Caution needed before hosting the Olympics

What is undeniable is the effect the Olympics will have on the economy, especially in a developing country like ours.
. If the government is keen to go ahead with Ahmedabad as the host, a lot of infrastructure will have to be built or redeveloped, as there are not many readymade venues.
. If the government is keen to go ahead with Ahmedabad as the host, a lot of infrastructure will have to be built or redeveloped, as there are not many readymade venues.Photo | AP

Just over a month ahead of the Paris Olympics, a new sports minister has taken charge—Mansukh Mandaviya has replaced Anurag Thakur. Mandaviya’s first gesture was notable—he became the first sports minister to visit the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) after assuming office. It is possible that the sports ministry is trying to send a signal to the fractured IOA, where executive committee members are in revolt against president P T Usha over the appointment of the CEO in January.

Even now, with just a month to go for the Olympics, there is no sign of a truce. The IOA is yet to announce the chef de mission, a post vacated by M C Mary Kom in April.

The government is also serious about going ahead with the 2036 Olympic bid with Ahmedabad as the venue. The process of bidding has already started with IOA’s engagement with the International Olympic Committee. More talks will take place in Paris next month. At these parleys, it would be better if the IOA presented a united face.

The main question is whether India is ready to spend so much money. Sure, it will further raise the country’s profile. India’s sporting movement will get a fillip as athletes and fans will enthusiastically engage with the event. This much is undeniable. What is also undeniable is the effect the Olympics will have on the economy, especially in a developing country like ours. If the government is keen to go ahead with Ahmedabad as the host, a lot of infrastructure will have to be built or redeveloped, as there are not many readymade venues. The Indian government will have to prepare for the costs to shoot up.

Recent history can be instructive. One only has to look at Greece. They spent so much on the 2004 Games that it plunged the economy into a crisis. Twelve years later, Rio de Janeiro faced similar issues, though an independent study later claimed the city had benefitted from the Olympics. There is a reason why even developed countries shy away from hosting big-ticket events. The Commonwealth Games, which India hosted in 2010, is struggling to find a host city for 2026. Australia was in line, but walked back. The government should not lose sight of these examples and issues.

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