To Bid Or Not To Bid

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India is definitely on the move. As India Inc makes others across the world listen to its tune, the nation’s sporting fraternity (read officialdom) is also joining in making the drumbeat louder. After successfully clinching the bid for Commonwealth Games, 2010, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is planning to bid for the ultimate sporting event—Olympic Games.

“We would be bidding for the 2016 Olympic Games to be held in Delhi,” says Randhir Singh, secretary general, IOA, and also India’s representative to the International Olympic Committee. The bids for 2016 Olympics would be opened in 2009.

As Mr Singh points out, India’s bid for the games would be based on our track record of hosting international sporting events successfully. “We were the originators of the Asian Games, and have hosted it twice. Recently we successfully hosted the 1st Afro Asian Games in Hyderabad,” he says.

“It, however, is not only our past record which will help us, even the country’s positive image is an important plus point. Our economy is booming. Delhi as a city would have all the world class infrastructure, especially after hosting the Commonwealth Games. There has been solid support from the government,” he adds.

However, not all are ready to buy the idea that a booming economy could bring Olympics to India. “We would do well to remember that only two Asian countries (Japan and Korea) have hosted the Olympics so far. Not only their economies were good but they achieved well on the sporting front also,” says veteran sports commentator, Dr Narottam Puri, who is also medical director, Max Healthcare.

“All talks about India’s booming economy and why we can’t host the games is fine, but let’s for a moment try to understand that Olympics is not an event to show off your financial prowess,” argues Dr Puri. “Even if our economy is growing, it has just about started doing well, so we need to sustain it. And maybe in another 10 year’s time we need to have a relook and assess where we stand,” he comments.

“We need to have a look at our sporting achievements in the Olympic arena. Apart from hockey, how many medals have we won at the Olympics? Hosting the Commonwealth Games is perfectly understandable as we have done well at that level. From a purely sporting point of view, I think we are not yet ready to host Olympic Games,” says Dr Puri.

Agrees Padmashree Jasdev Singh, the first commentator to be honoured with Olympic Order by IOC, “We are good organisers of international sporting events but we also need to be on top of the medal tally.”

Randhir Singh, however, differs. “Even if our sporting achievements in the Olympic arena is limited, we are gradually inching towards the top international standards. Just, for example, in athletics (remember Anju Bobby George?) and shooting (Anjali Vedpathak, Abhinav Bindra to name a few) we have produced world class performers. So in the coming years we are sure that the standard of our other sportspersons would have reached that stage,” he says.

Offering a different perspective, senior sports journalist Novy Kapadia says: “Sporting achievements is secondary. When Barcelona hosted Olympics, Spain didn’t have much to show off for their sporting capabilities. Even for that matter Greece. What you need is massive infrastructure and the ability to spend huge amount of dollars.” Hosting Commonwealth Games of about 90 odd countries is not comparable with Olympics, where you have about 200 countries participating, he argues.

If the goodwill generated from the successful 1st Afro Asian Games is to be relied upon, India can count on 40 IOC members of Afro Asian countries.
No country, however, has won the bid for Olympics on its first attempt. So history is against India. “I would rate it bleak, especially after considering our sporting achievements at the Olympics level,” says Dr Puri about India’s chances of getting the 2016 Olympics.

Mr Jasdev Singh feels that “it is a very tough chance for India”, for there are more prosperous and bigger nations which would offer better than what India can offer. “It takes a lot of effort and convincing the world that you can do it,” he says, hastening to ask even if you can, what’s the point if you are missing out on the medals? Mr Kapadia has another view. “After Beijing, 2008 Olympics won’t return to Asia till 2020,” he opines. “You would have to have massive influence at the highest level to clinch the deal,” adds Mr Kapadia.

But how far can we be optimistic of our chances? Says Mr Singh, “Looking from all aspects, we are very optimistic that we will get it. It needs 63 votes from the members of the IOC to win the bid.” IOC at present has 125 members.

If the goodwill generated from the successful 1st Afro Asian Games is to be relied upon, India can count on the 40 IOC members of Afro Asian countries. Another heartening fact, as available information suggests, is that no country from the Asia Oceania and African region has formally made known its intention to bid for the 2016 Games. Moreover, it is considered that London and Paris are the top contenders for the 2012 Olympic games. In case, if any of these two cities gets to host it in 2012, the chances of the games returning to Europe again in the next edition is very dim. Then Delhi will be left to fight it out with the American continent — in all possibility, New York and Rio de Janeiro.

Finance is one of the trickiest issues of hosting an event like the Olympics. Despite lacklustre response from sponsors to the 1st Afro Asian Games, Mr Randhir Singh is optimistic. “When Sydney hosted the games in 2000, the Australian Olympic Committee spent about $ 3 billion, but made a profit of about $ 100 million from the sponsorships,” he says. “But we would need less money, specially after the 2010 Commonwealth Games and due to lesser overriding costs. Yet, for the 2010 Commonwealth Games we would be spending about $ 100-120 million,” he adds.

From where the money would come is still anybody’s guess. Dr Puri reminds the pitfalls, “Not all the Olympics have made money. Just remember Montreal, which went bust after hosting the games. Hosting an Olympics is definitely a feel good factor. It is sort of a way to be talking that we are also ‘in the league’. However, we should not lose our perspective and get carried away.”

As Mr Kapadia sums up, “If India would get to host the 2016 Olympics would depend a lot on how it hosts the 2010 Commonwealth Games.”

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