Thursday, September 23, 2010

Commonwealth Game, yes or no?

As I write, we are waiting for the result of a meeting concerning the Commonwealth Games in India. What to make of it?

The first question is whether the games should ever have been given to India in the first place. I find myself struggling to understand the decision. On the one hand it seems a wonderful gesture which could have the spin-off off encouraging the nation. The nation could receive great international kudos for it. The building of facilities will give jobs. Great wealth might flow in from the many tourists and athletes who come in to the nation. Like the football World Cup in South Africa, it may have a great positive effect on the nation.

Yet, is India really able to manage such an event? Does it have the infrastructure to manage preparations? Can the safety of athletes and visitors be ensured in a nation which is so crowded and unstable. And who will make the money as the nation builds the great stadia and other facilities. Will it go to the poor, or just further line the pockets of the rich? And what will happen to the great facilities after the games? Will they be used or will India be left with white elephants that are left to fall to pieces after the games? Would the money have been better spent raising the standard of living of the nation? It was a nice sentiment to give the games to India, but was it realistic? Time will tell I suppose, but the current situation calls it into question.

Then there is the question of what the organising committee were doing as India failed repeatedly to meet the required deadlines? Why has it come to this? The pressure and threats of cancellation should have come an aweful lot earlier. They could have shfted the Games perhaps a year or so ago, but not now.

So now the athletes and national sporting organisations are faced with a terrible decision. Do they stay, or do they go? The stakes are high. There is the problem of security. One significant disaster at one of these events, and sport may never be the same again. The failure to have the buildings sorted makes everything more vulnerable as they rush to meet the final deadlines. Such events are already outrageously expensive, a terror attack could finish them, at least until this terrorist period is quelled. Then there is the issue of hygiene and health. The story is told of the NZ cricketer who contracted a stomach ailment on a trip to India in the 1970's. He was never the same again. If the athletes village is inadequate and illness sweeps through it, an athletes career could be ended. The stakes are high.

On the other hand, there is the question of whether this is all worth it for a sport? After all, this is about games, not life and death. It is a great shame it has come to this. Were I an athlete with a family, I would certainly not be going to this event as it stands, although if things come together in the next few days, maybe. If I was single, unattached, I would probably go for it. I might never get the chance again.

I have heard it argued that athletes should go for India's sake, as it will be utterly humiliating for them if the whole thing crashes. It will also cost a fortune! That is a good argument, except that this is just about sport. Why should a person potentially put their life on the line because India might look bad? I am sorry, but athletes and sporting bodies should put their people and themselves first.

Then there is the question of whether all this reflects the excessive expectations of western nations and their athletes. Are they just expecting too much from the facilities? But in a nation like India where westerners always struggle with health due to their inability to cope with heat and different diseases to which they aren't immune, why would they put themselves at risk?

Of course, this all assumes that in the next few days they can't get it sorted. I really hope that they do, and I pray that the games goes ahead, and no one is killed, that sickness does not spread through the athletes and that the Indian people will be able to hold their heads high because of the great time had by all.

These events are important to the world. They celebrate our humanity. They are a visible symbol of God's great dream of people of all races and tongues in unity celebrating their humanity. It would be a great tragedy if they were cancelled. But if the risk is too great, they will have to be I suppose.

So for me, should the Games go ahead, a tentative yes, but I would say some will drop out.  Indeed, some should because it is not worth putting oneself at undue risk when one has a family with kids. There is too much at stake. After all, it is just a game.

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