India eyes hosting rights to Olympics, Asian Games

Reuters, MUMBAI, India

Thu, Jun 22, 2017 - Page 16

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has asked the Indian government for permission to bid for the 2032 Olympics and 2030 Asian Games as part of a drive to put the nation at the heart of the international sporting community, IOA president N. Ramachandran told reporters.

Ramachandran said that the association also wanted India to host the Asian Beach Games in 2020, the Olympic Council of Asia’s general assembly that year and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) session in 2021.

The aim was to use the engagement as a catalyst for the growth of Olympic sports in India and to help improve the nation’s miserable standing in pretty much every sport apart from cricket, he said.

As the world’s second-most populous nation after China, Ramachandran said it was time for India to follow its powerful neighbor in showcasing its burgeoning economic muscle through sport.

However, to say that India has underperformed at the Olympics is an understatement, with the nation winning just 28 medals since 1900 and Abhinav Bindra claiming their only individual gold medal in the men’s 10m air rifle in Beijing in 2008.

Dismissing concerns about whether India could afford to stage such huge sporting spectacles, Ramachandran said that the country was one of the few in the region that did have the means.

It was up to the government to set the wheels in motion, Ramachandran said in an interview.

“From my part, I am telling them if you bid, I will make sure you get it,” he said.

Ramachandran said he had spoken about India’s prospects of hosting an Olympics with IOC president Thomas Bach, an indication of the early groundwork required for a serious bid.

“You cannot take a decision today and say: ‘I want to host an Olympic Games tomorrow,’” Ramachandran said. “It is an eight-year process, so you have to start now.”

“If you are looking at anything, it’s 2032,” he said. “That will give you 10 years to improve the infrastructure and you will have a decision [to make] in the next four to six years.”

The government had agreed to discuss the proposals in Cabinet and revert back to the IOA, he said.

Winning the hosting rights for an Olympic Games is not the hot ticket it once was.

Los Angeles and Paris are the only candidates left in the race for the 2024 Olympics after four other cities pulled out over cost concerns.

The IOC is to award both the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games at the same time and the expectation is that the two cities will host one each.

For the 2022 Winter Games, four of six bidders pulled out citing high costs or lack of support, leaving Beijing to beat Almaty, Kazakhstan, in the final vote.

Ramachandran was confident that India, which has Asia’s third-largest economy, would be capable of meeting the costs.

“India is one of the emerging economies,” he said. “Even assuming you spend [US]$12 billion on an Olympic event, [US]$6 billion will be given to you by the IOC.”

“What is [US]$6 billion over a period of eight years for a country which has the size of the economy which India has today?” he said. “Not many countries today wish to host the Olympics. China has already had everything possible that can be hosted.”

In terms of hosting experience, India has successfully staged several global cricket tournaments, and FIFA said it was satisfied with preparations for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in October.

However, a question mark over the nation’s ability to host an international multisports event has hung over India since the 2010 Commonwealth Games, a US$6 billion event billed as New Delhi’s answer to the Beijing Olympics.

A series of embarrassments over leaking stadiums and filthy accommodation culminated in Games head Suresh Kalmadi spending nine months in prison for inflating tenders worth millions of dollars.

Ramachandran said there would be no repeat of those blunders.

“We have learned from our mistakes. You see the South Asian Games [last year] that was hosted in Guwahati. Nobody said anything,” he said. “We should stick to what we know best — technical conduct of the Games. Even when we hosted the Commonwealth Games in India, [the IOC] praised the technical conduct of the event, and we also did very well in the medals tally.”