06 Jan 2019 06:21am IST
Alexandre Moniz Barbosa
The winter chill set in late this season bringing in the usual drop in pace of work, but in the sports administrative corridors of Goa there is an unusual sight, a hastening in the tempo of tasks being undertaken. The government arms of Goan sports, which should usually be in an aggressive mode, have long been associated with a languid attitude the kind that the cold weather brings about, but with the National Games 2019 just 84 days away this has been shrugged away.
Even before we see athletes sprinting on the tracks for glory, there is another race happening and this one is with the sports administrators, who are running against time to get the infrastructure required for the Games completed before the deadline.
But this dash, even though it is happening, does not appear to be being run with the intention of winning the race. The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has raised queries on the completion of the infrastructure for the Games (see our Review section) but the State officials display a confidence of completing the stadia for opening, but there still exists the possibility, or perhaps a more suitable word would be hope, that the Games will be postponed once again giving Goa a breathing space to complete the infrastructure.
It is not as if the National Games were suddenly dropped on Goa’s lap. The State has known that it was the host for the 36th National Games for over a decade. The host city agreement was signed between Goa and the IOA in 2008 and the Games were to be held in 2011, but postponements of the earlier Games especially in Guwahati and Jharkhand led to the Goa games getting advanced for years. But finally we are, in sporting terms, in the last lap of the race and yet lacking in infrastructure.
All this time there was only one certainty, that Goa would be hosting the Games, the when was a big question mark. Even today, there hangs a doubt over whether the Games will be held in March-April as has been scheduled, as this period will most likely coincide with the election code of conduct for the Lok Sabha elections and the preparations for the polls. Can the Games be held when the code of conduct is in force? While they won’t say it aloud, the Games administrators do not rule out the possibility of yet another postponement. A further deferment would work in Goa’s favour. But this would be known only after the election dates are announced.
In the meantime, the State’s capabilities get questioned in the national media, with a few months ago a national daily even calling the Games a ‘national farce’ when it came to learn that five key events could possibly be moved out of the State as Goa could not have the infrastructure ready. If there has been another constant in the long saga of this planning for the Games, it has been bad press for the State.
But negative reportage where sports is concerned is not new to Goa. You just have to go back five years to recall the Lusofonia Games that the State hosted in January 2014, that brought Portuguese speaking countries to Goa for these Games. The Lusofonia Games were successfully held, finally after all the delays and the uncertainty, but has anybody wondered what happened to the Games after the Goa edition?
Five years after Goa hosted the Lusofonia Games, there is not even a whisper of the next event in the news, to the extent that nobody seems to be aware of when the next edition will be held, or even if it will be held. Which leads one to wonder whether the 2014 Lusofonia Games hosted in Goa was the last edition of the Games? A search of the Internet for information of the Games brings up nothing and it is beginning to increasingly appear that the Goa edition of the Lusofonia Games could have been the final, with no more such Games likely to occur.
The next edition of the Lusofonia Games, after Goa’s 2014 event, was scheduled for 2017 at Mozambique, but it is already January 2019 and there is no sign of the Games being held. The ACOLOP (Association of Olympic Committees of countries with Portuguese as the Official Language) website, doesn’t even list the dates for the Games and extensive searches of the Internet only turn up old reports of Mozambique being named the host for the games, with no host city even mentioned. Mails to ACOLOP bounce back, with the message that the address does not exist. There is a silence on the hosting of the Lusofonia Games again.
The first edition of the Lusofonia Games was held in 2006 at Macau followed by the second edition in 2009 in Lisbon. The third edition in Goa, was due to be held in November 2013 but pushed forward to January 2014 as the stadia was not ready. Brazil that had bagged the largest number of medals in the previous two editions refused to send a contingent in protest of the postponement, drastically bringing down the competition level in the Games. Portugal did not send a football team and the Games were played out with little enthusiasm, just to honour a commitment made by the State.
And that circus got Goa some bad media coverage in Portuguese speaking countries because of the postponement, but four years later when there is no sign of the Games being held, there does not even appear to be a whimper of a protest, not even a query raised. Perhaps Goa, that was so censured in the media of the Portuguese speaking nations five years ago, should take the lead and seek answers from ACOLOP as to what happened to the Games and why have they not been held. Just a little bit of redemption for the barbs hurled at it some years ago.
One really hoped that after the Lusofonia Games, Goa would have learnt a few lessons and geared up for the National Games so as to meet schedules. The Facebook page of Games was last updated on December 8, 2018. The website is under construction and says ‘We’ll soon be here’. For Goa, the Games are already here but hardly anybody knows it is happening in March-April. That’s another task for the organisers, the publicity of the Games, and making sure that the Goan population realises that a major sporting event will soon be happening in the State.