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Should India aspire to host the Olympics? Definitely

With the opening ceremonies in London just hours away, why not engage in a bit of crystal ball gazing to distract us from the TV build up.

The 2016 games will be hosted by Rio, with Madrid, Tokyo and Istanbul on the short list for 2020.

But what about 2024? A mere 12 years away (we all know time flies when you’re not watching kettles boil), there’s still time for India to put in a bid, or more realistically look towards 2028.

Delhi did consider a 2020 bid but rejected this in 2009, just before it hosted the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Is it time for India to start thinking about hosting the Olympics? Reuters
At the moment, there’s no suggestion of future Olympic bids, and the prospect of cost is significant and rightly off putting. Even if the buildings cost nothing, the security bill for modern Olympic and Paralympic games is obscene.
All that money could lift tens of thousands or more out of poverty, provide essential infrastructure and likely create more business opportunities than relying on a few construction contracts.

Officially, the Olympics and Paralympics are about more than money. They are supposed to be a celebration of sport.
Countries such as Australia created comprehensive sports development programmes to find, nurture and enhance the potential athletes of the future, to the benefit a wide swathe of the population.

Canada’s “own the podium” project in advance of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver had a similar goal. But winter sports generally require more expensive equipment and requires many athletes to move home to proper training facilities. In a country as small as the UK, being far from home isn’t that far. In Canada, distance is significant, and that can affect athletic mentality, especially in the young.

India would need a variety of training facilities for multiple sports to find and develop as many athletes as possible in advance of hosting a games. It would need to decide that merely hosting is not enough, and that they need to create a national celebration of sport that involves both elite and amateur athletes.

Can India afford an Olympics and Paralympics? Yes and no. Yes, there’s money – any country can cook their books sufficiently to host the games.

The 2004 games helped drive Greece into the ground. It’s risky. And realistically, too many people at the “top” would benefit, and the Indian public would not.

But one of the benefits of considering a bid is a very public debate about sport in a community and nation. London won its bid for 2012 by talking about “legacy”, an over-used word that really means trying to get more young people into sport and regenerate a run-down part of London. The prospect on both fronts isn’t tremendous as yet. It will take decades to know the benefit of the games. And with the Olympic park set to be closed after the games for at least 18 months to convert it to permanent public use, it has been pointed out there’s a real risk of London feeling disconnected from the event it hosted.

The Daily Mail, simultaneously celebrating and denigrating the Olympics, focused this week on the state of Delhi’s Commonwealth Games infrastructure .

Sarajevo’s stadium from the 1984 Winter Olympics is in poor shape too – but it has a war as an excuse. What’s Delhi’s excuse? It’s not all about the stadium, but it’s part of that “legacy” – a place and an inspiration for sport for all.

India would be right to look, again, at how to get young people involved in sport, what facilities are in place for public services, transport, security – it’s like doing an audit for the purposes of figuring out how you would handle the world’s biggest sporting event.

Yes, you should care about all those fundamentals of a city, 24/7, 365 days a year. But far too many civic leaders the world over don’t. If it requires a potential Olympic bid to consider, and publicly acknowledge, the gaps and failures you have to address before the world’s spotlight falls upon you, then that’s beneficial.

There is no doubt India will host the Olympics someday. Just as China had to eventually, as the world’s most populous nation, the sub-continent and Africa are the last continents yet to host Olympic and Paralympic games. It’s only a matter of time. If only for the sake of the health of cities for future generations, it is worth considering those bids now.


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