Delhi loses bid to host 2014 Asian Games
Sheelpa Kothari, Kuwait, April 17 (PTI) India today failed in its bid to host the 2014 Asian Games at Delhi after which the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) openly blamed Union Sports Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar's recent comments for it.

"This is a victory for Mani Shankar Aiyar," an upset IOA president Suresh Kalmadi said in a reference to the Minister's remarks last week to the effect that holding of big Games made no difference to the poor.

Aiyar was reported to have opposed India's bid when the matter came up before the Union Cabinet which, however, approved it five days ago after which the IOA delegation flew here along with leading sportspersons such as Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Anju Bobby George for the bid.

The Games were awarded to the South Korean city of Incheon by the 45-member Olympic Council Asia (OCA) at the conclusion of its two-day general assembly here. For the Koreans, Aiyar's statement is said to have come in handy.

The Sports Minister had said, "whether you hold the Commonwealth Games in Delhi or Melbourne, it makes no difference to the state of those living in the colonies opposite the stadium. In the case of Delhi, the reference could be to the slums on Yamuna bunds".

After losing out to Incheon, Kalmadi said, "We looked a divided lot because of the Sports Minister's comments which appeared in newspapers also."

South Korea will be hosting the Asian Games for the third time while India had staged the inaugural edition in 1951 and thereafter in 1982, both times in Delhi.

India had based its bid on behalf of "a billion people" on its hospitality and had offered free flights and accomodation to all participants if the Games were awarded to Delhi which is also staging the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

The Koreans on the other hand promised to spend $20 million to support countries that had not yet won medals in the Asian Games. There was no such offer from India.

After a close Delhi-Incheon race, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, president of OCA which controls sports in the Asian region, said, "There is no loser and no winner tonight. The only winner is the Asian Olympic movement and the growth of the Asian Games.

"It was very close. They both had weak points and strong points. From marketing view point, Korea had the edge," he said.

During hectic lobbying, the IOA had stressed the Commonwealth Games four years prior to the Asian Games would have created adequate infrastructure. India's claims had been overlooked since 1982, it had pointed out.

Randhir Singh, secretary general of the IOA, echoed Kalmadi's view that India did not present a united front to the OCA.

"I have no idea what went wrong. We have learnt a lesson, that we have to work together," Randhir, also the secretary of the OCA, said.

Former hockey player and 1975 World Cup gold medallist Aslam Sher Khan, who was part of the delegation, was more forthcoming. "In the light of Sports Minister's disinterest in hosting the Games, we looked a divided lot. That could well have been the reason (for India's failure)," he said.

Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit refused to comment when asked if Aiyar's comments might have influenced the outcome of the bidding.

"I can't say that," she said adding "we were very hopeful and we were sure good in our presentation but I don't know on what basis they decided it. If a city like Delhi can't host the Games, then I don't know what could be the criteria."

Earlier, South Korean bidding committee chairman Shin Yong-Suk in his presentation underlined the fact Incheon had the full backing of the government as well as the corporates.

"In our delegation, cultural heads, members of city council, many company CEOs are with us. There are also three standing committee chairmen," he said.

During India's presentation on Delhi as host city, Kalmadi emphasised the support of the government by highlighting Primier Minister Manmohan Singh's special message reaffirming the determination to stage the event.

Kalmadi argued that India had always fulfilled their bid promises unlike other countries. He also highlighted that South Korea had recently hosted the Games.

"After 2002 Asian Games in Busan and 2006 Games in Doha set the benchmark, we'll try to raise the bar in 2014. The Commonwealth Games to be held in 2010 in Delhi will leave the infrastructure ready for the event," he said.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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