Temporary insanity

Let us begin with a straightforward question: are you for the Commonwealth Games, or against? Straightforward and simple, you might say. Everybody is against the wretched Games, and so, of course, am I. Think again.

You didn't hate the CWG until two weeks ago. In fact, you were proud that your country, and its capital, was holding a major competitive event and, as a consequence, it was getting a long-overdue makeover. Hoardings and newspaper advertisements were coming up, drilling basic lessons in civic sense: how to treat foreign tourists with dignity, keeping the city clean, etc, etc. For at least three years, as much of our city was dug up to build the Metro, flyovers and new roads, we responded with a grin-and-bear attitude. This was becoming a quantum upgrade, and you had begun to see results already, particularly with the arrival of new, low-floor and spacier buses, the opening of new sections of the Metro. At least one major problem of the city, commuting for the poor and the middle classes, was being addressed. We felt great when the new airport was opened, within schedule. All the old stadia were covered in scaffolding and everybody knew they were being renovated. Meanwhile, work was moving on new power plants to feed Delhi with more than 3,000 MW. Not only were we not complaining about any of this, we were indeed pleased that the Commonwealth Games had become such a gift to India's capital. So what went so wrong in just two weeks?

The surfacing of allegations that oodles of money is being made in the name of Commonwealth Games. The cause of the Games was not helped by the fact that Kalmadi and his cohorts look like the usual suspects even in the most usual of times. But these are not even usual times. The government has handed over to his Organising Committee nearly Rs 2,500 crore and a stink has begun to rise over how some of it is being spent, or stolen. In fact, a disclosure is in order that four of the first stories that built this "hawa" of corruption were broken by the reporters of The Indian Express (Ritu Sarin on Kalmadi's son's purported share in the new Formula 1 track in Noida, Sobhana K. on the alleged platinum ring "import", the commissions paid out to SMAM, and how PSUs were being arm-twisted to commit large amounts in sponsorship). Frankly, while these stories did paint a disturbing picture of the goings-on in the Organising Committee, we had never imagined that these would ultimately lead to a campaign of abuse and calumny that would paint the very Games as evil.

... contd.

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