October 19, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether India is ready to host the 2036 Olympics. We also look at Google’s office space in Gujarat, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Is India ready to host the 2036 Olympics?
There aren’t many bigger stages than the Summer Olympic Games. Athletes, coaches, officials, and fans coalesce to celebrate the shared bond of sporting competition. Hosting the Olympics is not only a great honour but an enormous undertaking. When the world arrives, a host nation better put its best step forward.
India has its own Olympic dreams. Not just winning medals but also hosting. Prime Minister Narendra Modi formally declared India’s interest in hosting the games at the opening ceremony of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) annual summit. He used terms like “an age-old dream” and “leave no stone unturned in our efforts”. The question is, is India primed to host such an event?
For India, it’s all about walking on that world stage to announce its intentions in various spheres. After it hosted the G20 summit and India’s excellent performance in the recent Asian Games, India’s aspirations to host the 2036 Olympics seem like a natural evolution.
Why 2036? It’s the earliest available date. We have Paris next year, followed by Los Angeles in 2028 and Brisbane in 2032. That gives India plenty of time should it win the bid.
But there’s the bid. That’s the first step. This begins about 7-9 years before the games begin. The bidding process starts with the IOC sending invitation letters to all the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) to submit bids. Once the NOCs receive letters of compliance with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code, they’re given a month to finalise the list of cities interested. The NOC will make the final call in case multiple cities are interested from the same country.
The interested cities will then submit their application files to the IOC’s Executive Board. They’ll also provide detailed financial guarantees and approval letters from stakeholders. Among the guarantees are that no other major event will happen a week before, during, or shortly after the Games, and Olympic-related goods will be imported without customs duty.
The IOC then spends the next few months scrutinising the bids and preparing a shortlist of candidates. The parameters are transport, accommodation, safety& security, telecommunication, governance, finance, etc. If you’re a city vying to host, you’d better be up to the mark on all these and more.
The candidature files prepared by the cities are detailed. For example, the file presented by Tokyo, which hosted the last Olympics in 2021 (delayed from 2020 due to COVID-19), was 200 pages and three volumes thick. Once the files are submitted, the IOC visits the cities. This is when the city’s delegates get to show off what they can offer and why they should host. The IOC then prepares a detailed report with the pros and cons of each city.
The process ends when all IOC members meet and watch presentations from each city. Then comes the voting process. In each round, every member can vote for only one city. If no one gets a simple majority (50%), the city with the least votes is removed. The process is repeated till a city reaches the majority.
If India is to host the 2036 Olympics, these are the steps that it would need to go through. One of the most important steps is selecting an Indian city. There’s also assembling a delegation fit enough to take such a mission seriously and see it through.
While India is no stranger to hosting sporting events, the Olympics is a whole different ball game. Is India ready to bear the responsibility of being the centre of the world sporting stage on such a scale?
VIEW: More than capable
Even before Modi formally declared India’s interest in hosting the Games, Sports Minister Anurag Thakur said last year the government would back the Indian Olympic Association’s bid for the 2036 Olympics. He even suggested Ahmedabad as the host city. As far as the government is concerned, there’s no shortage of ambition. It’s the base for undertaking such a task. While this is not only good for the economy, it would go a long way in boosting sporting talent in India.
If India needed a vote of confidence, there’s none other than IOC President Thomas Bach. In an interview last month, Bach spoke highly of India’s sporting merit and embracing more Olympic sports. He welcomed interest from India on the Olympic front. We know India is a cricket-crazy country, and it has now been included in the Los Angeles edition. Think of the potential of India hosting the Olympics with cricket as one of the sporting events. The sound you hear is money pouring in from sponsors.
There are obvious questions to ask concerning infrastructure. India has progressed leaps and bounds on that front. We’ve hosted cricket World Cups, youth tournaments, and Formula 1 races. Then there’s arguably the biggest so far, the Commonwealth Games. The government is on an infrastructure kick with new airports, metros across different cities, and even a bullet train corridor.
COUNTERVIEW: Too many barriers
Let’s get one thing clear – hosting the Olympics is an expensive prospect. Tokyo spent ₹1,300 crore in the 2021 games. The cost of hosting rapidly grew in the second half of the twentieth century. Economists have been worried about the financial burden. They say the potential benefits are, at best, exaggerated, leaving host nations in debt with maintenance liabilities. It’s one of the main reasons why cities withdraw during the bidding process. That process itself is expensive. Tokyo spent $150 million in its failed 2016 bid.
A 2018 Harvard Business School working paper argued that many sites and stadiums have little use once the Olympics are over. Beijing’s famous bird’s nest stadium costs $10 million to maintain every year. Greece faced a debt crisis partly thanks to hosting the 2004 games, and many of its facilities are derelict. When we talk about hosting sporting events in India, the 2010 Commonwealth Games doesn’t inspire confidence. To say things could’ve gone smoother in the run-up is being charitable. The corruption reports that came after showed the dark side of conducting a global event in India.
