The Indian government is prepared. It is providing 150 vending machines at the Commonwealth Games (CWG) village from where athletes will be able to purchase condoms. Will this promote prostitution? Our former sports minister, Mani Shankar Aiyer, thinks so: “These are to be exclusively used for athletes and there are estimates that 3,000-3,300 packs a day are expected to be used… What kind of Games are these athletes playing?”
Objecting to contraception at the venue will not stop prostitution. Are the athletes under some clause that they cannot get out of the campus? Besides, officials and coaches will be at the complex too. On another note, has the Indian government not arranged for cultural performances? Will invitations not be sent out to celebrities, especially from the glamour world? Will we not be marketing our sculptures? What is all this for? To satiate the senses. We like to tantalise beneath the garb of respectability.
There is voyeuristic thrill when we read about the late-night parties of sports stars and their secret alliances. In almost all these instances, women are seen as objects — the posh spicy wives, the WAGs, and even at home the old dowdy cricket has given place to a quickie version with neon lights and cheer-leaders who look like cabaret dancers from 70s Hindi films. To up the ante even further, corporate wives and Bollywood divas have entered the fray in a cosmetic arrangement, power suits notwithstanding. No one is complaining, so why the double standards about sexuality?
Contrast this with the Sydney Olympics where right next to the sports complex, an advertisement proudly proclaimed the virtues and virtuosity of its “gold medal specialists”. Clients were lured with “Sprints! Relays! And Marathons!” Sports stars are themselves eye-candy icons. Whether it is David Beckham, Christiano Ronaldo, Maria Sharapova, Shahid Afridi or Sania Mirza, they have been positioned for their physical appeal.
In a world where the term endorsement does not mean approbation for merit, but the power of abs and calves to sell products, it becomes mandatory for the players to flash their clothes and even undergarments to earn the well-deserved place as heroes. The real game is to feed off each other both on and off the field.
However, the manner in which Aiyer is stunned makes one wonder how such an innocent man has managed to stay in politics for this long after a stint among the bureaucrats, whose circuit houses are known dens for illicit activities. Why is he acting moralistic? Is he not aware that all major events have their add-ons? When there are political jamborees, loyal workers of the party get busy.
Has Aiyer publicly objected to the cases of sexual harassment of women players by their coaches? What about the officials who went abroad and splurged on sleazy activities, and we are not talking about the lubricating deals for pricey treadmills? If he is so concerned about the athletes, then why did he address his complaint note to the tourism minister and not the sports minister? He is going by reports that mention escort agencies getting ready for October as well as the influx of women from Russia and East Europe.
I am aware that we want to give the world something to remember and it will most definitely hurt us if they take back memories of Czechoslovakia instead of Chandigarh.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th, 2010.
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