The new Indian sports minister has sacked the chief organiser of 2010 scandal-ridden Delhi Commonwealth Games as the coalition government suffers a string of corruption scandals and thus seeks to repair its own public image.
Ajay Maken said he took the decision to terminate Games chief Suresh Kalmadi and Secretary General Lalit Bhanot so that the inquiry can mount an open investigation into corruption allegations surrounding the $6 billion event held in October 2010.
The Games were intended to be India’s answer to China’s impeccable staging of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. However, the Delhi Games descended into a complete farce and were salvaged only after a last-minute mad scramble by the red-faced government.
Once the Games were finished, the government appointed federal investigating agency the Central Bureau of Investigation to review allegations of corruption and irregularities in the construction, organisation and conduct of Commonwealth Games 2010.
Long before the actual Games began, corruption charges surrounded the London leg of the Queen’s Baton Relay, which lead to the sacking of three senior officials in August. Subsequent inquiries by Indian anti-corruption watchdogs identified several irregularities in the awarding of contracts and identified several Games projects beset large-scale corruption.
The Games debacle resulted in Ashwini Nachappa, a former international athlete, teaming up with ten other international athletes spear-heading CleanSports India, a nationwide campaign to rid Indian sports of all types of crooked officials and rigged results for gambling, including those overseeing the games.
Investigations have revealed scandal after scandal involving officials with kickbacks, off-shore companies, forged emails, unjustified payments to bogus companies and inflated costs for goods and services ranging from cleaning to exercise machines. The final costs for the Games are expected to be over $8 billion – most of it paid by the tax payer and draining government resources.
India’s leading corruption watchdog, Central Vigilance Commission, highlighted the irregularities in more than a dozen projects and questioned the quality and finish of the venues. Huge piles of rubble and rubbish, a collapsed roof, hanging wires, leaky walls, broken tiles and an incomplete stadium became the visual staple of daily newspapers and television channels.
The government and police have been kept busy with the upcoming Cricket World Cup due to start in February 2011. The state of some of the venues has been criticized and there is the fear that the rampant illegal bookmaking syndicates will try to infiltrate the player’s dressing rooms and hotel accommodation.
Despite the recent disciplining of three Pakistani players for match fixing, the lure of easy money and the fact that nearly all gambling in India is outlawed means that ready cash flows around the stadiums and has the power to spoil the sport.
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