Saturday, February 27, 2010

Welcome to the chaos!

ONE FOR THE ALBUM:Team captains pose with the World Cup Trophy in front of India Gate in New Delhi on Friday.

NEW DELHI (THE HINDU): “Welcome to the chaos.” This is one of the posts on Facebook by a journalist responding to the visit from her fraternity to the Hero Honda hockey World Cup.
By the time the ball rolls on the lush green artificial grass pitch at the Dhyan Chand National Stadium on Sunday an avalanche of words would have been written on the glitches surrounding the prestigious event in the FIH calendar.
It is difficult to recall whether any other world-level competition had ever drawn such negative reactions from the media in India. This is all the more regrettable since the media in the country was bracing itself to project the World Cup as a showpiece before the more glamorous Commonwealth Games in October.
Alas, everything has gone awry to the point that many countries may even wonder whether India is equal to the task in running the CWG.
Since the time the World Cup was sought and allotted to India during a meeting of the Indian and FIH officials, then headed by the dynamic Els van Breda Vriessman in Monchengladbach (2006), nothing seems to have been running along expected lines.
The special project fiasco, coupled with the humiliation heaped on the famous Aussie coach, Ric Charlesworth, followed by the suspension of the IHF, the takeover of the IOA, the formation of Hockey India and the hurried recognition by FIH to the unit that is now enveloped in a slew of court cases for urging the State units to disband and form new ones.
The whole chain of events mirror the pathetic mismanagement of a premier National sport hailed for its stars and their creativity. Added to the embarrassment was the display of player power at the wrong time and the consequent media blitz that blurred many important logical issues.
Terror threat
What has added to the poignancy of the whole scene was the terror threat following the blast in Pune that forced a clear and palpable tightening of the security apparatus at every layer. Teams preparing to be in India developed a sense of unease. New Zealand even delayed its departure and one of the talented set of players, Simon Child, cited it as the reason to stay back.
The Aussies had to be assured through several security experts' reports to come, although Charlesworth, the team's coach, pooh-poohed them as daily fodder in Indian networks.
The restriction imposed on the media from entering the main venue to watch the players train, understandably, drew a volley of protests, as did the delay in connection with the accreditation process. The Tournament Director, Ken Read, threw his hands up in despair pointing out the challenges as immense and not faced in any other event.
The arrival of the FIH Communication Manager tended to iron out some irritants but, it appears, the FIH is helpless and watching the situation as it develops with less than 48 hours to go for the flag-off. It is now decided that media will not be allowed to even enter the lobby of the official hotel.
Meanwhile, the sorry state of affairs relating to the 1975 World Cup heroes only underscored the festering mess. A dharna threat by the veterans eventually led to the matter being solved. First of all, why allow such things to drift, get a bad press and then relent.
Meanwhile, India, which beat Argentina and the Netherlands, seems to be moving on the right track. But that the team has to go a long way goes without saying.