How about some practical questions? While the current Modi government has signalled its intention, who’s to say whether another government, if elected, would feel the same way? Would they still put in the effort needed to prepare a bid? Then comes choosing the city. Indian cities are overpopulated and crowded. Infrastructure maintenance is woeful, and the big metros are polluted.
- Eager to host 2036 Olympics… dream of 140 crore Indians: PM Modi – The Indian Express
- How is bidding done for hosting the Olympics? – The Bridge
- India’s Olympics bid: From multiple stages of dialogue to guarantees, long process before India could be awarded Games in 2036 – The Indian Express
- The Economics of Hosting the Olympic Games – Council on Foreign Relations
- There is a strong case to be made for India to host the Olympics in 2036: IOC President Thomas Bach – CNBC TV 18
- Games and costs: Were India to host Olympics, a key metric should be whether the infra has post-event uses – The Times of India
- Hosting Olympics can be crippling – The Tribune
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) India is capable of hosting the 2036 Olympics.
b) India isn’t capable of hosting the 2036 Olympics.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
On marriage equality, the Supreme Court stops short
For the Left:
Congress party’s abysmal record on rights of marginalised
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Wooing Brahmins (Haryana) – The ruling BJP and opposition Congress are looking to woo the state’s Brahmin community in the run-up to next year’s Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar named a medical college after Brahmin icon Parshuram and announced a second Brahmin Mahakumbh for December 11. Last week, two-time chief minister and opposition leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda promised one of the four Deputy Chief Ministers from the Brahmin community if the Congress comes to power.
Why it matters: Brahmins account for about 12% of the state’s population. In the 2014 polls, when the BJP got a majority, one of the front runners for Chief Minister was Ram Bilas Sharma, the state party chief and a Brahmin leader. Since the state’s formation in 1966, only one Chief Minister has been from the Brahmin community, Bhagwat Dayal Sharma of the Congress.
Replicating Kollam’s success (Karnataka) – The Citizen was a groundbreaking campaign in Kollam, Kerala, which became India’s first constitutionally literate district. Now, the Gadag district in Karnataka is looking to replicate it by launching the campaign on November 26. It comes as representatives visited the Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA) last month to learn about the campaign.
Why it matters: A KILA representative travelled to Gadag to conduct training sessions. When the campaign was launched in Kollam, over 2,000 people were trained at the panchayat and taluk levels. Copies of the Preamble to the Indian Constitution were also distributed. The campaign aims to educate kids 10 years and above about the Constitution’s history and fundamental rights.
Tiger census begins (Odisha) – The state has begun its tiger census at the Similipal Tiger Reserve. The census will be done by the forest department in three phases. The final phase will begin on November 1 and continue till November 25. As many as 700 forest department employees will participate in the undertaking from more than 200 beat houses in the Similipal forest.
Why it matters: According to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the state had 45 tigers in 2006. The tiger population reduced to 32 in 2010 and declined further to 28 in 2018. However, per the state’s estimates, there were 40 tigers in 2016. The NTCA stated that Similipal was the best place in the country for tiger breeding as the state spends ₹12-13 crore every year on tiger conservation.
Google sets up shop (Gujarat) – The tech giant Google has taken up office space on lease at the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT). The company is expected to set up its global fintech centre here. In a virtual discussion with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Google CEO Sundar Pichai informed him of the company’s plans to help improve financial inclusion in India by leveraging GPay and UPI.
Why it matters: In a meeting between Pichai and Modi in June, the former announced the company would establish a global fintech operation centre in the state’s GIFT City. It’s home to over 20,000 employees with 400 companies present, including the likes of Oracle, Bank of America, and Citibank. The GIFT City is a pet project of Modi which was conceptualised in 2007. It’s touted as India’s first greenfield smart city and International Financial Services Centre (IFSC).
Opposition to Sanskrit in schools (Nagaland) – The NDA-led government in the state has criticised the Centre’s plan to introduce Sanskrit and other classical Indian languages as a subject in schools. The state has already spoken about its troubles coping with teaching Hindi. According to the Nagaland expert group on languages, introducing other languages will only increase the burden on students and teachers.
Why it matters: The proposal to introduce new languages is part of the government’s National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. It states that Sanskrit will be offered at all levels of school and higher education. It’s part of a proposal that will require students to learn three languages, of which at least two should be Indian.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
₹4.25 lakh crore – According to research by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), India will likely record its biggest-ever wedding season. It’s expected to have 35 lakh weddings that generate ₹4.25 lakh crore in revenue.