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Chances of India bidding for 2019 Games recede

K.P. Mohan

NEW DELHI: Just as the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) looked to go out of the way to rope in Delhi as a possible contender to bid for the 2019 Asian Games, the chances of the country attempting a bid receded further following a suo motu statement made by the Union Sports Minister, M.S. Gill, in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

In his suo motu statement on the recent Commonwealth Games, Mr. Gill said: “I would like to assure this august House that we will carefully take on board the recommendations of the Shunglu Committee, the CAG, the CVC etc. (on corruption charges etc.) before agreeing to host similar international sporting events.”

The revised OCA deadline for submitting a bid for the 2019 Games is February next year after the deadline had presumably passed on June 30 last.

The Shunglu panel report was not expected before January end.

A study of all the relevant reports and finalisation of a bid document, with complete government backing, under the circumstances, was extremely unlikely by February next year, government sources said on Tuesday.

“This does not mean we can completely close the chapter,” said sources.

The IOA has been of the opinion that its failed bid document for the 2014 Games should be taken up by the Government while the Union Sports Ministry has time and again stated that it needed several more details to make a proposal to the Cabinet.

An impression has been created that the OCA was on the look-out for a host city for the 2019 Games and was keen that India host the Games. Reports have, however, said that Thailand, Japan, Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong China were expected to be the other contenders.

There was also a ridiculous, even if informal, suggestion earlier that there could be an edition of the Games in 2017 that could be granted to Delhi without a bidding process.

The OCA has changed the Asiad cycle to have the Games a year ahead of the Olympics.

New Delhi had earlier lost bids for hosting the 2006 and 2014 Asian Games, but the OCA chief, Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah, has been quoted in a report stating that the OCA would make sure this time India got the support for the 2019 bid.

Waning interest

With the Indian contingent in Guangzhou struggling to add medals to its meagre tally through four days of competition, enthusiasm within the ministry for the bid has also waned.

“Whatever little chance we had till now (of bidding), that also seems to have gone now after looking at our performance in Guangzhou,” a ministry official said.

As in the past, the IOA has attempted to fool the government and the public by projecting a minimum expenditure for a “couple of indoor stadia”, apart from operational expenses.

The idea of projecting Delhi, after the CWG, as a strong candidate for hosting the Asian Games, and, if possible for either the 2020 or 2024 or even the 2028 Olympic Games, could of course be appealing.

The CWG had 17 disciplines and spent nothing less than Rs. 28,000 crore, to quote official figures. Guangzhou has 42 disciplines while future Asian Games will have a restricted number of 35. By OC's own admission it had so far managed to raise less than Rs. 700 crore (government figures put this at Rs. 327 crore) while it was supposed to pay back a Government loan of Rs. 2307.82 crore.

(A Reuters report from Beijing last August said that the Guangzhou's projected revenue was expected to offset about one-third of the cost of hosting the Games.)

Neither did tourists flock in thousands, as had been forecast prior to the Delhi CWG, nor did Indian sportspersons attain world standards solely by their achievement in the games as is increasingly becoming evident.

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