October 30, 2010

An Open Letter... to Mr. Kalmadi, President, IOA

Dear Respected Mr. Suresh Kalmadi, 

I am writing this letter to let you know what I think of about this whole CWG issue going on, fully knowing that I may not have the all the wisdom to talk about it, but still having the right to do so, being a concerned Indian. 

First of all, let me congratulate you for staging such a successful (at least for me) Common Wealth Games. I know that this wasn't done because of your efforts only. There was hard work and patience of numerous other people also involved. But since you were the head of this whole project, my first wishes are for you. 

Delhi got the Common Wealth Games 2010 hosting right in 2003 only. But, I was too small/ignorant to know about the significance of that at that time. I only came to notice about it at around 2006, when Indians went to Melbourne CWG to showcase their performance and invite the world to come to Delhi, India 4 years later. I was happy not only because India was staging a grand event, but also because the Government was promising a lot of dreamy projects in conjunction with Games. More roads, more flyovers, newer better buses, expansion in Metro network. Then there was mono rail project, renewing the Ring rail and beautification of whole city in general. And this got me salivating, after all people like me were going to take advantage of this later.But alas, many of these promised things either weren't delivered at all or were under-delivered. Of course, this isn't your fault, I know. 

2 years back, when media suddenly woke up to the reality that people under you were sleeping and working at a snails pace, then only I got to know about the whole issue of things to be done in order to stage the event successfully. But like typical Indians, I was hopeful that we will be able to do everything right at the end. And credit goes to you and other heads involved with the Games, who regularly kept on coming in open reassuring us that everything is fine and everything will be fine. But, things started to look a bit bleak when Mr. Fennell, President of CWG started to express serious concerns over the state of preparedness, there was even talk of shifting the event. And then there was that ugly cold war between you and CWG officials. Thankfully, you got it resolved on time and I felt that everything will be alright. Now I realise that like you, I was also trying to solve the problem by ignoring it. 

Anyway, as the time passed on the media became more and more hyper. Now, I don't watch news channels but the one paper that I zealously read seemed to be hell bent to prove that the Games are over before they even started. The horror news of all things bad started coming in the open everyday. For a moment even I got doubtful about the organization of Games, with deadlines after deadlines getting missed, unusually long rainy season, threat of Dengue and other diseases, bridges collapsing, corruption allegation, officials fumbling with their statements, negative publicity in the international media, athletes refusing to come, countries expressing apprehension over the security issue in the backdrop of a 'small' terrorist incident, people showing lack of interest in the Games, apprehension by sponsors et al. And it was disappointing as well as confusing. Everyone seemed to be against you. But you kept a brave face and refused to stand down till the whole thing was over. I truly respect what you did at that time. 

And finally the show arrived. I haven't had the opportunity to watch too many opening ceremonies in my life, but the one we organized will remain in my memory forever. It was heart warming to see the glory of India been shown in such a fine fashion. The roar of the crowd in the stadium filled my heart (and million others) with pride. And as we usually have, everything was forgotten quickly and temporarily to focus on the good part (finally!). I went to see a few games along with my friends and we had a great time (though we didn't win much!). But, the performance of Indians throughout the Games was exciting to watch. The Closing ceremony too was equally majestic. Now, I wonder, how would all this be possible without we organizing the Games. 

I believe that media has been biased against you. Your have been blamed for a lot of mess that wasn't yours. A lot of things going bad was because of the multiplicity of working agencies who were not ready to work in tandem and maintained a tendency of delaying things till the end. Even your own countrymen went against you because of hearing all the negative things about you. I didn't like you getting booed during opening and closing ceremonies. Thankfully, you didn't show any negative emotion then. 

But, even you will agree with the fact that, we could have done a lot of things better. The budget went to an astronomically limit reaching over 15 times the original estimate. While some of it is understandable, with inflation and procuring better facilities, but mostly money could have been saved with some smart management. It was amusing the hear about spectators being shown 'houseful' signboards but the stadium still going empty. But, you and your team were so busy taking care of million other things. 

And now that the show is over, the real show begins. You are being showcased as the real culprit, and seem destined to be trialed like Kasab. I don't have any special affection for you but I feel you should be acknowledged for what you did and should get a fair trial. If you are proved guilty than each and everyone involved must get a stick. It is so easy to criticize from a distance, but one should not forget that organizing event of such large magnitude isn't a mean task. Being made a scapegoat, is the least you deserve. I don't think you will get another chance, but you tried your best to get 2014 Asian Games into Delhi and are partly responsible for projecting a good image of India and brightening its chances to bid for 2020 Olympics.

I wish you could have resigned just after the Games. Here is wishing you good luck. 

Yours Delhiate