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Rediff.com  » Sports » 2036 Olympics: Coming Out Party For India

2036 Olympics: Coming Out Party For India

By T N Ninan
November 14, 2023 11:54 IST
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If Ahmedabad is India's preferred candidate, as seems likely, hosting Olympics 2036 should give it a leg up: A bigger airport, a better metro network, more hotels, flyovers and so on, observes T N Ninan.

IMAGE: Olympic House, headquarters of the International Olympic Committee, in Lausanne, Switzerland. Photograph: Denis Balibouse/Reuters
 

Coming-out parties for debutantes have long gone out of fashion.

But countries still have coming-out parties when they reach a certain level of income and development, and feel they need to make a statement to the world.

That urge seems to come after per capita income reaches about $4,000, calculated using purchasing power parity and 1990 international dollars (the number would be higher with subsequent iterations of international dollars).

And the party usually means hosting the summer Olympics.

In fact, when the modern Olympic movement was conceived in the final decade of the 19th century, the wealthier Western European countries and the United States were approaching the $4,000 mark or around it: Other than Greece, which was the first host on account of its ancient Olympics, the hosts were France, the US, Britain, Sweden, and then Germany (for 1916, but aborted by World War I).

Angus Maddison calculates a per capita income of $3,473 for Western Europe as a whole in 1913, including the poorer Southern Europe.

Once the Olympics ventured out of Western Europe and the US, it was given to countries in other regions when they had reached the $4,000 threshold (incomes were somewhat higher by the time the event was actually held): Japan for 1964, South Korea for 1988, China for 2008, and Brazil for 2016.

Mexico in 1968 was ahead of the income curve. India is a strong candidate for 2036.

Going by the latest international dollars, India's per capita income is more than $9,000, which should place it in the region of $4,000, using 1990 international dollars. By 2036, the number could be twice as high.

Hosting the Olympics doesn't come cheap: China dazzled the world by spending a massive $44 billion (nominal dollars) for 2008, but subsequent hosts have spent a third of that or less.

Most of the money goes in improving city infrastructure, not sports facilities.

When New Delhi hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2010, the all-in cost was close to $9 billion, more than 80 per cent of it for non-sports infrastructure.

With both the 1982 Asiad and the Commonwealth Games, many facilities approved for the Games got finished only subsequently.

Most host cities have been a country's capital or one of its biggest cities.

The exception was St Louis in the US, the host in 1904.

If Ahmedabad is India's preferred candidate city, as seems likely, it too would be an exception since it does not figure in the top five in India's city rankings by population, area, gross domestic product, cleanliness, or safety for women.

While it is a business and educational centre, it is not an airline hub, is less familiar with English, is mostly vegetarian, and has prohibition.

Much of this won't change, but hosting the Olympics should give it a leg-up: A bigger and better airport, a full-fledged metro network, more hotels, flyovers, and so on.

It will also by then have the bullet train service to Mumbai.

How much of the cost of all this would be borne by the city, the state, and the Centre?

Regardless, India will not suffer the fate of Greece, whose 2004 Olympics incurred debt that was partly responsible for the country's financial crisis four years later.

If a host country does poorly in the Olympics, it becomes an embarrassment.

So, a key question is whether hosting the Games helps a country's sportsmen (and women) to do better.

Certainly, host countries win far more medals than they did in the previous Olympics, perhaps because a special effort is made.

Mexico went from a lone medal in 1964 to nine in 1968, South Korea from 19 to 33, and China from 63 to 100.

India too did well when it hosted the Asian Games in 1982, doubling its medals tally from 28 to 57, but the surge could not be sustained.

Similarly, India won 101 medals in the New Delhi Commonwealth Games, but got only 64 at Glasgow in 2014.

In the end, though, it is not about such pluses and minuses.

When a country wants a coming-out party, it will host the Olympics.

Especially after the performance of India's athletes at Hangzhou, who can complain?

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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T N Ninan
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