Crank’s News: Officials share memorable moments from past Games

The day DD cameraman was played as hockey goalkeeper

New Delhi: It’s nearly 12 midnight. The winter cold is bone-touching, and almost seems to reach the recesses of one’s soul.

The city’s nights are legendarily young and boisterous with syncopated sounds. Those ceaseless Bhangra beats rising above, in descant decibels, the throaty shriek for help by yet another girl being molested in a dark corner. The scratchy screech of the brakes of a BMW that magnificently muffles out the cries of some pavement dwellers that it had just run over. The bang of the brassy bullets from the well-oiled pistol of some equally well-oiled Manu Sharma. But tonight, in the icy setting, everything looks quiet and everyone seems to be curled up inside hoping for some comforting warmth.

But four indefatigable souls are still awake, fuelled and fevered as they are by that dream of quadrennial quest: the Olympic odyssey.

For most, Olympics are a spectacular event, verily a vibgyor of vibrancy and virility, celebrating sporting excellence in myriad forms from across the globe. But for these four, Olympics are not just about sports, which in any case just convey the idea of being a pastime. For the four, Olympics carries in it a bigger meaning, a means as well as an end for which they live all their lives.

It’s in one word: Junket. The raison d’etre of any sporting association in India.

The four, needless to say, are top officials in the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), who are burning the proverbial midnight oil working on the team that will make it to the sports-steeped city of London for the Olympics in July-August.

The beauty of the list they will come up with, of course, is that it will have nothing to do with actual sports or any such event. But will reflect the essential ethos of sportsdom: Players and performers are not permanent. But officials are.

And thanks to their tireless work, India’s every Olympic expedition has been remarkable for being a brilliant farce.

‘This year,’ opens out one of the officials, ‘it will be tough. For, we don’t have that one man who has been a guiding beacon in every shameful performance of ours’. The man in reference, needless to say, is: Suresh Kalmadi.

‘For us Kalmadi is a legend and a visionary,’ he says. A stickler for rules, he once refused permission for horses in the equestrian team on the sensible grounds: ‘why allow animals in a man’s sport?’

And four bureaucrats travelled to that Games in the space for one horse.

Fondly recalls another official, ‘it’s under the able guidance of Kalmadi that we memorably sent a big contingent to Sydney for the Olympics’. Asked what is memorable about that, the official impatiently retorted, ‘arre yaar, we sent the team to Sydney when the Olympics was actually happening at Athens’.

Yet another official steps in with his memories on the Indian hockey team: We once chose a team with 5 backs, three captains, but not even one goalkeeper. We realised it when the team’s kit arrived at the stadium and there was none to don the helmet, gloves and pads. Apparently, some bureaucrat had scratched out the goalkeeper from the cleared list based on a newspaper report that in the Indian defence the goalkeeper is mostly a ‘helpless spectator’.

‘Why send him if he is just a spectator. We are not running a charity here’, was the reasoning of the bureaucrat.

Anyway, at the stadium ahead of the match, it was a delicate situation, as the organisers wouldn’t allow the Indian team to play without the goalkeeper. ‘When we looked around we found only Anupam Gulati and a DD cameraman. We chose the cameraman for the job of goalkeeper on the grounds that DD’s visuals are anyway identifiable only by the audio. We let Gulati saab continue with the commentary, but there were no visuals as the cameraman was busy letting the goals in. But nobody spotted the difference either with the DD telecast or for that matter with the Indian hockey team’.

Soon the floodgates of remembrances were opened as the four officials began to talk non-stop of the many Indian campaigns at the Olympics.

Like when they went out of the way to get the clearance for the Wushu team and then finding out that India doesn’t have a Wushu team in the first place and anyway there was no Wushu event happening at all at the Olympics.

Like when the Indian cycling team was disqualified for doping because they mixed stanozolal into the air pumped into the cycle tyres. ‘We thought no one would notice as there were no urine samples to be had for the cycle’

Like when the officials managed to get a Rs.5 crore grant for the two-member Indian men’s swimming team for purchasing: Swimming attire.

Like when the DD was beaming the live telecast of Seoul Olympics when the Beijing Asian Games were underway.

‘Hopefully we have similar wonderful memories to share when we comeback from Switzerland after attending the London Olympics,’ signed off one of the officials.

(For related reading) History of IOA

The IOA, a pioneering sporting body, had right from its days of inception smartly realised that the wife of an undersecretary or a joint secretary’s son in a top government department is more important to the development of sports than any actual sportsman can ever be. Because sports needs not sportsmen but budgetary allocation for survival. And the way to government funds is officially through the family of government servants.

And that is why historically India sends out an Olympic contingent comprising (in order of their size) 1) Officials connected with sports 2) Their families 3) Officials not connected with sports 4) Their families 5) Random politicos 6) All of their luggages 7) If possible, some athletes and players, provided they have the weight of performance in the form of recommendation from politicos or bureaucrats.

(Disclaimer: It’s learnt from Lalit Modi that the CSK team owners bent the Olympic rules to make Usain Bolt run in a yellow colour jersey)