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Headlines Today Executive Editor Rahul Kanwal on CWG

first_imgConnect with the Editor World champion wrestler Sushil Kumar entered the Indira Gandhi stadium to the sort of deafening applause India reserves usually only for Sachin Tendulkar. When Saina Nehwal smashed her way out of a match point, the celebrations at Siri Fort and in millions of homes across India was no less than when India beat Australia in the nerve wracking, nail biting test match at Mohali.  A young mother came up to Organizing Committee Vice Chairman Randhir Singh at the Karni Singh shooting ranges, requesting for her son to be introduced to Abhinav Bindra. She wanted to click a picture of Abhinav Bindra with her son, so that each morning when the young boy woke up, he would have Bindra’s picture above his bed and would be inspired to emulate the heroics of the Olympic Gold Medalist. I cite these instances for all those who argue that the Commonwealth Games were a colossal waste. Never before in the history of this country have so many, followed the fortunes of sports stars outside cricket so closely. While the games are unlikely to transform India into a sporting power overnight, they are very likely to herald a new beginning for Indian sports. The ball that began to roll when Col Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore shot his way to a silver medal at Athens, the same ball that gathered momentum when Abhinav Bindra plucked gold at Beijing and Vijender and Sushil chipped in with a bronze each, is now likely to acquire an even greater momentum of its own. Because inspired by the heroics of Abhinav Bindra, Sushil Kumar, Vijender Singh and our other CWG stars, dozens of young boys and girls are taking to sports like never before. 10 years ago, few parents would have encouraged their children to take up professional sports. But just ask Pullela Gopichand about the impact that Saina Nehwal’s accomplishments have had on the number of young kids wanting to join his badminton academy in Hyderabad and you will know about the silent revolution that has begun to take shape. Before Saina, Sania’s exploits too had the same impact on tennis.  Haryana is a shining example of the magic that can unfold when youthful energy finds a platform and patronage. Inspired by Vijender, Akhil and Sushil and actively backed by the state government, hundreds of young kids are taking to taking to wrestling and boxing. The fact that athletes from Haryana won a whopping 14 golds and that Haryana would have stood 5th in the games had it contested as an independent country, is an example of what India’s youngsters can do when opportunity marries hard work.  While some might find the ways of Haryana Chief Minister Bhoopinder Singh Hooda to be very rustic, the fact remains that his patronage has transformed the lives of sportspersons in Haryana and given others the confidence that if they bring sporting glory they too can be assured of a good government job and enough money to sustain themselves and their families. The job of Deputy Superintendent of Police might not mean much to someone brought up in a middle class urban household but it means the world to a poor villager whose family has been denied growth opportunities for decades.  Where was Haryana in the last Commonwealth Games. In 2006 in Melbourne athletes from the state won 1 gold, 3 silvers and 1 bronze. In a period of four years, athletes have managed to win 15 of India’s 38 gold medals in the CWG. This is no less than a minor miracle. His cahoots might break CWG protocol by getting medalists to come and touch his feet after winning bouts, international delegates might be appalled by the sycophancy, foreign athletes might snigger but India owes a big thank you to the Haryana chief minister and his government for the champions the state has produced. Each champion will inspire a hundred dreams to take wing.While sports may not be a priority for Mayawati’s government in Uttar Pradesh, Karunanidhi’s government in Tamil Nadu, or for Yeddurappa’s bumbling government in Karnataka, but what is to stop some of the country’s more effective administrators like Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar, Ashok Gehlot or Shiv Raj Singh Chauhan to give sports the same impetus and push as the Haryana CM. Just imagine the collective energies that would get unleashed if Chief Ministers got competitive about whose state wins more medals in international sporting events. India’s tally could double from 38 in time for Glasgow 2014. This is not an idle dream but one that India can achieve. We have one-sixth of the world’s population, if the state finds the will, the population will throw up the champions.  But will this ever happen in our country. I’m afraid the chances are bleak. The international athletes have barely left India’s shores and we are already getting word that the All India Congress Committee session to be organized on November 2, will be held at the Talkatora Boxing stadium. This is a royal shame. Thousands of crores of tax payer money was spent on building world class sports infrastructure. It will be the biggest travesty if politicians now come and hijack these facilities. Talkatora was created for boxers and must be used by them. Netas should find other venues to hold their political bouts.   In fact, if these games are being considered a success it is because of the stellar performances of our athletes, in no way attributable to the mess that India’s politicians landed the country in just before the games began. Every Indian had to bow his head in shame as story after story broke of gross mismanagement and unimaginable plunder. From the Prime Minister downwards, they are all to be held accountable for having allowed the mess to perpetuate. What was the PM doing when Suresh Kalmadi and company dragged their feet, intentionally allowed the delays to happen and then tried to push all expenses through at the last minute, knowing that the government had no option but to clear the spending because the game were nearing.  Ex-CAG Chief VK Shunglu has been appointed by the Prime Minister with the carte blanche to investigate all CWG related fraud, but it will serve no good, if the committee only looks for easy scapegoats. Kalmadi and Bhanot have gone underground, the noose is tightening around them. But they are not the only ones, responsible for having defrauded India. The rot runs deep. Even people close to the PM are culpable. Suresh Kalmadi and Sheila Dixit have been given a cold shoulder by both the PM and Sonia, who did not invite them for the athletes’ felicitation functions. But a mere cold shoulder is not enough. The villains of CWG need to be punished and sent to jail for having shamed India.  Chief Minister Sheila Dixit is already talking about giving the Olympics a shot somewhere during the 2020’s. There can be no worse idea. Unless accountability is fixed, unless the corrupt are jailed, unless professionals are brought in, unless the right lessons are learnt, the hosting of no mega sporting event will have the backing of the people of India, who will view them as another opportunity for corrupt netas to line their pockets.  Four CWG gold medal winner Gagan Narang said as he left our studios last night that he fears that taint and corruption are all that people of India will remember and that the achievements of our sportspersons will be forgotten after a week. The citizens of India cannot afford to do that. Athletes must be hailed and encouraged to strive for greater glory and the men and women who let India down must brought to book. One without the other would be a great disservice to this nation.last_img

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