Where are the spectators?

P. V. SIVAKUMAR

The fourth World Military Games were undoubtedly one of the biggest ever sporting events held in Hyderabad, the organisers had claimed. But despite the presence of some top notch players from different countries, the crowds generally stayed away.

For one thing, the main venue, the Gachibowli Sports Complex, is located far away and is difficult for most residents of the twin cities to get there. Then there was the omnipresent security which made the average sports lover think twice before visiting the venues of the Games. And finally, perhaps there was some amount of apathy and indifference from the general public.

As the Games were drawing to a close, the defence authorities did try to generate some interest by providing facilities such as free transport for anyone wishing to go to Gachibowli to watch the Games. But even this, by and large, proved to be of little use.

It seemed like the crowds were not really interested in sports such as athletics, football, shooting, handball and polo. Boxing and volleyball attracted some spectators on a few days but most of the other sports were played to empty stands.

The conduct of the Games, however, involved a huge number of people. It was not only the athletes, coaches and officials who were present in large numbers, but even the numbers of support staff involved was staggering. Including civilian and military volunteers, security personnel drawn from the Andhra Pradesh police force and home guards, it is estimated that a total of about 35,000 people were involved, in some way or the other, in the conduct of the Games. Clearly the state government had taken great pains to ensure that the event went off smoothly and without any untoward incident.

The Opening Ceremony had the expected pomp and precision but one felt that it could have been a more interesting show if something new had been incorporated in the programme. After all, the defence services are known for their rousing displays on ceremonial occasions. Men and women wearing tip-top uniforms and marching in smartly accompanied by massed bands are always a sight worth watching.

Instead, the Opening Ceremony, although good enough by itself, was not very different from the ones that are usually organised for such multi-sport events. A more pronounced military ambience to the programme would have made it different from the others, and thereby, perhaps even more attractive.

The same was the case of the Closing Ceremony. A little more imagination and innovation could have made a big difference.

For the host country it was a satisfactory meet in more ways than one. Not only did it succeed in conducting an incident-free meet involving more than 100 countries, but also reaped its biggest ever haul at these Games. India bagged two gold medals (apart from boxing, in sailing held in Mumbai), one silver and seven bronzes.

Russia with a total of 91 medals (38 gold, 26 silver and 27 bronze) topped the standings, followed by China (36-21-11) and Germany (5-10-13).

The Games also provided a unique opportunity for military sportspersons from all over the world to come together, live together and forge friendships.

Abhijit Sen Gupta