At Dachau


The sky is heavy with rain-clouds as we step off the train at Dachau, just outside of Munich, one Sunday afternoon. At first glance, Dachau is a quiet little town with neat houses and manicured lawns, much like a typical European suburb. However, as the bus drops us off right in front of the former concentration camp of Dachau, we become aware of a sense of foreboding in the air, the result of years of intense suffering and the decimation of those who dared to go against the skewed ideals of the Nazi regime.

Autumn has just begun, but in this oppressive atmosphere, we are not thinking of tawny leaves or leisurely walks. Grey sky meets colourless buildings and flat earth on the horizon. The paths are slick with rain as a stream of visitors straggles to the entrance of the concentration camp, pushing open a gate that bears the cold words that struck fear in the hearts of millions over decades and still have the power to petrify: “Arbeit Macht Frei”. Work sets you free, the Nazis said. (Unfortunately, this sign is a replica of the original that was stolen in 2014 and hasn’t been recovered yet.)

Entering the camp (picture taken by G.)

We walk into a large courtyard lined by buildings that once housed prisons and barracks. As we stand in the drizzle, warm in our coats, we remember that this courtyard once teemed with prisoners and SS guards; we think of the hostility and the hatred that led to the execution of so many men where we stand. Memorials here commemorate the mindless genocide that defined the last century. “Never again,” says a sign in five different languages, the first being Hebrew.

At school in India, we studied the Holocaust like we did other chapters in History. We were horrified and curious, but lessons on Indian independence always took precedence over the World Wars; we didn’t even care much about the Indian troops who fought in Europe. My first proper introduction to the Holocaust came through The Diary of a Young Girl when I was around thirteen and borrowed a copy which a friend had received as a present. It was duly circulated among all of us and we discussed Anne’s life for days afterwards. I was inspired enough to begin a diary of my own, calling it Anne, seeing her smiling face framed by her short, dark hair every time I started a new entry. I wanted to tell Anne everything and I did, talking to my diary about my adolescent dreams and problems, subconsciously making a friend who was as much a girl as any of us through her trials.

Earlier this year, when I was fending off the long nights of the North American winter with graphic novels, I picked up Maus at the Arlington library. It wasn’t the most responsible choice to make when trying to fight the blues, but there are books that ask to be read at a particular time in your life, and this was one. I didn’t know then that six months later, I’d find myself visiting the site of the first Nazi concentration camp. I didn’t know it when I visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum at DC in July, and was reduced to tears by some of the exhibits: letters requesting money to pay for a family’s passage to America, a yellowing armband with the Star of David on it, a little girl’s frock, scraps of Anne Frank’s writing. I like bright meadows and rippling brooks and possess Siddhartha’s horror of sorrow – and this almost kept me from visiting the Holocaust Museum and Dachau, but I am glad that I changed my mind.

We have only an hour for our visit and begin our exploration of the Dachau camp with the long, low building that houses the tiny prison cells. (Bear in mind that this was the first Nazi concentration camp and started off as a place in which to hold political prisoners, eventually serving as a model for camps like Auschwitz which played a key role in the implementation of the Final Solution – the extermination of European Jews.) Dank and musty, the cells in the bunker were veritable torture chambers where prisoners were incarcerated and  subjected to inhuman treatment. Across the courtyard are reconstructed barracks displaying replicas of the narrow, uncomfortable beds where prisoners must have lain on interminable nights, awakening at first light to crowd around the washstands. It is clean and presentable now, but pictures on the walls give us an indication of the crowded conditions in which several prisoners once spent endless days, emerging perhaps only to toil at hard jobs they were forced to do. From the barracks, we trudge down the path that had once been used by people walking to their daily roll call, empty fields spreading out on both sides where long lines of barracks stood. At the other end of the path are memorials dedicated to different faiths and built over the last few decades in memory of Jews and prisoners-of-war of different Christian denominations.

The reconstructed barracks flanking the path leading to the religious memorials

Umbrellas mushroom as the rain falls faster; with about a quarter of an hour for the camp to close, we hurry past the Russian Orthodox chapel, across a little bridge spanning a narrow creek, to the crematorium. A chill runs down my spine even now as I think of the ovens that charred the corpses of so many hapless prisoners, at one point insufficient for the number of bodies that were pouring in. Two other rooms precede the ovens – a kind of “waiting room”, where prisoners stripped in preparation for what they were told was a round of disinfection, followed by the gas chambers where the actual activity took place.  A notice states that these gas chambers  were never used to poison inmates, but were equipped with vents through which Zyklon-B could be dispensed if required. (A little probing on why the gas chambers were never used brings up links that mention that the chambers were in fact used to delouse clothes and not to poison people, as at Auschwitz; this conclusion comes from a study of the design of the chambers and the amounts of Zyklon-B they dispensed, photographs, and various documents. However, as I haven’t been able to find a reliable source, I will not share any links here and request you to let me know in the Comments section if you have any recommendations for further reading.)

