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Operation War Room

September 24, 2010

This is an extraordinary situation. I mean here we are on the cusp of one of the most important sporting events in international calendar, the Commonwealth Games and there are nations who have deferred the arrival of their teams because the Games Village is in no shape to welcome participants. The New Zealand team has halted in Singapore and Canada has delayed their departure by a week. India has lost face, if those in the position of responsibility realize what is going on. Some of the delegates have had to clean the rooms and use disinfectants to make it habitable for the coming entourage. This is ignominy at its worse. This is war like situation and when things get out of hand one needs to put ones best foot forward.

I have been mulling as to what I would do if I were the head of the state, because that is where the buck stops. Manmohan Singh has called a meeting with MS Gill and Jaipal Reddy this evening. If I were Manmohan Singh I would stop these silly meetings, call my chauffeur and drive to the Games Village myself. But before I do that I would call Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi and ask them to accompany me to the Games Village. Out of the 34 odd towers in the Games Village, I understand that only 18 are in some shape. Six of them I am told are just not in any shape to be ready at all. So those will have to go. While I call Sonia and Rahul I would also make a couple of calls to two of the most distinguished personalities in the hospitality business – MS Oberoi and Ratan Tata. If they are not in India I would request them to send someone of stature to walk with us to see for ourselves the condition of the Village. When India boasts of two of the best hospitality brands in the world – Taj and Oberoi, it is unacceptable that we cannot provide the best hospitality that money can buy. I would also call some of the top executives in the paint industry – the Village needs a coat of paint in places. A Nerolac or Asian Paints can do the job in no time. These experts will get an army of professionals that will set the place right. They have been doing this all their lives and they know what quality hospitality entails. They can do this in a jiffy without a bead of sweat on their brow. Get the pros and make the place spick and span fit for kings.

If the Village is in such bad shape that it will take at least 72 hours to set things right I would request New Zealand and Canada to make their contingent check into Hotel Janpath or Imperial or maybe even Taj Mansingh. I would also insist on paying for the New Zealanders stay in Singapore. A letter of apology will follow to all participating countries with a revised schedule that will be strictly adhered to.

I would divide the Games Village into two – one under the Taj flagship and the other under Oberoi. Let them handle the towers and its upkeep for the duration of the Games. They will also be encouraged to open 24 hour coffee shops where athletes and delegates can buy coffee and snacks at all times. This will be in addition to the catering that is already in place. This will ensure quality and standards that are world class. Both Tata and Oberoi will be allowed to advertise their brands and that include some of the luxury brands that someone like Tata’s have. If they want to showcase their latest Jaguar sedan or their Titan watches or any other product, they are free to do so within the Games Village around their area of influence. The other thing I would do would be to appoint someone like Kiran Bedi as the Mayor of the Village. She is a doer and would be the overall in-charge of the Games Village. Being a former cop, the security issues will also be addressed. May I add here that the Organizing Committee will need to be dismantled at the very out-set.

The next thing I would do would be to sell TV rights to the highest bidder. I understand that right now some TV channels will be airing a half hour capsules on the Commonwealth Games. I would call the main sports channels personally and invite them to bid for live streaming of the Commonwealth Games around the globe. All channels will be invited including ESPN-Star Sports, Neo Sports, Zee-Ten Sports and others. The highest bidder will get the exclusive rights to air the Games. If we could rope in someone like ESPN-Star to show the Games live, that would be just fantastic. Having two channels – ESPN and Star they can continue with their previous commitments with the Premier League while showing the Commonwealth Games. As for Doordarshan they will telecast live on their sports channel but that will not dent the market of the private TV channel. Once the Games are visible my next step would be to invite sponsors to the ten venues.

I know that there is no time, but having handed the Games Village to Tatas and Oberoi and with Kiran Bedi in charge things will be on track and then the next step would be to take up the onerous task of inviting bids to sponsors of the ten stadia. Some of the known sports sponsors like the UB Group (Vijay Mallya), Sahara Group, Tatas, Aditya Birla, Reliance (both Anil & Mukesh), Godrej, Hero Honda (Munjals), Infosys, Wipro etc. will be invited. Why sell stadia to sponsors; because it will then be their responsibility for the upkeep of the stadia, ticket sale as well as to sell advertisement space in their stadia. These corporate will be allowed to bid from a minimum of Rs 5 crore per venue onwards and the highest bidder will get the sole rights to that venue. These sole rights will include advertisement space, ticket sales as well as selling kiosk area for beverages and snacks within the venue. They will have the exclusive rights to advertisement space which they can use for their own companies or sell the space to other companies. Of course JN Stadia will have a bidding of a minimum of Rs 50 crores and again the highest bidder will get the rights. These biddings will have to be done immediately and perhaps Hero Honda – one of the few original sponsors will be accommodated with a special slot as they have been around right from the beginning.

