Tag Archive for 'Suresh Kalmadi'

Looking for good news

Outlook’s special Independance Day issue is devoted to ‘good news’. In its lead essay Mukul Kesavan asks why good news doesn’t get the space it deserves.

Where’s the good news? Not the sort that energetic evangelicals bring with their tracts and their spiels for Jesus, just ordinarily good (good as in cheering, uplifting, heartening, encouraging) news? Where’s the story about the honest member of Parliament who used his discretionary funds to actually help his constituents? About the judges who outlawed state vigilantism? About the district where payments under NREGA are made in full? It surely can’t be any editor’s case that honesty, scruple and inspirational work are absent in India, so why don’t we, as consumers of news, hear about them? more

Elsewhere, in the same issue, Arnab Goswami of Times Now says the kernel of the negativity debate lies in the number of scams that demand answers.

Let me begin with an admission. I had no idea it would become so big. When we sent our crew to London to follow up on a scam that ran into a few hundred thousand pounds, we weren’t even sure if a company called AM Car and Films existed. We had papers to show the British government was suspicious about transactions between politician-sports czar Suresh Kalmadi’s CWG organising committee and this vague company with a Peel Road suburban London address.

The story finally broke on June 30, ’10, at around 7 pm, just as we were getting into prime-time. We had placed our reporters in a way that they would hunt for reactions from the persona dramatis the moment it broke. The initial reaction was amazing. “You guys have lost it,” said one of Kalmadi’s henchmen. “A few hundred thousand pounds. Itne me toh ek hafta bhi nahi chalta. Do you think we play for loose change?” he asked.

Two days later, Kalmadi finally surfaced. He put on an air of hurt and defiance, and declared his intention to file a defamation case against our channel. He smiled at the other media, insulted our reporters publicly while referring to the channel seventeen times. He also offered himself open to ‘explosive’ interviews on other channels that often began with the penetrating question: “Mr Kalmadi, all these charges that have been levelled against you, do they have any truth?”, and included the googly: “Let me ask you, Mr Kalmadi, will you resign?” more

And a Gold for Delhi

Shekhar Gupta in The Indian Express:

Of course there was a sizeable VIP and invitees stand, but the rest, nearly three-fourths of the stadium, was packed with paying janta. A lot of them, in fact a hell of a lot of them, were women. The people of Delhi who had braved inefficiencies and worse to buy tickets, challenging commuting arrangements and walked long distances from parking lots to watch what was, for most of them, their first-ever game of an international sport other than cricket. These were regular middle- or upper middle-class Dilliwalas. Not your usual my-uncle-is-a-big-shot-so-he-got-me-a-free-pass-type that Delhi is notorious for. And they were now getting their money’s worth, forgetting for a while all the scandals and scares, many of them real, and all the self-flagellating shame-mongering that was just so much hogwash.

You could have also been at the lawn tennis or badminton stadiums in south Delhi, newly built to world standards. Tickets here were not cheap, but on most days, even in the earlier rounds, these were full. You can check me out on this. Across the five days of the Mohali Test match, arguably one of our greatest and most exciting victories ever, what cricket’s hyper-ventilating commentators call a humdinger, the number of spectators each day at the badminton stadium was much greater. And that is when Mohali’s capacity is at least ten times more. Remember that silly demand made by Suresh Kalmadi that the BCCI shift the two Tests as these would take away CWG audiences?

Nothing of the sort happened. And if you wanted further evidence, you should have also been at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium at the eight-day track-and-field events. On any of these days, the paying crowd that came in to watch mostly foreign winners, and some Indians who they knew nothing about, was greater than the total number of spectators over five full days at Mohali. Do check that out. In fact there was almost no major CWG stadium that won’t pass this Mohali test for paid attendance. And we thought cricket had not only killed Olympic sports, but had buried them so deep nobody would ever resurrect them.

