A Ringmaster’s Reckoning

As stadiums leak, construction lags and allegations of corruption mount, will Commonwealth Games’ head Suresh Kalmadi end up as the architect of a disaster?

01 August 2010
Talkatora Boxing Stadium after a rain storm in July.
D.N. Patel for the caravan
Talkatora Boxing Stadium after a rain storm in July.
D.N. Patel for the caravan

IT TOOK FOUR MONTHS TO SECURE an appointment with Suresh Kalmadi, the man responsible for bringing the Commonwealth Games to New Delhi. These months gave me ample time to hear his colleagues praise him as a fantastic organiser and someone with “his heart in the right place.” I also had time to hear some horror stories—he’s dictatorial, he has a short temper and hurls abuses at his staff. I wonder if he’ll lose his cool with me, as I review my carefully worded questions on a morning in early July in the waiting room adjacent to his official residence at 2 Kamraj Lane in Lutyens’ Delhi.

Before Kalmadi’s arrival, I am led to the study, its walls adorned with pictures of Kalmadi with various politicians and public figures, and shelves filled with books. His press secretary, a former sports journalist with 25 years experience named G Rajaraman, with no questioning or prompting, spends 15 minutes convincing me that Kalmadi is just misunderstood. Rajaraman, also a former basketball player, is a bespectacled man with a greying moustache and broad shoulders. He joined the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee’s (OC) media relations team in October 2009.

“When they were bidding for it, I was opposed to the Games,” he admits, “because it is a lot of money, the 20 to 30 billion rupees we are spending on the games.” But he says he eventually came around, and saw the potential for the Games to inspire India’s youth to pursue sports as a career.  Yet it’s the games played on the political level that have been getting all the attention.

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    Anil Varghese is a freelance journalist based in Delhi.

    Keywords: corruption construction Suresh Kalmadi Delhi Metro Commonwealth Games G Rajaraman Commonwealth Games Organising Committee Rajya Sabha Talkatora Boxing Stadium National Capital Region Indira Gandhi indoor Stadium