The Organising Committee of the 2008 Olympics at Beijing did their country proud by the exemplary manner in which they organized it. The preparations were completed ahead of time, the security arrangements were impeccable and the Olympics were conducted with clock-like precision. The entire international sports-loving community applauded the Chinese for the brilliant way they organized it. The Chinese wanted to prove that not only China can do it, but also Asia can do it.
2. The Chinese will be hosting the 16th Asian Games at Guangzhou and Dongwuan from November 11 to 27. As usual, their preparations are ahead of time. On July 27, they held a massive security drill in these two cities to fine-tune the physical security arrangements and to test the reflexes of their security personnel who will be responsible for ensuring the security of the Games. They are confident of showing the world once again that China can do it and Asia can do it.
3. India is to host the 19th C’Wealth Games in New Delhi from October 3 to 14. Can we be proud of the way the Organising Committee headed by Shri Suresh Kalmadi has been going about it? Far from it. There have been increasing chaos and confusion with serious allegations flying around---of behind-the-schedule preparations, unsatisfactory construction of the required infrastructure, financial mismanagement and even corruption. In the midst of all these allegations and complaints, neither the Government of India nor the Organising Committee has had the time to pay close attention to the physical security aspects, which would demand a high-level of co-ordination from now onwards---- co-ordination at the international level for intelligence collection and sharing and at the national level for follow-up action.
4.Since 9/11, this will be the second most threatened international sports event. The first was the Olympics of 2003 at Athens. The Organising Committee of the Athens Olympics and the local Government sought and received the co-operation of the intelligence and security agencies of the NATO countries, including the US. The Beijing Olympics did not face such serious threats. Yet, the Organising Committee and the Government of China made security arrangements on the same scale as were made at Athens--- in fact, even more.
5. The forthcoming New Delhi C’Wealth Games will be taking place in the sub-continent where all the jihadi terrorist organizations of the world, including Al Qaeda, have an active presence and are looking for the possibility of an opportunistic act of terrorism of a spectacular nature. This is the first time since 9/11 that they will have an opportunity in their home terrain for a spectacular attack on an international event which would get them publicity the like of which they could not have hoped for. The 313 Brigade of Ilyas Kashmiri, based in Pakistan’s North Waziristan, has already held out the threat of an attack on the Games.
6. If we had been able to complete the infrastructure in time, we would have been able to plan better the required security arrangements and benefited from the advice of others. With the preparations still haphazard, the difficulties faced by our security agencies are bound to increase.
7. There are three serious issues involved in the run-up to the Games---- growing suspicions of financial mismanagement and corruption, behind-the-schedule preparations and the difficulties which would consequently be faced in making the security arrangements. The national and international credibility of Shri Kalmadi has been dented by the allegations and the daily focus of the TV channels on these allegations. How can he and the Organising Committee pay the required attention to completing the arrangements in time and co-ordinating with the Government agencies the physical security arrangements when they have been constrained to spend their time in countering these daily allegations?
8. Instead of continuing to dither, the Government should immediately step in and replace Shri Kalmadi and the Organising Committee. The new Organising Committee should be given the task of completing the preparations in time and making a success of the Games. It should not be burdened with countering the allegations of financial mismanagement and corruption. A separate committee should be set up to deal with these allegations.
9. This may please be read in continuation of my earlier article of February 17, 2010, titled “Post-Pune Blast Developments---Attempt to Intimidate Foreign Sports Teams” at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/%5Cpapers37%5Cpaper3672.html and article of February 19, 2010, titled “Making a Success of Sports Events Will Contribute to Defeat of Terrorism” at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/%5Cpapers37%5Cpaper3674.html (6-8-2010)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: email@example.com )