One Shot – Lessons Learnt from Hosting a Major Sporting Event

This week brings the start of the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

And whilst no doubt it will be a great success and we are all united in hoping that it will be a safe and secure demonstration of the world’s finest athletes, the stories of  poor infrastructure preparation remind us of what surely must rate in the annals of major sporting events as one of the worst organised gatherings of recent times.

You know that things are not going well when at the opening ceremony of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India the chairman of the organising committee, Suresh Kalmadi, was booed by spectators at the start of his welcome speech to the 60,000 spectators.

That he “thanked” the late Princess Diana for attending the opening ceremony (when he actually meant to say Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall) probably didn’t help his cause.

The New Delhi Commonwealth Games is a case study in what not to do for all those that are tasked with undertaking an one off event – whether it be or multinational sporting festival or the development of key corporate infrastructure.

Subsequent to the finalisation of the Commonwealth Games the Indian Comptroller and Auditor General undertook two post implementation reviews of Games expenditure and project and infrastructure development.

It is the infrastructure development report that we focus on today.

In what must surely be one of the more optimistic – especially when one reads the words that the Auditor General subsequently penned in the paragraphs below – the report starts:

India hosted one of the most successful Commonwealth Games in Delhi … The Games were a remarkable show case of the nation’s managerial and sporting capabilities that despite a multitude of adversities India emerged successful both as hosts and competitors.

Reading such an introduction made us wonder whether we had watched the same event.

Alas:

The initial budget projected in the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) bid was highly conservative and unrealistic which led to revisions of estimates at very short intervals.

This evidenced a piecemeal approach for consideration / approval of individual cost elements.  The other major reason for increased costs / estimates was delays at different stages resulting in bunching of activities towards the end and consequential increase in cost.

After noting that there were delays relating to venue development at all stages it commented:

In a large number of cases, contractors including consultants were selected by not adhering to the eligibility criteria.

In most cases, the costs at which works were finally awarded were substantially higher than the estimated costs.

Competition was not ensured as the departments / agencies resorted to short tendering, calling of limited tenders, accepting single tenders, adopting restrictive conditions and awarding contracts on nomination basis.

As a postscript to the trials and tribulations of the organising committee chairman, Suresh Kalmadi was arrested in April 2011 after being questioned over alleged irregularities in the conduct of the Queen’s Baton Rely.  Kalmadi reportedly conspired to favour a private firm in Switzerland by awarding the relevant contract at inflated cost.

Whilst he continues to deny the corruption charges – after being in jail for 10 months on bail – he was allowed to go to London for the 2012 Olympics.

He was, however, restrained on 25 July 2012 by the Delhi High court from participating in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, saying his participation would cause “embarrassment” to the nation.

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