The Commonwealth Games Scam

The Commonwealth of Nations, commonly known as the Commonwealth, is a free association of 54 independent sovereign countries comprising the United Kingdom and a number of its former dependencies who have chosen to maintain ties of friendship and practical cooperation.  Among its various intergovernmental activities, the Commonwealth Games is the most popular one.

The Commonwealth Games (henceforth CWG) is an international multi-sport event involving athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations, which is held after every four years. It was first held in 1930 in Hamilton, Canada. In 2010, India hosted CWG in New Delhi. In 2011, the CVC (the Central Vigilance Commission) revealed a scam of ₹70,000 crores in the CWG.

India outbid Canada by 24 votes to be selected as the host for the 2010 Games in 2003. Thus began the preparations. India promised that it would provide $100,000 to each participating country, along with air tickets, boarding, lodging and transport. The organizing committee earlier had estimated the total budget for the games to be ₹115 million. However, by the end of the game, the cost incurred by the state escalated to ₹700 million.  The country also invested in infrastructure development such as metros, stadiums and special highways. The Games were finally concluded on 14th October 2010. From the very beginning, the event was shrouded in controversies, which kept surfacing and have still not been fully resolved.

The games were heavily criticized by politicians and activists.  In a country where almost 45% of people are below the poverty line, spending millions of bucks for a sports event looked like a major waste of money. People like Azim Premji called it a “drain on public funds”.

In July 2010, the Central Vigilance Commission addressed several financial irregularities in the whole CWG. The primary investigation revealed that contracts were awarded at higher prices, there was poor quality of assurance and management, and contracts were being awarded to ineligible agencies. The CVC estimated a scam of around ₹70,000 crores. The commission also suspected corruption in various aspects of the entire event, right from the procurement of materials to accommodation.

Supplies were bought at inflated rates. The Delhi Health Department in 2010 called for tenders for pieces of equipment such as stretchers for the games. The tenders accepted quoted prices 5-7 times the original price. Companies that offered better deals were disqualified for inexplicable reasons. Finally, on October 25 2010, a committee was set up with the then-CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General of India) V.K. Shunglu. The committee is known as the Shunglu Committee. Along with this committee, various other committees such as CBI and the IT department also probed an investigation on the CWG.

On April 25 2011, the CBI arrested Suresh Kalmadi, who was the chairperson of the Organizing Committee of the CWG. He was arrested on grounds of forgery and criminal conspiracy, criminal intimidation and destruction of evidence under the Prevention of Corruption Act. He had awarded a contract to a Swiss company for ₹141 crores while rejecting a Spanish firm who had quoted a tender of ₹95 crores. Following this incident, Kalmadi lost his position as the President of the Indian Olympic Association and also his position as the President of the Asian Athletic Association.

The whole controversy surrounding the renovation of the Shivaji Stadium, New Delhi is just another example to show the extent of the scam. The scam involved various politicians and businesspersons. Along with this various MNCs and corporations were also involved. Apart from the monetary scam, the CWG also involved various labour abuses and mistreatment of athletes.

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