Olympics season reminds me of a nightmare during the 2000 Sydney Games! Olympics in the beautiful city was held from September 15 and I was there as the team leader of India’s public service broadcaster. We landed at the airport a week ahead to set up shop for production facilities and seamless satellite feeds. Television rights for India for international sports were secured through the Asia Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) and were available then only to national broadcasters. ABU General Council and Sports Study Group meetings were held to negotiate and secure the rights at Sydney with Sydney Olympic Broadcasting Organization well in advance with heads of national broadcasting organisations, and I was a member of the Indian team.
Sydney was bedecked for the event. During earlier visits, the city had a festive look gearing up for the Olympics with the motto, ‘Share the spirit, Dare to Dream.’ Sydney Olympics was to be the ‘most successful event on World stage’. It was with euphoria that I landed. That bubble soon burst. Immigration and customs clearance were completed on priority. I was about to push the luggage trolley out when suddenly a ferocious-looking dog sniffed at my baggage. The teams from the Indian High Commission and media committee were embarrassed. I had an emphatic negative answer for any drugs, but the dog would not move an inch and when I tried to move, it growled. This continued for some time and the authorities pushed my trolley inside with the dog following. Every item in the suitcase was unpacked and checked, but nothing was found. I was told politely of the severe penalties for carrying drugs. Finally, they zeroed in on a packet in which I was carrying medicines for diabetes. There were both allopathic and ayurvedic medicines. For allopathic pills, I had a prescription, but none for the unimpressive ayurvedic tablets! My pleadings that they were herbal products and my colleagues’ explaining the efficacy of such medicines fell on deaf ears. Australian customs knew nothing of ayurvedic tablets; since the dog had sniffed, there was definitely something amiss!
Later, more understanding officers from customs joined and they brought my declaration form in which I had mentioned about not carrying various items. Fortunately, the column regarding drugs was left blank. A senior officer looked at it and smiled. He said if I had written that I was carrying medicines, including herbal ones, there would have been no problem and asked me to write it. With a great sense of relief, I wrote in bold letters and the officer stamped on the same and signaled the dog, which true to his master’s command walked away.