The politics of sending our athletes to India

2010-10-02 00:00

SO India is about to roll out the red carpet, or more like clear the dirt road, to welcome athletes from former British colonies who are competing in the Commonwealth Games.

Video clips and pictures have been broadcast on television and shown in newspapers across the world, showing how unprepared India is to host the event which is meant to serve as a prelude to the Olympic Games in London in 2012. For a country that has known for years that it would be hosting the games, the lack of preparedness is unacceptable and the state of the facilities is despicable, to say the least.

I guess what makes it more shocking for me is knowing the progress that India has made in other sectors, such as in information technology. A lot of support for IT companies operating in the United States is provided by India and, against this backdrop, it amazes me that India cannot successfully host an event to save its reputation.

South Africa has close links to India and this year’s games coincide with the commemoration of 150 years since Indians first arrived in South Africa as indentured labourers. Also, South Africa’s Indian population is the biggest one outside of India.

It is therefore no surprise that, while some of the so-called more civilised nations have opted to pull out of the games, we have stuck by our “cousins” in solidarity. While sports is politics, I am not sure if the reverse is true. I would not be surprised if a decision was taken at a political level to send our team to nurse our relationship with India in other spheres.

India is one of the Bric nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and we need them in our effort to develop our own economy as a leader of the developing Third-World countries.

Like the other Bric countries, India has a lot to offer us, just like we have a lot to offer it. In Zulu we say izandla ziyagezana, which means rub my back and I’ll rub yours.

So participation in the games is part of the bigger picture. Had it not been for the insight I have just shared, we would have followed the likes of the Australian and English athletes who have withdrawn from the games.

In a situation like this, our athletes have an edge over the others, especially our black athletes, as the poor conditions should not deter them from performing well as they lived in shacks during the dark days anyway.

The mealie-meal-eating Khotso Mokoena should outpace his Kellogg’s-munching counterparts because at one time he knew nothing else but mealie meal.

To improve our chances, they should have sent me and some of our traffic cops with our “stomach out, chest in” approach to roll ourselves to the finish line.

President Jacob Zuma’s friends, the white shack dwellers from Orange Farm, would have seen the accommodation in India as an upgrade. Even better, the DA’s Helen Zille should have sent the shack dwellers who built their homes on a firebreak. They could have made a name for themselves and been able to buy something decent to live in.

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