“Common”wealth and Patriotism


Have been reading about all the controversies surrounding the Commonwealth games and had stayed away from writing anything about it. After all in a corrupt country.. when controversies happen about corruption, it obviously means that there are some people who have not been able to dip into the free flow of money and want to ensure that others don’t get it either.

But when someone I respect a lot and consider a real woman of substance questions the patriotism of people who are commenting on  the preparedness of India for these games.. I felt I had to write. Ms Sheila Dixit has made the blunder of same proportion as MS Gill telling Parliament that if any Member of Parliament wants details about financial misappropriation, they should file an application under RTI!

Ms Dixit, I have lived in Delhi for close to 15 years and have seen the city transform for the better and the public of Delhi has also reposed faith in you over and over by electing you but please do not question our patriotism for the mess delhi has been in past couple of years and the mess it is in today… just month and half away from the Games.

Read a week back that all facilities for London Olympics in 2012 are ready and are being tested!! And everything would be in a state of preparedness a year in advance. So where did we go wrong? Forget taking digs at Mr Aiyer and have an action plan in place for a clean up. Either you are completely blind to say that clean up has happened or under the pressure from the party that you are part of, you are forced to utter such inanities.

However, the larger question is… why did India opt to host the Commonwealth games? We do not have a sports culture at all. And no cricket, hockey and soccer on TV does not constitute sports culture. And more importantly why should we be getting orgasmic about Queen’s Baton?? We do not owe allegiance to the Queen nor to anyone else in the world!

The country has been taken for a ride in the name of hosting such an elite event (and I do question the eliteness of CWG). If this hosting of games was going to be exciting, Mr Kalmadi would not have been trying to twist BCCI arm to give out Rs 100 crores and scrounging for sponsorships. Airtel is a sponsor of a complete non event called Champion’s League to be played in South Africa. If they had believed that CWG would be big, they would have been the first one to be the lead sponsor and of course various other brands would have lined up to be part of the event (just a month back every brand worth something was trying to be part of World Cup Soccer where India does not even participate). If people and the brands would have believed that sponsoring or being part of CWG would heighten the national interest and patriotism, we would have already seen various campaigns. I am absolutely sure that many brands are already working on communication strategies that they want in place for the 2011 Cricket World Cup.

Of course, if the telecast rights had been with a channel other than Doordarshan, things might have been better.. mind you just a wee bit better. And no surprises if the rights were to be sold for the Games, none of the leading channels would have even bid. If anything, they would have asked the government to pay for the production cost!

So the common public is not interested. Corporates are not interested (no Public Sector company would have sponsored either if they had a choice) so who are we holding the Games for?

Reminds me of few instances in the corporate world where I have been part of. In a completely inward looking strategy brands and corporates believe that there will be a huge audience just waiting to lap up their offering. Numbers and projections are made and the product is launched… only to fail miserably.

The tourism industry must be in utter shock (their fault entirely if they believed that there will be a huge tourist crowd linked with the games). All the capacity that was built in the hotel industry would soon bring the  rack rates crashing down.

All the business loss that shopping establishments in places like Cannaught Place have suffered, they would never be able to recover them for years after the beautification in the name of Games is over.

And not to forget egg on our collective faces when facilities at various stadias would be up for the entire world to view. We should not talk about patritotism and global conspiracy against India when the foreign journalists take pictures of the shoddiness and show it to the world.

I think Mr Fennel had visited Delhi few months back and he was extremely worried and the entire media and the CWG people had piled on to him for having doubts. Well he would probably have the last laugh now.

Though I do hope that in a manner typical to us, we will manage to have things in place at the last minute. Won’t be world class but would be “Chalta hai” and hopefully our sports people would win a few medals and media too in its usual way would move on to other stories for getting TRPs. But  only if the malaise that is called the Indian system of  ‘make hay while the sun shines’ can be addressed… This country has the potential to be the best… if only we start believing in ourselves rather than finding ways of how to get things done.

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