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  Arindam Chaudhuri    

Prof. Arindam Chaudhuri
Editor-in-Chief - The Sunday Indian

Instead of creating such hype around commonwealth games, India should have long ago stopped participating in these slavish games

Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-chief, The Sunday Indian

I really had decided to not write about the Commonwealth Games at all – the reason is clear in the heading and I will elaborate soon enough! However, receiving too many mails and requests asking me write on the games, finally made me change my mind! But I do not plan to write about all the corruption related allegations, as too much has been said by senior journalists in the most hard hitting manner already. Also, for everything in India, we have a scam. How could one ever expect that the government will plan such a huge project without making money? I will end my reference to the scam by sighting one of the many sms messages on CWG that I received a couple of days back. It stated, “What a lovely anagram (word play)... Unscramble ‘Sir, u made lakhs,’ and you get ‘Suresh Kalmadi’... !!!”

Leaving the scam behind on that note, let me tell you why I detest the very idea of the Commonwealth Games. Of course, I agree with Manishankar Iyer wholeheartedly when he says that instead of spending so much money on the games we should have developed sports people in India and made investments to create an environment conducive to world class sports in India. And I swear the money spent would have sufficed to develop world class sports facilities not just throughout India, but the perhaps the whole of the third world! I have too many times referred to the Chinese example of not participating in Olympics (and wasting money) till they became competent enough to play the games so well that they would do justice to the size of their nation. In the history of Olympics, we are the nation with the least amount of medals per capita. But that doesn’t shame our ministers ever or tempt them to do anything – the lure of corruption possibly always does!

Going away from Manishanker Iyer’s very strong and correct logic, let me let the common Indian and Delhiite know what CWG is about! Well, Commonwealth Games were not called Commonwealth Games till 1978. The games first started as the British Empire Games in 1930! That’s the origin of the CWG that India is so meaninglessly getting excited about. In 1954, the games started being called the British Empire and Commonwealth Games; and then the British Commonwealth Games in 1970! Why? Well, because it was a sporting activity to celebrate the British empire. And it brought together all the nations that Great Britain ruled, to play and feel like equals for a couple of weeks! It was officially suggested as a means to increase the goodwill and understanding of the British empire... and the first games actually took place in 1911 as the “Festival of the Empire”.
The big event before the games is called the Queen’s baton relay and is supposed to be like the Olympic torch relay! Why is it called the Queen’s baton relay? Well, what else do you call the relay around the world to begin the start of a game to celebrate the British empire? The baton carries the message from the head of Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II. Till 1994, the relay but obviously went only through England to remind the English about their past colonial powers! Now, of course, it goes through twenty plus countries where celebrities fight with each other to run with the baton to carry the message of the British empire... oops, the Commonwealth of nations! It’s unbelievable but true that only two erstwhile colonies of the British empire – Burma and Aden decided not to become members of the Commonwealth of nations post independence. Rest, all the 54 countries, barring two, are part of the old British empire!

One might wonder how did the name change to Commonwealth Games in 1978? Well, by 1978, the world had grown mature enough to be critical of colonialism and apartheid. And with changing times, it was only intelligent to change the name of the games to keep the old colonial games alive. Thus the new name! But it still remains a game of erstwhile colonies! The only two states who were not British colonies, yet who have been granted membership of the Commonwealth of nations (under the new effort to change the colonial flavour of the Commonwealth of nations) are Mozambique – a former Portuguese colony – and Rwanda, a former German colony; and their admission was considered as exceptional. But perhaps the biggest insult of being a member of the Commonwealth of nations is that originally, when the games started, it required acceptance of dominionhood a compulsory requirement; this was later modified in 1949 to dictate that members could only be made on condition that the member countries recognised the British monarch – that is, is the current Queen – as the Head of the Commonwealth! Of course, now there are so called greater values that the Commonwealth stands for, like, you guessed it right, world peace, racial equality, human rights etc!!

After reading all this, if you still want to be a part of the celebrations around these slavish games, then please go ahead. In my opinion, we have the United Nations, we have the non aligned nations. We don’t need commonwealth. Forget about celebrating the Commonwealth games; it’s time India considers withdrawing its membership from the slavish Commonwealth of nations itself. It’s a shame that instead of doing that, we are busy celebrating these games which are nothing but a celebration of the British empire – in other words, celebration of racial discrimination, colonialism, imperialism – however much the statutes may have changed in recent times.

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