Journalist: How come the roof of the stadium is leaking?
Official: Due to heavy rains, due to which water collected on the floor.
That’s the level of response we’re getting to increasingly pissed off questions about why a CWG Organising Committee with an elephantiasis-afflicted budget is unable to construct a waterproof building. Our representatives and public servants are treating us the way they always do, which is like retarded children who will hopefully get so involved in the drama of the story (rain fell! water collected on the floor!) that we won’t be tempted to dwell on the whole philosophy behind the concept of roofing.
I’m not going to say, as ex-sports minister Mani Shankar Aiyer recently said, that I will be unhappy if the Commonwealth Games in Delhi this October are a success. But that’s only because I couldn’t care less whether the Games are a triumph or a dismal failure, or poor-to-middling, or pretty good. I couldn’t give a toss whether our stadia end up being dazzling 23rd-century marvels or large leaky shanties; whether the athletes have a fabulous time or faint mid-event due to insufficient nutrition; whether the press shames India or covers it in glory; whether we win any medals or not; in other words whether, at the end of the day, Delhi puts on a good show.
If, on October 4, Delhi wakes up to find world-class stadia all completed, the Games Village ready for occupation, and the roads and pavements of the city magically put back together in spruced up form, it won’t make a whit of a difference to me. As far as I’m concerned we’ve already lost, we’re already shamed, and we’ve already shown ourselves to be a contemptible bunch of losers. Because while, like everyone else, I’d love to see a decent result, I would much rather have had a decent process.
A decent process would be a display of integrity and efficiency by the leadership, organisers, and implementing agencies at every step—that means managing time, and not treating public funds like a lucky dip. Integrity would mean motivating everyone involved with organising and preparing for the Games to get on board with the shared goals of a) doing a first-rate job of hosting an international sporting event; b) being left with a first-rate set of sporting facilities for our young athletes to grow up with, and a much-upgraded city; and c) all this at minimal cost and inconvenience to the people of India during the process. It means best practices.
This we have already hopelessly failed to do. So if Delhi doesn’t collapse into a giant fiery crater in the earth, I won’t think phew, everything went off all right. I will think of the shady outfit called AM Films in London, engaged at a cost of £200,000 without so much as a scrap of written documentation. I will think of a budget swollen to eighteen times its original estimate. I will search for a good metaphor for taxpayer money going down the toilet and, upsettingly enough, find it in the alleged purchase of toilet paper at Rs 4,000 a roll.
Much like the roof issue, our officials want us to give them more money because they have no time left, and to ignore the fact that they have no time left because they didn’t do their jobs, which was to do things on time. They want us to help salvage our ‘national pride’, and ignore the fact that we don’t have any national pride because of them and the fact that we put up with them. And I’m terrified that we will cooperate.
Two questions. How stupid do they think we are? And: How stupid are we?