Goa suffered a major setback when the Indian Olympic Association decided to shift the National Games from Goa to Gujarat. It is reported that the government’s negative response to preparedness has gone against Goa prompting the IOA to look out for other States who showed readiness to host the mega sporting event in the country.
While two crucial years were lost in the pandemic, and while Goa struggled to keep pace with its infrastructure upgrade for the event, the IOA were not in a position to accept any further delay, and the excuse of monsoon gave a clear indication that there was no serious intent from the State government to go ahead with the games.
Incidentally, ever since the National Games were allocated to Goa way back in 2008 to play host in 2011, it has been a story of inordinate delays and mere excuses. The question is, what happens now that the Games have moved?
According to a written reply tabled in January 2021 by the then sports minister Manohar Ajgaonkar, the Goa government had spent Rs 439 crores on raising infrastructure, out of which Rs 97.80 crore were sanctioned and released by the Centre, while a further Rs 69.85 crore aid was expected to come in. Eight months later in August 2021, Ajgaonkar said the State is ready to host the games at a “moment’s notice” from the Union Ministry for Home Affairs and declared that the necessary infrastructure for all the 36 sports disciplines is ready. Come April 2022, the new sports minister Govind Gaude completely debunks his predecessor’s claim and states that Goa is not ready for the games with even the necessary infrastructure not in place.
Why did the government play the bluff? The empty talk of hosting the games was evident from day one, and all the government gave was false hope for 2021. A cruel joke is played on the careers of sportspersons of the State who were anxiously awaiting their moment of reckoning hoping to make a mark on the national stage. In the last seven years, counting from 2016 when the first deadline was missed, several of our sportspersons have simply faded away because the clock has ticked past their sporting peak. While the government and ministers keep singing praises of the rare sporting honours that Goans achieve on their own and promptly move congratulatory motions on the floor of the legislative assembly, the role of the government in grooming talent and honing their skills has been negligent. The argument that Goa has the best sports infrastructure is too extravagant and fictitious and is a brazen attempt to shield a shortcoming.
While Goa may have got the infrastructure in the name of national games, it has come at a heavy price, especially when the State is reeling financially. Unscrupulous spending on raising sports infrastructure without a clear ambition and action plan looks suspicious because infrastructure alone is not going to get us sporting fame. The existing infrastructure is a testimony of that.
Govind Gaude has started on a sound footing as a sports minister and his outspoken nature and confidence has triggered some hope. However, there is a long way to go. For now, Gaude must explain the fallout of the national games moving out of Goa.