By Brig SD Dangwal (Retd)
It is a matter of great pride and privilege for the State of Uttarakhand to be awarded the hosting and conduct of the 38th National Games in 2018 (since postponed indefinitely in the wake of the ongoing pandemic in the country) by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). The responsibility for this (organisation and conduct) will largely rest with the Government of Uttarakhand, Uttarakhand State Olympic Association (UOA) and its affiliated sports bodies and the Sports Ministry of the State. The decision, which was taken at the meeting of the Indian Olympic Association in Chennai has definitely enthused and infused a sense of joy among the sports loving people and the sportspersons of Uttarakhand. The Organisers of the 38th National Games have a clear lead time of years for the preparation of these Games. It is presumed that the State Sports Minister and his incumbent Ministry must have already envisioned the location, venues and facilities wherein the various sports and games comprising this multi-disciplinary event will be held. It must have been on the basis of this input and detail, which would have been the major part of its Presentation made to the office bearers of the empowered committee of IOA in Chennai that it won its candidature for the hosting of the 38th National Games ahead of Andhra and Telangana, which too were in the fray.
The stakeholders in the organisation and conduct of the 38th National Games have a very onerous responsibility to discharge and deliver. After the devastation of the pandemic and the State’s economy limping back to normal, it will be a huge challenge for the Government to go ahead with its organisation. But, it must hold the Games to show its resilience to bounce back and show to its people its ability to take everything in its stride and move on. It is in the build up to these Games that the State Government and its incumbent departments will have a major role to play in siting, obtaining clearances, acquiring, tendering, funding, building and developing the infrastructure required for the Games Villages, roads leading to and from here to the various stadia and for the spectators to access these, providing of civic amenities, etc., respectively. This will indeed be the biggest challenge for the Organisers, while all else can be addressed in a sequential and progressive manner, but that is not to say that it will be easy to accomplish. The IOA has adequate and sufficient experience to provide the organisers with the wherewithal to constitute, structure and align the various committees that will be required for these Games and oversee the progress of work therein. Be that as it may, responsibilities must be clearly defined and delineated without overlaps and ambiguity, lest the organisers are saddled with the most unwanted situation of having “Two heads in one Tent”. This leadership paradigm is disastrous in any situation, more so when real estate and huge sums of money is involved. This sort of a situation must never be created, and avoided at all costs. The experience of the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games (DCWG), wherein the President of IOA and Chairman Organising Committee (DCWG) and the Chief Minister of Delhi were seen protecting their respective turfs in an undesirable and ugly manner by resorting to finger pointing, badmouthing and blame gaming each other for the various fiascos that had engulfed the event is too recent in our collective memory and is deserving of our condemnation. So, the Chief Minister and the Sports Minister must indeed be fully apprised of this happening and take all prophylactic actions which will prevent such a situation from occurring. The challenge of organising and conducting the National Games is immense and cannot be wished off lightly. There are bound to be problems galore in this endeavour, but then the manner of overcoming these is first by respecting the challenge. It is only then that the Organising Committee can uphold its mandate and successfully deliver on its charter.
