The balance sheet

Saina Nehwal's gold in badminton gave India the second place in the overall medals tally of the Commonwealth Games.

Big money was spent on hosting the Commonwealth Games. There were big scandals, too. Kamesh Srinivasan wonders whether the nation gained or lost.

Indian sport was expected to be given a big boost with the conduct of the Commonwealth Games in 2010. Was the purpose achieved? If yes, at what cost?

Public memory is short. But what will linger even as time passes by is badminton ace Saina Nehwal winning the 38th gold medal for India with a gutsy fare after being match-point down in the final. This put India ahead of England in the second spot in the overall medals tally. The incompetent management of the Games at every level by almost all agencies and the unending saga of corruption will also not be forgotten in a hurry.

While the investigators promise to unearth the details of the misappropriated funds, the Indian athletes have vowed to move ahead to match world standards.

For the sort of money that was spent in preparing the athletes, this healthy result was expected. The government had reportedly spent about Rs. 800-crore in preparing the Indian sportspersons, and the athletes themselves did not hesitate to invest in themselves as there was a lot to gain from a good fare.

In winning 38 gold medals across nine sports, India showed that the mega event was not a bad investment. The shooters (14) and wrestlers (10) contributed the bulk of the gold medals.

It was not a surprise. In fact, the shooters had won 16 gold medals in the previous edition in Melbourne and 14 in Manchester in 2002. Of course, there were at least half a dozen silver medals in shooting that could have been and should have been gold. Gagan Narang was a class act yet again, winning four gold medals for the second successive edition, though his dream of six could not be fulfilled. Vijay Kumar and Omkar Singh bagged three gold medals each to show the growing stature of the sport in the country.

The wrestlers had been thoroughly inspired by the Olympic bronze and World Championship gold of Sushil Kumar. He led by example yet again, capturing the gold, despite carrying an injury. With three women wrestlers — Geeta, Alka Tomar and Anita — pulling their weight, along with the four Greco-Roman men, Indian wrestling looked quite healthy, albeit only till the Asian Games in Guangzhou, where the tally was reduced to three bronze medals.

Though the numbers were in shooting and wrestling, the memorable moments were in athletics when Krishna Poonia won the discus gold and led a rare Indian 1-2-3 in the event, and the women's 4 x 400 metres relay team bagged the gold in front of a packed arena at the Nehru Stadium.

The archers contributed three gold medals, two of them in individual events from Rahul Banerjee and Deepika Kumari, to project good progress in the sport.

Of course, the women's doubles team of Ashwini Ponnappa and Jwala Gutta cornered the gold in badminton, leaving the task of putting the icing on the cake to the 20-year-old Saina Nehwal at the climax on the final day.

The boxers, led by Asian champion Suranjoy Singh, were a delight. While Manoj Kumar and Paramjeet Samota added to the gold collection, Olympic and World championship medallist, Vijender Singh, had to endure the ignominy of losing the semifinals in front of the adoring fans at home. Vijender was forced to swallow the bitter pill, as he allowed himself to be warned twice for holding. This meant that his opponent won the bout without landing a punch.

Indian tennis delivered medals, though the world stars, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, did not pull their weight as well as they could have. Somdev Devvarman captured the individual gold, while Sania Mirza fought bravely in the final before settling for women's silver.

Sharath Kamal could not recapture the individual gold, but won the doubles gold medal, while the women's team also clinched the gold to keep table tennis alive in the country.

Right to Left: Krishna Poonia, Harwant Kaur and Seema Antil...a rare 1-2-3 in discus at the Commonwealth Games.

There were, of course, unforgettable moments when gymnast Ashish Kumar won the first medals in the Games for the country, with a silver in vault and a bronze in floor exercise. Prasanta Karmakar won the para swimming bronze to register the first medal for India in swimming in the history of the Commonwealth Games.

In Melbourne in 2006, India had won 16 of the 22 gold medals in shooting, while weightlifting (3), table tennis (2) and boxing (1) had accounted for the rest.

In comparison, the gold medals were better spread in the current edition, a good augury for the future.

Though a collection of 101 medals with 38 gold and 27 silver did project a healthy improvement, it had to be weighed in comparison with the 30 gold medals in a total of 69 that India had won in 2002, when there was absolutely no attention paid to the Commonwealth Games, forget dedicated funds or systematic preparation.

Of course, 11 of the gold medals had been captured by four weightlifters then, as there was a practice of giving three gold medals in each weight category for total, snatch and clean and jerk. The women's hockey team winning the gold was one of the high points then, as much as Mohammed Ali Qamar bagging the boxing gold.

Actually, India was placed third behind Australia and England, even eight years ago, but positive dope tests of the weightlifters resulted in India losing two gold medals and finishing fourth in the overall medal table, one gold less than Canada.

Considering the thousands and thousands of crores of rupees spent in the name of the Commonwealth Games, Indian sports had gained precious little. What comes of the legacy, in the form of huge stadiums that may not be maintained efficiently, remains to be seen.

It was a game that the officials beautifully pulled off as they convinced the government to open the purse strings to an unprecedented scale. Refurbishing stadiums cost many more times than building new ones, which spoke for poor planning.

In short, the Commonwealth Games was a true reflection of the times that we live in, a horror movie that may scare the wits out of unsuspecting sportspersons, expected to provide unforgettable moments!