By Atul Cowshish
New Delhi (Syndicate Features): As the Common Wealth Games carnival gets a glittering opening, silencing at least partially the Kalmadi bashers, it is difficult to resist the temptation to give a passing thought to the scale of India-bashing in the once all-powerful English-speaking white world of the Commonwealth. Much of the criticism was undiplomatic, irrelevant and uncalled for. An open rebuff becomes necessary in such situations. But New Delhi chose silence to add to the shame that the shoddy preparations had already brought to the nation.
The Commonwealth Games (CWG) is more of a relic of colonial past than a serious sporting event because the performances by individuals and teams matter little outside the group of former colonies of Great Britain.
The Commonwealth Games (CWG) is more of a relic of colonial past than a serious sporting event because the performances by individuals and teams matter little outside the group of former colonies of Great Britain. The CWG is not among the top sporting events in the calendar because participation is restricted to less than half the nations of the world and the ‘records’ set and created are not treated on a par with those of the Asian Games, world championships of various events and the most prestigious sporting event of all, the Olympic Games.
But Indian authorities, especially those who control sports, had made it look from the time the country had successfully bid for hosting the Games that it was a very important event and staging it in India would be matter of pride and prestige for the country. A matter of pride it may be because after all thousands of athletes are participating in the event, and the country has to put its best foot forward as the host. But the question of ‘prestige’ in staging the Games was an unnecessary add-on.
The hosting of the Commonwealth Games has been the monopoly of the ‘white’ Commonwealth for long years. They need something to remind themselves and their people about their ‘glorious’ past. There are no such compulsions in the former colonies.
From time to time voices are heard that the Commonwealth has become an anachronism. Why, people in Britain are even questioning the continuity of the Crown as the constitutional head of their country. Countries have pulled out or been suspended from the Commonwealth, most notably Pakistan on more than one occasion, either to register protest or as ‘punishment’ for breaching the code of democracy.
At the beginning of the ‘new’ Commonwealth, post India’s independence, citizens within the Commonwealth were expected to have the facility of travel within the group of nation without visa. Britain broke this practice by blocking entry of Indian visitors unless they had a valid visa. Australia had a strict ‘white only’ till recently. Canada was equally strict in allowing Indian visitors. In fact, Canada acts like a 21st century colonial power as it arbitrarily refuses visas to Indians who had served the security forces because in that capacity they had allegedly committed human rights violations!
This is how the original members of the Commonwealth, all white nations, treat the rest of the group. India invites automatic disdain from them because they cannot stomach the fact that a ‘wretched, miserable third world country’ can rub shoulders with them and, in fact, outmatch them in economic performance.
Happily, after the initial burst of criticism of India, the ‘white’ Commonwealth decided to pipe down because of the fear that the government in Delhi might be persuaded by its people to hit where it will hurt them most: the market place
Consider the imperial tone of the head of the Australian Olympic committee who pronounced that India did not deserve to host KHW.The Australian Prime Minister, Ms Gillard, was saying so in a not very well disguised manner when she told her countrymen to be wary of visiting Delhi, given the frequency of terror attacks for the past many years and unhygienic conditions reported from the Games Village.
Her barb at India was also meant to justify the boycott of the Delhi Games by some of the Australian athletes. It must have been one of the toughest decisions taken by her when she came to India on a short visit last year, before she had replaced the China-loving Kevin Rudd as the prime minister. Luckily, she went back safely and, what is more, got herself a promotion in politics.
If the sanitary inspection of the Games venues was started by the over-zealous Indian media it was gleefully lapped up in the white parts of the Commonwealth. The problem with the media exposures within the country was not that it did something it should not have done but the fact that in its eagerness to crack the whip on the indolent and corrupt officialdom of the government and organising committee of the Commonwealth Games, it had forgotten to tell the countrymen how visiting Indian players and athletes are regularly accorded second class treatment by the so-called civilised, rich nations of the world, particularly those carping against India now.
Every announcement of ‘boycott’ of the Games by athletes of certain countries was played up in the Indian media though, barring a handful, most of these men and women are unknown to the majority of people in this country.
It, therefore, became easy for nations like Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Britain to use the Indian media accounts of many unpardonable failures and shocking lapses in the preparations for the Games to reinforce their still lingering impression that India is still a third world country, a land of snakes and elephants, unable to pull itself out of poverty, dirt, grime and innumerable diseases. A plague that is to be avoided, at least, whenever possible.
India should review its decision to participate in future Commonwealth Games. That step could also be used to then mull over the idea of withdrawing altogether from the anomaly called the Commonwealth.
Happily, after the initial burst of criticism of India, the ‘white’ Commonwealth decided to pipe down because of the fear that the government in Delhi might be persuaded by its people to hit where it will hurt them most: restrict their entry into the Indian market and withhold outflow of Indian cash into their coffers.
What a pity that it is the filthy lucre that magically cleaned all the alleged filth and incompetence from India, and in the end everyone was responding to A R Rahman’s ‘Bula Liya’ (invitation). India should review its decision to participate in future Commonwealth Games. That step could also be used to then mull over the idea of withdrawing altogether from the anomaly called the Commonwealth. (Syndicate Features)