The State Olympic Association of Uttarakhand and the various State Federations/ Associations will work intimately with their corresponding organisations at the National level, to provide the technical expertise for the holding of the sports/games. While all else is considered routine in this, it is the management of the Games Venues which demands great understanding, expertise and coordination of the limited resources available to the organisers. No matter what one may say or feel at this point in time, funds required for the Games are quite prohibitive and as such are likely to be a constraint as one comes closer to the actual conduct of the event. Therefore, it is important that the available resources of men, material, services, transportation et al are optimally integrated both vertically and laterally to provide not only economy of effort but also funds. Along with this there will be a great demand of trained volunteers, who have by and large been the mainstay of the work force involved in the conduct of multi discipline sporting events viz Olympics, Asian Games, CWG and National Games. The State Olympic Association and the various state sports federations/associations will also be charged with the responsibility to select, train and prepare the teams/ sportspersons who will represent Uttarakhand in these Games. The greatest spinoff of organising the National Games is that it enables the State to have world class stadia and facilities as also generate a culture of playing and participating in competitive sports for the youth at the highest level within the country. However, it is rather unfortunate that subsequent to having hosted the SAARC Winter Games in Auli and Dehradun some years ago, the ice skating rink in the Maharana Pratap Sports College complex is languishing for want of both usage and maintenance. The State Government has not succeeded in creating a viable business model to keep the facility functional, owing to its high cost of running, and making it conveniently accessible to the youth of Dehradun, from whom the money could possibly come as ‘usage fee’. The Government of Uttarakhand has to give a considered view to the post Games utilisation of the world class sports infrastructure, which it will create for the National Games or else hundreds of crores of rupees will go waste, quite akin to the ice skating stadia in Raipur. Uttarakhand can ill afford this wastage, when its hill districts are literally begging for upgradation of its roads, schools, hospitals and civil amenities infrastructure.
It is of interest to note that Uttarakhand will be due for its elections during that period and there may be a possible change in the political hierarchy in the State. Should the government here change, then it will be for the new dispensation to carry the onus for the successful conduct of the Games and there is likely to be a huge baggage of issues and problems, which it may inherit from its predecessor. Having seen and experienced the manner in which such undertakings are discharged by the political leadership and its corresponding subservient bureaucracy, it is not difficult for me to predict the outcome of the eventuality. There will most probably be a request made to the IOA, (which will find itself in a fait accompli situation) by the incumbent Government of that time to roll over the date for the conduct of the 38th National Games to back of beyond, thereby incurring additional expenditure and allowing the defaulters of this commitment to get away unscathed. This is how it plays itself every time, when Government spending from the taxpayer’s money is concerned. The 2010 DCWG is a case in point of holding the Government of India hostage by Suresh Kalmadi and the late Sheila Dixit, to allocate thousands of additional crores over and above the approved budget, under the pretext of international prestige taking a beating. Nothing could be further from the truth. The glitches and delays were by design and not by default. Costs overruns were deliberately engineered to profit the politician scamsters and their partners in crime, the bureaucrats. This is how it will play out in Uttarakhand too, only the permutation will change.
We the people of Uttarakhand wish the Sports Minister and his team, who have got us these Games from the jaws of Andhra and Telangana, well. But, it is our fervent appeal to him and his Secretary that, this is far too serious a matter to be left to the politicians, bureaucrats and the federations as it is beyond their pale. The government will be well advised to explore the possibility of seeking the services of professionals in the field of Sports Administration and Management, who have hands on experience of organising such events. It is their wisdom and acumen which must be put to good use to showcase Uttarakhand and its talent in not only the holding of the 38th National Games, but also in performing well in the medals tally. Uttarakhand is well aware of what happened in the disaster which visited it in 2013. Despite the State having come into being in 2000, even after 13 years of its formation it was ill prepared to face up to the challenge of the tragedy. The government failed miserably on all fronts and even the National Disaster Force was of little use to provide the necessary rescue and relief it was wont to do. It was the professionalism of the Armed Forces, Para Military Forces and to some extent the state police personnel who averted the catastrophe from assuming gigantic proportions. Therefore, none can fill in for professionals. The inauguration of the Tehri Lake as a Water Sports Recreational Facility was a huge disaster, the less spoken about the better. While the State Tourism Minister and his Secretary went gung ho about the event and gave photo ops to the print and electronic media, it turned out to be an abortion without conception. I am not being cynical or else skeptical about the ability of the Government of Uttarakhand and the State Olympic Association to organise and conduct the 38th National Games, but it is only that – having seen the ways of the politicians and the bureaucrats who advise them – they have no idea of what it involves and demands. It demands Knowledge, Integrity, Commitment, Passion and Selflessness. And it is in these that I find them challenged.