The Games and Brand India
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Hosting an international sports tournament is a good idea. It creates infrastructure, employment, new sporting facilities and improves the international standing of the hosting city and country. If everything goes well, that is. Far from symbolizing India’s ‘arrival’ on the world stage, the Commonwealth Games is turning into an embarrassment. A country that is said to be an emerging superpower is struggling to put together basic infrastructure for hosting a sports tournament.

The shoddy organization of the Commonwealth Games, however, symbolizes not the hollowness of Brand India but governments and public bodies that are struggling to live up to the demands of the 21st century. Brand India is largely the result of the efforts of the private sector and a failed Commonwealth Games, due to the failures of government appointed organizing bodies and officials, must not be allowed to dilute its image.

Contrast the way in which the Games is being organized and the efficiency with which cricket tournaments are organized in India. Whether the Commonwealth Games will be a success or not, the privately organized ICC Cricket World Cup in 2011 will most likely go without a word spoken about organizational shortcomings.

Maybe governments should not be tasked with organizing sports events at all, when many other urgent tasks require their attention and when the private sector can do a far better job. Forget 21st century, all that was asked of the Delhi Government, the Union Government and the Indian Olympic Association was to create basic infrastructure for hosting a international sports tournament. They may yet be successful in their efforts but not before wasting public money in inefficiency and corruption, and causing great inconvenience to the people of Delhi. Had the organization of the Games been ‘outsourced’ to a private company, the story may have been quite different.

Can anything be more symbolic of the mix up of government priorities than the drive to relocate beggars from the streets of Delhi to areas that are safely out of view of the Games visitors? Shouldnt governments be doing something for the beggars or atleast be leaving them alone, instead of relocating them and showing them how unwanted they are?

It was unnecessary in the first place to make the Commonwealth Games an event to showcase India’s ‘arrival’ at the global stage. The Commonwealth Games is nothing like the Olympic Games in scale or importance. There is an attempt to imitate China, which used the Beijing Olympics in 2008 to symbolize its own ‘arrival.’ Unlike India, China is a credible contender to emerging superpower status and is well on its way to challenge the supremacy of the United States in the international arena.

Notwithstanding its own substantial achievements in the last two decades, India has a long way to go before its claims of being an emerging superpower sound credible. The most urgent task is to reform the political and administrative machinery and drag it into the 21st century, along with the rest of the country. We need a lean and mean government that can respond efficiently to well defined responsibilities and priorities, not one that is burdened with unnecessary responsibilities and bogged down with commitments it struggles to fulfill.