Commonwealth chaos

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September 18th, 2009 Aditi Phadnis

He can take heart from the fact that if the Commonwealth Games are a washout, it won’t be because of Suresh Kalmadi alone. Several countries are getting really leery about the security situation and want a guarantee that no terrorist attack will occur while the games are on.

The high commissioner of one such western country was arguing earlier this week at dinner that sporting federations in his country were extremely reluctant to come to India: not because India was unsafe per se, but because you never know who might take it into their heads to bomb an international sporting event.

A former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief argued that if sporting federations were going to opt out of the games on these grounds, then we might as well shut down embassies and high commissions. Sporting groups, he said, are generally fearful of risks. And while being risk averse is fine, surely law enforcement authorities have not become so effete that they will be mute spectators to a country’s sovereignty being undermined.

At the end of the day, every country, including India, has to take a call: how must we fight terrorism? By bowing to both terrorists and sporting federations? Because if that is going to be the case, we might as well forget about anyone taking part in world sporting events like the Olympics in the future.

But then, it is also true that if an incident like the Lahore cricket match, where the Sri Lankan team was nearly blown up but for the sagacity of one bus driver, takes place the confidence of sportsmen is deeply shaken. That’s why the British badminton team withdrew from Hyderabad and earlier the Australian team declined to take part in another sporting event in Chennai.
If is clear that the Commonwealth games, in addition to being a sporting and managerial  challenge, are also going to be a security and defence challenge. It is a cliché but India’s prestige is at stake.

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