While the Commonwealth games are still two months away, we are increasingly hearing sordid tales of Indian Olympic Association (IOA) officials making money in the guise of getting Delhi ready for the games. Here are a few examples that made me particularly sad:
- Instead of buying treadmills, the games committee has decided to lease them for the duration of the games. The organizers claim that the cost to lease a treadmill for 45 days is a ridiculous Rs. 10 lakh. Investigation by media outlets have later revealed that you can buy (not lease) these same treadmills for around Rs. 4 lakh! (link)
- Contracts have been brazenly awarded to the people who run the IOA. See this for example where the contract to prepare the tennis courts has been awarded to a company which is headed by the IOA treasurer’s son.
- All preparations are hugely behind schedule. Many people attribute it to official apathy or incompetence. The truth is much more sinister. The IOA guys know that given a choice between (a) pumping money and getting Delhi ready at the last minute at all costs and (b) immense loss of national prestige by a lackluster event; the Indian/Delhi government will clearly choose (a). Hence, the IOA has deliberately delayed the preparations and now it is basically holding the Indian government hostage. “If you want us to be ready, we need Rs. xxx. And make it fast please!”.
- Mr. Suresh Kalmadi has been the head of the IOA for the past fourteen years. I wonder what credentials does he have which allow him to remain the head of such a critical body for such a long time? His resume doesn’t list any sports background. The results he has delivered (as evidenced by our performances in international sports competitions) have been mediocre at best, and if you take out two or three brilliant individual performers, they are downright appalling. So why does he get to be the head of the IOA?
I am sure we will hear many more stories like this in the days to come. And it will be followed by the usual. After the games, a committee will be seated to investigate the conduct of the officials organizing the games. After six years of painstaking effort, all of it on taxpayer’s money, the committee will produce a 600 page report. Suresh Kalmadi by that time will be standing for his seventh re-election to the post of the IOA President. And India will be preparing for Olympics 2020 with the same wealth games being played in the background. I hope I am wrong.