on the cards. It is time to cut our losses.
The bottom line is that a systemic, nationwide malaise has been exposed. It could be a catalyst for declaring independence from incompetence, corruption and the arrogance embedded in DNA of the ruling class. Postponing the Games will give unambiguous notice to the tainted to Quit India.
It would be a non-violent Dandi moment for the aam admi. It would be a fitting homage to Gandhi’s birth anniversary is October 2. And in the spirit of his values, Delhi’s citizens could be forgiven for hoisting the national flag and writing to their elected representatives to declare: “We will not take it any more.”
(The writer was Australia’s deputy high commissioner to India in the 90s)