Ovens at the crematorium

As we exit the crematorium, I stop briefly at the door of the Russian Orthodox chapel for a moment of calm. My mind has been in a whirl throughout this visit. I have seen the stark black and white cat-and-mouse chase from Maus leap into life in these forlorn surroundings. The Jews gave away all that was precious to them in exchange for a chance to escape the Nazis’ tyranny; they killed themselves and their children so that they wouldn’t end up on loaded trains to concentration camps. They hid in tiny alcoves and waited on street corners to trade their possessions for food. They suffered through bitter winters and fell to illness stemming from cramped surroundings and malnutrition. They encountered neighbours who gave them shelter and others who turned them out of their own homes. The Holocaust survivors’ resilience in the face of such humiliation and their return to normal life are miracles that I struggle to understand. Mental strength always astounds me more than physical ability, and there are few better examples than the recovery of the Jews.

Watch tower.jpg
One of the watch towers on the perimeter

Over the years, I have spoken to German friends about Nazism, and they have all acknowledged the unfortunate history of their country without hesitation and stressed on how important it is to learn from it. In Munich, symbols of German identity are conspicuous from their absence: very few black-red-gold flags are visible, in stark contrast to the effusive patriotism that is hard to avoid in the US or the unctuous loyalty demanded in India of even those with the most tenuous links to the country. The reasons for Germany’s penitence are obvious, but it is rather rare for countries to acknowledge their past sincerely and work towards correcting it. This should be the purpose of studying History as a subject: to learn from the past and to know enough not to repeat the mistakes that ruined millions of lives. At present, this sounds a good deal like wishful thinking.


On ‘No Full Stops in India’

If a book on the challenges of politics and democracy in a country seems perfectly relevant twenty years after publication- a period in which very little seems to have changed- then it isn’t a sign of timelessness, but indicates that stagnation has set in. Defining progress is difficult because debates on the subject invariably become inextricably tangled at the point where the indicators of development are to be defined in a country like India; you only have to look at the glass-and-concrete symbols of consumerist robustness, and the number of people sleeping under flyovers in winter, to see where the problem comes in.

Mark Tully’s No Full Stops in India, published in 1991, is a very honest account of the challenges India faces. It is not a horror-stricken, open-mouthed set of anecdotes of a country’s poverty, but instead a well-crafted description of social and political problems not aimed at appeasing any particular group. In talking of the roots of various issues, Tully realises that the distance of those proposing blanket, quick-fix solutions from the heart of the country is often problematic- a fact that continues to evade television news panellists with several degrees and scholarships to their credit.

Tully‘s topics are interesting. Caste and class (examined through the elite English-speakers nurtured by the British and continuing in the post-colonial era), female oppression (described here through the Deorala sati incident), and religion (the magnificent Kumbh Mela), trappings of any work on India, are recounted without the condescending attitude that is rather fashionable in the country today, they make for fascinating reading. Tully draws on his years as a BBC journalist to describe Operation Black Thunder and communal violence in Ahmedabad, meeting victims to construct a careful account of what they believe are the causes of the upheavals. He visits communist Bengal- and perhaps the only noticeable change from then lies in the election of a new government in Calcutta. He meets a Gond artist in Madhya Pradesh to study the kind of effect urbanisation has had on tribal art.

The book concludes with a chapter on the political career of Digvijay Narain Singh, a Congress MP close to Indira Gandhi, but a follower of Morarji Desai owing to his penchant for Gandhi. These were years of great turmoil at the Centre, and Singh himself lamented that he had to stoop to opportunistic politics at one point. He comes across as a sincere, self-effacing politician, the likes of whom I wonder if my generation has seen at all.

Indian politics has certainly seen some very exciting and turbulent times. In the first few decades following independence, India seems to have been genuinely hopeful and positive. People worked with a vim born of confidence, and perhaps the intention to prove that they could do much better than their colonial masters. Somewhere down the line, we seem to have lost that interest and become complacent. New bilateral relations had to be built and hostilities with neighbours didn’t help. The complex experiments with socialism and a slightly watered-down form of capitalism were not entirely successful. Tully lays a bit of blame on cultural imperialism, which has succeeded physical occupation. But he does not mince words in describing the dynasticism and sycophancy that have become a feature of Indian politics. Look at Rahul Gandhi’s address today, his first after his appointment as Vice-President of the Congress Party. Fawning tributes are already being paid to him, and he is being likened to his father and even to Obama. However, there is no reason for young voters to dream romantically of a government led by a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family. The sentimentality and outpouring of sympathy that followed tragic incidents may have stood them in good stead for a while. They need something new and progressive to recommend themselves to voters now.

