Amid controversies surrounding the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, Mike Hooper, the chief executive officer of the Commonwealth Games Federation, is of the view that this is not the time to play the blame game but instead it is important to get things done. In conversation with Ruchika Chitravanshi, Hooper reiterates that CGF had cautioned the Indian authorities against the delay. Excerpts:
The Delhi edition of the Commonwealth Games is in a mess. Did you not see this coming?
If you go back in history, the last 18 months, we have been consistent in raising our concerns. Contrary to what one of the media reports said, we did not give a favourable report to the Organising Committee last October. The Commonwealth Games Federation has been consistent in saying that there have been delays in preparation of the Games. The completion date kept moving from February to March then to June and now to August. The reality is that the venues are not complete. We can see it with our own eyes.
Having witnessed the Games held all over the world, were you taken by surprise the way things have turned out in India?
I cannot comment on that. Things work differently here, as they do in different countries. The bureaucracy is different here, the culture is different. I cannot compare India with Berlin or Melbourne or New Zealand. At the end of the Games we will do a de-briefing session with the Organising Committee and review how things went, what were the shortcomings. There will be lessons for all of us.
The budget that was mentioned during the bid has increased about 17.5 fold, as informed by M S Gill, the sports minister. Is such an increase warranted?
I don’t accept that there has been such an increase. The operating cost of the games is Rs 2,400 crore. Rest is all infrastructure which is part of legacy. It is going to remain. The cost of preparation of teams is independent of whether you host the Games. When the Commonwealth Games were held in Melbourne 2006, the operating cost was $540 million. The overall cost was $1.2 billion.
It is not just the delays, several other issues have cropped up as well. What would you do as an international body?
The CVC report is of concern. So many negative reports in the media give a bad name to the Games. Earlier, we were worried about security. Now our concern has moved to the safety of the athletes and players who would come here to participate. At this stage we cannot play a blame game. Now we need to focus on what we need to do — 60-odd days away from the Games. The transport work has to be in place, security has to be right. Those responsible must finish the work as a matter of urgency. With the background of the CVC report, all the regulatory requirement should be met and all necessary documents should be procured. The Organising Committee is relying upon venue owners to deliver. CGF is not interested in incriminating anyone at this stage.
Apart from safety, what is the other area of concern?
There is still a lot to be done in a lot of areas. I don’t know if there is a single venue that is hundred per cent complete. We will be examining the venues and the village in the middle of this month.
Have there been any enquiries from the participating countries, with so much controversy going around the Games?
There have been a couple of such enquiries. With so many media reports, I think people outside are getting concerned. But right now, instead of panicking, we should all look at the issues and address them.