So who did, actually, resurrect it? Kalmadi? Lalit Bhanot? M.S. Gill? Ha! You would have known the answer if you were at the Nehru stadium this Wednesday, the last evening of track-and-field. Sixty thousand Indians cheered the quartet of wonderfully talented, competitive and humble young women who ran a brilliantly intelligent race to win India’s first Commonwealth track gold in 58 years. Now, when was the last time you saw 60,000 Indians cheer like that an Indian sportsperson not called Sachin Tendulkar? In fact, I will stick my neck out and say, never. Most definitely, never a non-cricketer. And they were cheering four girls whose faces they would not recognise, and many of whose names they would struggle to pronounce. More:

The day after: Probe into Games

In The Indian Express: A day after the Commonwealth Games 2010 came to a close on a high note, the UPA government constituted a high-level committee to look into the “organisation and conduct” of the Games, fix responsibility for the alleged irregularities, and also to prepare a dossier on the lessons learnt for future events. The panel, headed by former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) V K Shunglu, will submit its report to the Prime Minister within three months. The announcement came on a day the government snubbed the Games Organising Committee (OC) by not inviting its head, Suresh Kalmadi, to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s interaction with the medal winners. More:

And in The New York Times: India declares Commonwealth Games a success

Indeed, some officials who before the games fought over who should be blamed are now fighting over who should get credit. The sniping suggested that much of India’s political class, rather than being chastened by the glaring failures in preparations and the huge cost overruns, seemed inclined to declare victory, raising the question of what lessons, if any, they absorbed.

Even before the opening ceremony, one domestic commentator declared India’s performance as host as “largely acceptable,” and that seemed to equate to good enough. It was not ringing praise, but it did reflect the imperfect if face-saving comeback made by Indian officials after a games prelude so disorganized and poorly prepared that several nations threatened not to show up. More:

Let the games begin

AW reports on the hits and misses from Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, 2010.

Hits

1. The 65,000 people in the audience were everything a good audience is supposed to be. Disciplined, courteous, sporting – they even cheered loudly for the Pakistan contingent.

2. The volunteers and school children.

3. Keshava, the seven-year-old tabla player from Puducherry.

4. Audience cheer-o-meter: Loudest cheers and a standing ovation for the 619-member Indian contingent led by shooter and India’s only individual gold winner Abhinav Bindra (he also took the oath on behalf of all the athletes present). Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit got loud cheers every time her name was mentioned, big rounds of applause also for former President APJ Abdul Kalam, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Wrestler Sushil Kumar holding the Queen’s baton also greeted with loud cheers.

5. The fireworks, in a word, dazzling.

6. Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in two words, also dazzling.

7. The Rs 44 crore aerostat, worth perhaps every crore.

Misses:

1. Suresh Kalmadi, jeered and booed.

2. Interminable speeches (Suresh Kalmadi, President Pratibha Patil, Prince Charles, Mike Fennell, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh): who wants to hear politicians and officials mouthing platitudes at a games?

3. The classical dance sequence was b-o-r-i-n-g.

4. By singing Jai ho, his Oscar winning song from Slumdog Millionaire (not exactly the best movie to showcase India), after his theme song Jiyo, Utho, Bado Jeeto, A.R Rehman seriously devalued the worth of the theme song. The theme song should have been the grand finale. Last word of the ceremony.

5. The ceremony was one hour too long, nothing would have been lost with a tighter, more focused ceremony.

Open letter to Sonia Gandhi

The scale and arrogance of corruption in the CWG is so bizarre that if it goes unpunished, there is no hope for this country. Arvind Kejriwal in Outlook:

Dear Mrs Gandhi,

Dr Manmohan Singh is believed to be one of the most honest prime ministers our country has had. But, ironically, he presides over arguably the most dishonest government machinery we have seen. The latest in the series of scams is the massive corruption in the Commonwealth Games. Despite charges of large-scale fund misuse and inefficient management, Suresh Kalmadi, almost defiantly, says he won’t step down till the PM or Sonia Gandhi asks him to do so. He seems to be confident that neither of you would ask him to step down!

The scale and arrogance of corruption in the Commonwealth Games is so bizarre that if it goes unpunished this time also, then there is no hope for this country. Both Dr Singh and you have said on several occasions that those involved in corruption in CWG will not be spared after the games. But which agency will investigate these cases?

The CBI? This is directly under the control of the central government. It runs almost like its department. It has been misused for political purposes almost by all successive governments and parties. With allegations against people and politicians in high places in the Commonwealth Games, it is highly unlikely that the CBI would be allowed to do an unbiased and honest investigation. More:

Let the Games not begin

Jyoti Thottam in Time:

If New Delhi is India’s glittering emerald city, Suresh Kalmadi must surely be its Wizard of Oz.

