Yesterday, New Delhi staged a spectacular and successful opening of the XIX Commonwealth Games. The lead-up to the Games has been an interesting exercise of risk management, realpolitik, and public relations. Many countries adopted a wait-and-see approach to ensure the safety and security of their participating athletes. What was understated, however, is that international sporting federations were backed into a corner to make a last minute decision as a result of India’s dithering, indifference and intransigence.
This is no way to manage risk with sports teams. The approach thus far was almost carnivalesque. An Ottawa Citizen editorial ended with the comment that ‘Commonwealth Games Canada should feel confident in the level of safety, health and security before it brings any athletes to Delhi. These are, after all, only games’ (read editorial here).
Countrys’ participation in the XIX Commonwealth Games should not be based upon the false premise “The show must go on” but on whether a rational assessment of the risk shows it is safe to do so.
A recently published letter to the editor of mine in The Vancouver Sun was edited which essentially made the same point (see letter here).
It must be noted that India’s Interior Ministry issued a security advisory for all states to go on high alert and a UK-based firm Control Risks has advised its clients to avoid tourist attractions, public places and government buildings, and not to travel by public transport and warns that there is a relatively high likelihood of attacks occurring (read statement here).
In the pressure cauldron which was the lead-up to the Games, it is difficult to say that it was even possible for such an assessment to be made. It seems risk management was playing second fiddle to politics and economics. Let’s be mindful that India’s Minister for Commerce and Industry, Shri Anand Sharma, issued a veiled threat suggesting economic retaliation against those countries who backed out and withdrew from the Games (read quote here).
Sport has always been linked to politics but this is taking it to a whole other level.
Countries were forced into making a decision and being told that sufficient safety margins were built up in the Games’ final days of preparation. A Reuters article warns that last minute preparations for the Games has meant that security forces may have cut corners (read article here).
Bad things happened when decisions are based upon timelines rather than reason. The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster taught us that.
I wish the best for New Delhi but – under the circumstances – would not be surprised if even a security blanket of 100,000 police and surface-to-air missiles do not offer the foolproof security promised by Interior Minister P. Chidambaram.