Once the venues are given to the various sponsors it will be their responsibility for the running of the games in their venues. The timing of the events will also have to be synchronized with the TV channels so that the events can go live without overlapping. Some of the public sector companies who are sponsors like Indian Oil and Indian Railways will be given some of the less viewer friendly venues like the Karni Singh shooting range.  Selling the venues will then ensure that advertisers flock to the venues and these Games become a thundering success. These corporate will ensure smooth functioning of the Games. Remember, Tata Motors are already sponsoring the transportation of the athletes and delegates from the airport to the Village and to the venues. These corporate will have to coordinate the events with the TV air time and transport sponsors and the itinerary will then be set accordingly. Some overlapping will be unavoidable and ESPN-Star are used to covering events simultaneously with their expert commentators in place.

You see, it does not take too much to organize the Games. A bit of sensibility and a wee bit of thought is required.  This will not only generate revenue and be a source of income – this will showcase India’s corporate strength. India has loads of professionals of the highest order and it will be a shame if their expertise is not utilized. As it is they are feeling left out and this will then become a truly Indian event. There can be some kind of a competition between the sponsors as to who keeps their venues the best, aesthetically and otherwise. Perhaps a prize for the best kept venue could be given by a panel of experts that will be visiting these venues incognito during the course of the Games. Indian corporates are proud of their Indianess and they would love to be a part of the biggest sporting event that the nation has hosted. This will also be a wonderful opportunity for them to get access to global audience. This will be a win-win situation. My guess is that if the venues are given to the highest bidder, there will be so much revenue generated that these Games will not be a burden on the taxpayers. Their professionalism will make sure that the athletes as well as the delegates go home happy. Any glitches in the venues (like open power cables, etc.) will be set right in no time and such fundamental utilities like clean toilets will be a priority as their brand name will be associated with the venue. Indian hospitality is known worldwide. We need to put our best foot forward. Tap into the managerial capabilities of our corporate honchos. There are more than a hundred Indian companies with more than a billion dollar turnover. And we are struggling to get a silly Games going!!

It really is very simple. With their managerial capabilities these companies will make every second count and will do a job that will be the envy of the world. This is easier than an IPL as it is just a ten day event and is within one city and not in eight different cities as was the IPL. You do not even need a Lalit Modi to get this going. It is a matter of getting ones priorities right.

As for Kalmadi and Gill, their job will be to welcome the athletes and delegates at the airport and make sure they get into the sponsor vehicle that will take them to the Village. And maybe see them off too. The only glitch is that perhaps these nincompoops are not capable of even this!!

PS:  News is that foreign delegations are flying their cleaning personnel from Europe and North America to get the Village ready. Must I say more? To put it more bluntly, it is a matter of ‘moving ass’.

I would not be doing justice if I failed to mention L.N. Mittal’s Arcelor-Mittal who have been sponsoring quite a few Indian athletes silently. The Mittal foundation has also produced a few champions. I understand Saina Nehwal and Mary Kom are from the Mittal stable. L.N. would love to sponsor one of the stadia. He is known to do things big, my hunch is, if offered he would go for J.N. Stadium!

News is that the collapsed bridge outside J.N. Stadium will now be built by the army in 5 days! Army has other more urgent tasks at hand. Give this to Gammon-India or some other reputed contractors and they will do the job in no time!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. kaanjo permalink
    September 25, 2010 1:16 pm

    The approach you have proposed should have been the approach right from the beginning! The government has shown that it is incapable and incompetent, But this does not mean that Indians are incapable. Our Corporates could do a world class job!!

    But the million dollar question is who is accountable for the crores pocketted by the political bosses in the name of games!! Lets not forget that this is our hard earned money, the public money!!!

    DO not let the scroundrels go scot free while the corporate does the damage control!! or the Army helps in saving the face of the nation!!

    • sharma24 permalink*
      September 25, 2010 2:40 pm

      The fact is that they still have a weeks time to get the TV channels in and the corporates too. If I know the Indian corporates at all, they will do in seven days what Kalmadi & Co. could not do in seven years. The point is, there is still a window of opportunity and these Games could be a thundering success. Those athletes who have excused themselves out might then have a rethink.
      As for accountability, it is a difficult subject. Where have the 70,000 crores gone is anybody’s guess. IOA was not the sole beneficiary. PWD and NDMC and DDA were all a part of the show. I hope the culprits are brought to book, but I have a feeling they might just go scot free. The mismanagement of IOA of which Kalmadi is the boss is the most shameful part.
      Lastly, I am yet to make up my mind whether Suresh Kalmadi is plain naive, a thorough rascal or an obnoxious fool.

  2. September 26, 2010 2:01 am

    Wow! This really is 1 of the most beneficial blogs I’ve ever come across on this subject. Truly amazing

  3. October 3, 2010 2:41 am

    Excellent post, l quite agree with your conclusion. However lam having problem subscribing to your rss.

    • sharma24 permalink*
      October 3, 2010 8:19 am

      It is very easy. Please go to the subscription column on the right. Enter your e-mail address and click ENTER. You will be subscribed and receive articles free of cost.

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