If Tully were writing his book today, he’d have to make only a few minor changes in his estimate of the future of the country, tweak a few names, replace sati with rape. He would even have a whole stock of new scandals to choose from. Which reminds me, I’m looking forward to elections next year. This will be my first time voting (I missed a previous chance), and I want to use the opportunity well, even if it ends up being an insubstantial drop in a vast, murky ocean.

Development without Women?

I’m not exactly a feminist and despite my cynicism, I can often be practical. But when I read this report, I was quite pleased with the woman’s courage. It was a brutal act, but if shoddy excuses such as provocative dressing and “immorality” can be made to justify rape, self-defence in fact turns out to be a very good reason for her action.

The recent rape incident in Delhi has garnered headlines all over the country, and while general public reactions do condemn the action, imbecility hasn’t been far behind. Someone on Twitter questioned why there was greater hype over such an incident when it took place in Delhi; someone else said that there was no point venting outrage over it, but instead it was important to demand good governance.

“Commoners” like me are as entitled to tweeting our opinions as published writers, politicians and journalists. I agree that we need to vote responsibly and demand what is due to us, but aren’t our powers limited beyond a point? I live in a country that struggles to respect its women. We rape our own girls and we rape our guests. Men get killed for trying to protect their daughters on the street. Connections can set you on the road to freedom, irrespective of the magnitude of the crime. Visible, stringent deterrent action is rare. I don’t have to be a journalist, or a political spokesperson, to have an opinion. If blogging is the only way I can make myself heard, so be it.

I cannot but agree with those who question India’s aspirations towards development- what does development mean to us, after all? Different areas of growth can be mutually exclusive of one another, but that doesn’t justify the reversal of priorities. Carol Cohn writes of the sexual subtexts in defence, of the use of phallic imagery and the significance attributed to the role of the man in creation and birth. As a patriarchal society, is our pride in our nuclear power and space technology also subconsciously driven by the need to assert masculinity as an important trait of our “peace-loving” country? We use growth in these areas as an indicator of our prowess, of our right to be mentioned in the same breath as the developed world. It is high time we learnt that the world isn’t just about the big boys. Development is not about excluding women and concentrating on economic growth.

Passionate speeches are being made in the upper house of Parliament. However, whether any real action will be taken is anybody’s guess. It doesn’t take much for one uproar to erase memories of another. The moment a round of populist debates begins, the pursuit of justice will be conveniently forgotten.

We are struggling to cope with domestic abuse, a skewed sex ratio and dowry issues. The slights on women are not merely imagined, as some would like to believe. What are we teaching our children, our sons, that makes them so nonchalant towards the needs and dignity of women? What is important isn’t the geographical location or the magnitude of a crime- there is no such thing as “eve-teasing”. We don’t always have to wait for things to blow out of proportion before we decide to wake up.

The India-UK Aid Controversy: Dignity and Accountability

The India-UK aid row is in the news once again: this time, India has refused the reduced aid Britain has offered it, and plans are said to be in place to put an end to all of it by 2015. However, I’m confused about the question that lies at the heart of the India-UK aid controversy. If Britain has a percentage of its GDP earmarked for developing economies, is the main problem the fact that India already has enough money and doesn’t need to be given any aid, or is it that aid to all countries needs to be reduced because Britain is a cash-strapped country?

Interestingly, in most articles that question the continuation of aid to India, the first point brought up is usually the fact that the country has a thriving space programme and develops nuclear missiles, and therefore is not eligible for foreign aid. That India itself gives a large amount of aid is not mentioned as much. True, India has an enormous budget for space programmes and also an extremely large number of people who live in poverty: but which of these knee-jerk responses has been able to prove that the pursuit of technology and education takes food out of the mouths of the poor? Behind this overwhelming concern for the poor of the Third World seems to lie a wish to see them continue to remain the White Man’s Burden, incapable of progress on any front.

The problems of infant mortality, malnourishment, poverty and lack of infrastructure in India stem not from the lack of resources, but improper distribution and corruption. This is something that we need to address on our own- we cannot expect other countries to fund our basic infrastructure, while our own public money is stashed away in private accounts in mysterious ways. As for defence spending, surely Britain is not unaware of the reason why India is embroiled in disputes with Pakistan and Bangladesh? With China next door aiming for supremacy at any cost, India cannot afford to twiddle its thumbs and wait for countries with whom it signs civil nuclear treaties to come to its rescue if and when necessary. In fact, it is rather rich of countries which continue protecting their nuclear stockpiles and have been waging futile wars for years to clamour for everyone else’s disarmament and world peace. With proper management, technological progress and social development can coexist. Poverty is not a reason why India should find itself dependent on the West for everything.

