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Dec 21, 2002
32nd National Games wows everyone.

Here for a change is a story of Indians organising something right. The 32nd National Games that was rung down today at Hyderabad has been acclaimed the best ever organised in India.

For Mr. N Chandrababu Naidu, Chief Minister who is eager to establish his Andhra Pradesh as a can-do-state, the Games was a good opportunity. A whole new set of sports facilities have been built. The Swarnandhra Pradesh Sports Complex has a state-of-the-art indoor stadium, an aquatics centre and a focal point in ultra modern athletics stadium where the opening and closing ceremonies took place. India does pretty well in this sort of ‘hardware’ creation but it frequently fails in ‘software’ that can run them reliably. Here too, the Hyderabad Games is reported to have scored well: bar the odd glitch it was run well. The team that ran the show had been well trained.

Athletes had been well housed and taken care of. And enthused by the facilities, they pushed themselves a bit higher, which after all is what Games are supposed to achieve. You can forgive Prime Minister Vajpayee if he too was affected by the euphoria that reigned. After witnessing the spectacular closing ceremony, he declared that India was ready to bid for the 2012 Olympics! Well, everything they say begins with a dream.

The Hyderabad Games also pioneered what could become a trend in Indian sports. Adhering to the letter of the Games rules --and by resorting some well executed poaching-- AP had lured many promising sports persons from other States to don its own colours. Naidu offered incentives athletes couldn’t ignore: Rs. 3 lakhs for a Gold winner, Rs. 2 lakhs for Silver and Rs.1 lakh for a Bronze. Many stars have switched and AP has led the medals table by a mile. But the move has aroused howls of protest. “Unfair,’ cried the States that lost their stars who --having been showered with unheard of riches-- are naturally dodging all the flak.

India’s sports scene is skewed in favour of Cricket. If ever India is to become a reasonable name in the sporting world, incentives have to be more widespread. The AP move may be an over-kill but along that direction lies the solution to encourage performances all around.

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