If throwing money at a problem was a good way to solve it, we would already be standing back in awe at the mind-boggling stadiums, tourist facilities and upgraded city infrastructure in Delhi months before the 2010 Commonwealth Games gets under way.
Estimates of the total money being spent by the state and central government vary from Rs. 50,000 crore to Rs. 66,500 crore. Instead, we see woefully delayed construction schedules, budget overruns, last minute compromises and surprises caused by inept, boorish, turf-guarding officials at the top.
The economic benefits to a city or state from staging mega games are fairly well documented. But how might another of India’s big cities, say infrastructure-starved Bangalore, utilise the games were it given the opportunity to host them?
Ashwin Mahesh, member of the Agenda for Bengaluru Infrastructure and Development(ABIDE), an urban planning task force created by Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, laid down some of the key initiatives he would like to channel the hypothetical Commonwealth Bangalore funding towards.Commonwealth City
: Mahesh wants to deploy a large chunk of roughly Rs. 48,000 crore (reduced to the rough size of Bangalore’s economy, which is smaller than Delhi’s) to build a new mini-city ground up at Bidadi, 30 kilometres from the city centre. The new city would be near upcoming sibling, the 3,500 acre “Kempegowda City” where Mahesh is planning to design a full-length marathon track.
University Town to Ensure Perpetual Use of Infrastructure: By seeding the creation of a new “University Town” near the Commonwealth facilities, Mahesh wants to ensure that stadiums and sports facilities will find users after the games are over. Align Public and Private Infrastructure Creation Efforts
: “The impact of existing infrastructure is 100 times more than any planned infrastructure,” says Mahesh. Therefore, all his projects would extend, link or strengthen existing infrastructure, instead of trying to create isolated clusters.Create Rental Communities
: The scourge of many Indian cities, says Mahesh, is that they do not have “rental communities” that are well-managed and economically priced. If the Commonwealth City could add enough of such housing in Bangalore, it could force a correction in capital values in the rest of the city and narrow the difference between home ownership and rental.Cement Bangalore’s Competitive Advantages
: States with access to such massive funding should use them to further their competitive advantages vis-à-vis others. So Bangalore should figure out what its good at, like higher education for instance, and build further expertise and assets in the area by aligning with the games initiatives.Market Karnataka Tourism
: Absorbing a temporary surge in tourism shouldn’t be the goal, says Mahesh. The idea should be to link Bangalore hosting the games to popularising Karnataka tourism, among both international and domestic visitors. This will allow for a more sustainable growth in tourist revenues over time.
(This story appears in the 04 December, 2009 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)