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Despite controversy, Commonwealth Games brought benefits to India

Tuesday October 02, 2012 05:17:18 PM, IANS

New Delhi: The Commonwealth Games organised in New Delhi exactly two years ago may have been scarred by controversy and charges of corruption that are yet to be proved, but India's best ever performance at the Olympics in the London Games displays the progress the country has made in sports in the last two years.

The government in its bid to continue the momentum gained from the Oct 3-14, 2010 Commonwealth Games, opened up its purse-strings under its Opex London 2012 programme. A willing government earmarked a record Rs.260 crore ($53 million) for training and competition ahead of the Olympics and the result was for all to see.

Though dogged by controversy and adverse media scrutiny even before it began, largely because of project overruns and delay in completion of major infrastructure, the Games on the whole were an organisational and sporting success from the Indian point of view.

If a whopping 101 medals in the Commonwealth Games were considered big, six medals at the London Olympics was seen as a big advancement over previous editions. Shooter Vijay Kumar and wrestler Sushil Kumar won silver medals while boxer M.C. Mary Kom, shuttler Saina Nehwal, shooter Gagan Narang and wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt bagged bronze medals in London.

While the Commonwealth Games might have been in the news for financial irregularities, it made India a hotspot for the top sporting events in the country.

Though India is far from being a sporting nation, the facilities that came up in the national capital for the Commonwealth Games have been a boon for athletes.

Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, Karni Singh Shooting Range, S.P. Mukherjee Swimming Complex, Talkatora Indoor Stadium, Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium and the Yamuma Sports Complex are among the best in the subcontinent.

Post the Commonwealth Games, while Nehru Stadium hosted the mighty Bayern Munich football team, SAFF Championship and the Nehru Cup, the National Stadium hosted the hockey Olympic qualifiers that saw India booking its tickets for London after having missed an Olympics (Beijing-2008) the first time in 80 years.

The Sports Authority of India (SAI), the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) and the owners of most of the stadiums also decided to open the gates to the common man under the "Come and Play" scheme of the sports ministry. The scheme was well appreciated and ensured that the stadiums don't turn into white elephants.

The financial irregularities in the preparations for the Commonwealth Games were also a big lesson for the government in more ways than one. It prompted the sports ministry to come up with a National Sports Development Code to get rid of corruption in Indian sports.

The National Sports Federations may have been up in arms against the sports ministry over the code but they all thank Sports Minister Ajay Maken in private for being so generous to all sports bodies by way of providing funds for training.

Shooters were the most favoured lot after India's first Olympic gold by Abhinav Bindra at Beijing and Rajyavardhan Rathore's silver four years earlier at Athens.

And the biggest beneficiary was ace double trap shooter and Asian Games gold medallist Ronjan Sodhi, who received the lion's share of Rs.97.37 lakh of the Rs.6.87 crore financial assistance.

Sodhi says sportspersons have benefited immensely by the government funding after the Commonwealth Games.

"At the Commonwealth Games, the Indians proved their mettle and promised to do much more at other major international events. The government too was convinced and thus increased its funding for London. We are thankful to the sports ministry for helping us to prepare for the Games," Sodhi told IANS.

Athletics Federation of India (AFI) technical director M.L. Dogra said government funding has helped the federation to send athletes for exposure trips abroad.

"Around Rs.15.94 crore was been allocated for athletics and the athletes trained abroad for longer durations to prepare for the Olympics. Commonwealth Games discus gold medallist Krishna Poonia training in the US was fully funded by the ministry. US-based discus thrower Vikas Gowda also performed well in the recently held World Championships in South Korea," Dogra told IANS.

Poonia (Rs.24.20 lakh) and national record holder Gowda (Rs.24.51 lakh) benefited from the government's Operation Excellence 2012. Their performance at the London Games was impressive though they failed to make a podium finish. Poonia was seventh while Gowda made a creditable eighth finish in the Games.

Two years is a small time to determine the benefits of the hosting the Commonwealth Games. But Indian athletes are still reaping its benefits.







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