India banks on Bolt to light up Commonwealth Games

Updated: 30 September 2009 10:05 IST

India's bid to deliver a world-class CWG next year will rest not on swanky stadiums, but on persuading stars like Usain Bolt to compete in New Delhi.

India banks on Bolt to light up Commonwealth Games

New Delhi:

India's bid to deliver a world-class Commonwealth Games next year will rest not on swanky stadiums, but on persuading stars like Usain Bolt to compete in New Delhi.

The four-yearly sporting festival of nations that comprised the erstwhile British Empire is regarded by many as a "Community Games" that lack the aura of the Olympics.

Indian officials realise they need Bolt to generate excitement in the cricket-crazy nation, and are even willing to tempt the Jamaican with big bucks to scorch the tracks at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

"We are looking for an Indian sponsor for Bolt," the chairman of the organising committee, Suresh Kalmadi, told a meeting with corporate honchos a year ahead of the October 3-14 Games.

"Any company in India would love to be associated with him. The organising committee is making an effort so that Indian industry gets global mileage."

Bolt, 23, who won the 100m and 200m double at both the Beijing Olympics and the world championships with world record timings, missed the previous Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006 due to injury.

The fastest man on the planet has not committed himself to racing in New Delhi, saying he will leave the decision to his coach Glen Mills.

India can ill afford to let Bolt skip what, at 1.6 billion dollars, will be the most expensive Commonwealth Games ever, surpassing the 1.1 billion dollars spent by Melbourne four years ago.

Eyebrows have been raised in India at the cost of hosting a Games that many say have lost their stature.

"The Commonwealth Games are the most redundant and peculiar of sporting events," said Sharda Ugra, the sports editor of the respected news weekly India Today.

"In fact it seems like the only thing common to all participating countries is that Britain stole their wealth."

Bolt's Jamaican team-mate Asafa Powell is uncertain about defending his 100m gold medal, and world heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis of Britain has hinted she may skip the Games in favour of the European championships that take place in Barcelona from July 26 to August 1 next year.

"It's important to make the right decision, not to try to cram everything in and burn out," Ennis said after the world championships in Berlin. "I am leaning more towards doing the Europeans at the moment."

Kalmadi, a federal member of parliament who also heads the Indian Olympic Association, chided those who undermined the relevance of the Commonwealth Games and promised a world-class field.

"The Commonwealth countries, including Jamaica, are going to send their best teams," Kalmadi said. "Usain Bolt is going to come and all the top chaps from other nations are also coming.

"The Commonwealth Games are next only to the Olympics."

However, the gap between the two events in terms of sporting excellence has only grown over the years.

Commonwealth athletes and teams won only 53 of the 302 gold medals on offer at the Beijing Olympics, with Britain - fielding a combined team from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - taking home 19 of them.

Australia, which dominated the last Commonwealth Games in Melbourne with 84 gold medals, won just 14 titles in Beijing, half of them in swimming.

The next best Commonwealth performance at the Olympics was the six athletics golds by Jamaica, three of them by Bolt in the individual sprints and 4x100m relay.

When the 71 Commonwealth teams gather in New Delhi in a year's time, fans will hope the Games provide keen competition rather than just the chance to watch a sprinkling of stars in action.

"It will be great to see Bolt run in New Delhi, but for Bolt or the Australian swimmers to be at their best, we would need to have some serious competition," said Ugra.

"The Commonwealth Games are supposed to be a sporting contest, not a celebrity exhibition event."



Topics : Athletics
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