On Sept. 15, Kalmadi, a career politician, stood in the middle of Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in front of an 80-m-wide, $8.8 million, helium-filled balloon commissioned for the opening ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games. The aerostat is his pride and joy, and he stood before it to try to reassure a group of journalists that everything was under control. The Commonwealth Games begin on Oct. 3 and will be the largest sporting event ever held in India. But the city is still furiously finishing some of the venues. Many top athletes will not be attending, thanks to weeks of reports about construction delays, shoddy work, an outbreak of mosquito-borne diseases and an athletes’ village deemed “uninhabitable” by visiting delegates.

Glossing over all that, Kalmadi, the chairman of the Games’ organizing committee, confidently predicted that New Delhi would be “100% ready.” At least that’s what I think he said. It was difficult to hear him over the din of construction inside the stadium, and I was distracted by the workmen digging into the middle of the track right behind him. “There’s no work going on, except a little bit of polishing,” Kalmadi baldly said. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. More:

Commonwealth Games: England chief expects more athletes to pull out

From The Guardian:

The fate of the Commonwealth Games in India is hanging in the balance after leading nations expressed concern over the state of facilities.

Sir Andrew Foster, chairman of the England team, said it remained “very concerned” over the state of facilities, while the Scotland team delayed its departure for Delhi. Foster said the team still required assurances from organisers over the athletes’ village and the games arenas. He added that a final decision would have to be made over the next few days. “All options remain open,” he said.

The ultimate option would be pulling out of the tournament entirely but Foster said Team England was “not there yet”. He also said he expected more English athletes may still choose to pull out of the games unilaterally. The first 22 members of the England team will fly to Delhi tomorrow as planned.

India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, prepared for a round of crisis talks and the Welsh team set organisers a deadline to prove the venues and athletes’ village were fit for use.

Foster earlier said the future of the event remained “on a knife edge”, 11 days before the opening ceremony. More:

CWG: A mad scramble to the finish line

Less than two weeks to go before the Commonwealth Games, touted as India’s showcase event to the world, begin and there is a feeling of events spiralling out of control in New Delhi: tourists being shot, a footbridge collapsing, incessant rains and, now, a sleeping dog. Clearly, things are less than ready. In New York Times, Heather Timmons:

Skepticism about India’s preparedness for the Commonwealth Games deepened Tuesday after a partly constructed footbridge collapsed outside the main arena for competition, injuring dozens. 

The collapse coincided with angry words from visiting officials who described the accommodations for athletes as uninhabitable. One visitor, the head of the New Zealand delegation, even raised the possibility that the games might be delayed or canceled.

India’s failure to complete the work for the games, which are to begin Oct. 3 and last for two weeks, has become a major embarrassment for the country instead of a showcase for its rising economic might. The unspoken comparison to India’s rival China, which won widespread acclaim from its preparations for the 2008 Summer Olympics, are a further source of humiliation. more

Also read Heather Timmons’ earlier article: All is Ready for Big Games in India, Except what Isn’t

Let the Commonwealth Games begin

Shekhar Gupta in The Indian Express:

Demonising the Commonwealth Games just because people made money in some deals (the London limo deal, by the way, was worth a total of Rs 1.7 crore, so you can guess how much money someone would have made from it) is indeed colossal stupidity. It also highlights this worrying twitterisation of our profession where you charge without checking, and then use a broad brush dripping with black to paint whatever you feel like. Or run with viewer/ reader comments like: I won’t go to the Games because the stadiums are so unsafe there will be a risk to my life.

There is no argument that sporting events of this size and prestige are important to nations. The Congress leadership, which has dumped these Games on their squabbling functionaries, some of whom nurse vicious mutual antagonisms, would do well to remember the way Indira Gandhi showed commitment to Asiad ’82, with her call of “India can do it.” She was honoured by Juan Antonio Samaranch, the then IOC chief, with the Golden Olympic Order, the first Asian and the first woman to receive it. Now her party takes great pride in withdrawing from the 2018 Asiad bid as if India cannot do in 2018 what it could 36 and 68 years earlier (1982 and 1950). And all because you do not like Suresh Kalmadi’s face.

These Games must be saved, from Suresh Kalmadi, and from the rest of us feral beasts (apologies to Tony Blair). Indira Gandhi threw her son, then just over 35 and so new to politics, into Asiad ’82 and it became his launch pad and one of his finest moments. This has been done around the world. In the US, Mitt Romney built a national profile by organising a great Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Obama himself went to lobby for the 2016 Olympics. Here, we take on the responsibility of conducting our biggest sporting event so far, and can get no one higher than our sports minister to defend them, and that too apologetically. How far backwards we have slipped in the three decades since Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. More: