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Delhi C’wealth Games
Turf war over event rights
Major players vie for organising opening and closing ceremonies, as they involve business worth hundreds of crores of rupees
Man Mohan/Our Roving Editor

New Delhi, January 18
The countdown to the Commonwealth Games 2010 has begun. But before the Capital hosts the event, a turf war seems to have begun between major players associated with organising the games.

The focus of the turf war is around the opening and closing ceremonies, which engage more public attention than the games themselves. These ceremonies involve business worth hundreds of crores of rupees. A competition is also on to grab the games’ television coverage rights, which too are worth a fortune.

Several domestic and foreign event management companies are trying to win the bid for organising the opening and closing ceremonies and eye-catching themes for the same. The foreign competitors include Australian firms that were associated with the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

Whether it is the high-powered Group of Ministers, the Union Ministry of Sports Affairs, the Sports Authority of India, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, the Delhi government, the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, or the Indian Olympics Association (IOA), each is lobbying for its favourite. Officially, all of them claim that no one has yet been selected.

However, there is speculation that Wizcraft, an event management firm, is likely to emerge the winner. Sources said some highly influential persons associated with the IOA are backing this firm. At the Melbourne Games, Wizcraft had organised the 30-minute cultural event portraying the next host, India, which reportedly cost the exchequer a fortune.

An ‘expression of interest’ was issued on September 12, 2008, for hiring a world-class consultant for the opening and closing ceremonies and the last date for the receipt of bids was October 3.

The consultant (event management firm) is to provide the ‘concept’ for the events and modulate the ethnic and cultural presentation with state-of-the-art technology to bring in a modern and contemporary look.

The tussle between the event management firms, which are using their favourite Bollywood actors and directors to win the contract, has reached such a feverish pitch that many in the sports fraternity fear that the whole show may become a mega scam.

The IOA, a major player in organising the games, is headed by the Congress Lok Sabha member, Suresh Kalmadi. He is also the chairman of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee and the chairman of the Olympics 2016 bid committee.

The involvement of several Union ministries, Delhi government departments, and the city’s civic bodies has confused people about who is actually organising the Commonwealth Games, especially the opening and closing ceremonies.

While the IOA officials claim that their organisation is the one which is responsible for “every thing that will happen at sports venues”, the other bodies are quick to point out that “the money is coming from the Central government and ultimately it will decide who does what”.

According to Union Sports Affairs Minister MS Gill, the Cabinet recently constituted a Group of Ministers to deliberate, among other things, on the organisation of the opening and closing ceremonies of the games “so that they showcase India's great civilization, its history, cultural diversity, varied arts forms, music and dance”.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who was handed over the Commonwealth Games Federation flag at the Melbourne Games, said: “The opening and closing ceremonies of the games in New Delhi next year have to reflect the entire nation, not the IOA alone.” “As Delhi is hosting the 2010 Commonwealth Games, we are going to have enormous say in every activity related to this major event,” she said. At the Melbourne Games, the 2010 Commonwealth Games’ mascot ‘Shera’ - the lion - was unveiled when Dikshit was handed over the games’ flag.

Another contender for the job in the corridors of power is the Union Minister of Tourism and Culture, Ambika Soni, who has claimed that her ministry has “vast knowledge in this field”. Recently, the Tourism Ministry launched a global print, television, and Internet campaign to help ‘Incredible India’ project itself as welcoming, hospitable, and self-assertive.

Dikshit said that letters had been written to eminent Bollywood producers and other top cultural personalities in India and abroad, who have vast experience of presenting fabulous cultural ceremonies, asking them whether they would like to showcase their talent at the Commonwealth Games here by organising the opening and closing ceremonies.

“We are not creative people, neither is any ministry or the IOA…the IOA or anyone else can suggest x, y, z, and they are welcome, if they fit the requirements,” pointed out Dikshit, who recently created history by becoming the Chief Minister for the third time. “We do not want to select someone to script the opening and closing ceremonies with pre-conceived notions,” she said.

“The bottom line is that the opening and closing ceremonies must dazzle people…we want the best persons in this business to do it,” said Dikshit. “It has to be a collective effort - no single person or organisation can force its choice,” she observed.

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