This is not to say that there aren’t valid objections to the grant of British aid to India. We don’t have a transparent system to ensure that the use of donations can be tracked properly. Bureaucratic hurdles and rampant corruption are ubiquitous nightmares to be dealt with: sometimes, the money may never reach the destination, rendering any aid futile. So what happens to postcolonial accountability?

India has not erased two hundred years of colonial rule out of its collective memory yet. That the ruling Congress coalition takes its orders from a woman of Italian origin is widely viewed as a sign of a colonial transition, with incidents like the Quattrocchi affair and even the relatively minor Ferrari incident at the Indian Grand Prix only serving to deepen the mistrust. Whether we need it or not, many of us think of British aid as a means of receiving all that was systematically plundered from the country by the East India Company and subsequently the Crown. The bloody Partition leading to one of the largest ever migrations of people in history itself is proof enough of the turmoil British colonialism caused, particularly as the subcontinent still struggles in its aftermath. German students are taught not to forget the Holocaust; that the rape of India (and other colonies) took place over a much longer period of time and did not have an equally graphic impact does not make it any less horrific.

However, to what point does accountability extend? Can we hold the present generation of British citizens ransom for the mistakes of their predecessors? The Mau Mau uprising trial will be held in Britain despite a large number of years having elapsed since it happened; will this set a precedent for former colonies to start unearthing incidents that are still fresh in survivors’ memories, so that they can demand reparation for the damage caused? It is hard to decide where to draw the line on accountability. The current generation, itself reeling under economic recession and struggling to find work, is surely not responsible for the past and should not be made to suffer for it. So what exactly should be done to make amends for history?

Colonialism in the physical sense might have come to an end, but the West continues to enjoy a monopoly in various areas. From global bodies working on security issues to the ones laying down environment laws and immigration rules, control remains securely in the hands of the West. The BRIC economies have not yet produced anything overly remarkable; India, in particular, continues its war with corruption, black money and dynastic politics. What we need is not aid but to set our house in order first. India can afford to refuse aid; all the riches we once poured into the Crown have disappeared into thin air, but do we really need to bargain with Britain for the relatively small amounts of money they now offer to bestow on us? There are countries that really need aid and should be provided with it: we ought to focus instead on using our money properly. For we really cannot talk of preserving our dignity as long as we are so blatantly corrupt.

On Ferrari’s Political Demonstration

The Ferrari Formula One team has decided to eschew all ideas of separating politics from sports and chosen to fly the Italian Navy flag at the Indian Grand Prix, in solidarity with two officers detained for killing two Indian fishermen in February on the suspicion that they were pirates. The diplomatic row between Italy and India has continued owing to the Indian decision to try the officers in India: Italy insists that they should be tried at home, because the shooting took place in international waters.

While the diplomatic course of action in this case would merit a discussion of its own, it is baffling to see Ferrari resort to such an overtly political demonstration. When everybody kept quiet on the Bahrain human rights issue, preferring to keep politics out of sport, the Italian team’s sudden interest in the welfare of the Italian officers is an indictment of the insularity and elitist tendencies of the sport. They pick and choose political issues as per their convenience. Having been a supporter of the team for over a decade, I am extremely disappointed at their actions. Of course they insist that there is no disrespect for Indian sentiments, but a display of political affiliations on foreign soil is clearly unwarranted and provocative. 

Where the case should be tried is still being disputed; but this is a battle that should be waged within political circles and find no place in sport. Both India and Italy have their reasons for wanting the case to be tried where they choose. But it is time for us to stop bending over and start making up our minds, irrespective of our dynastic government and its familial ties. The Quattrocchi case has already done enough damage; a repetition wouldn’t do us much good in international circles, and only serve to cement our reputation as a soft power. No action was taken on India’s protests against Dow Chemicals at the Olympics- our shambolic, long-drawn judicial processes played a part and reduced the efficacy of our arguments. However, once and for all, clear lines should be drawn to keep international diplomatic rows out of sport. Where there are guidelines, they should be respected. That Ferrari wields tremendous clout within F1 is no reason why it should seek an extension into the political arena, especially during the course of a Grand Prix weekend.



Media Matters

1. I mention the media of India and Britain here because these are the only two countries I am in a position to compare: for our sakes, I hope there are other countries with similar eccentricities.
2. I’m not sure of the rules regarding the combinations of words and proper nouns which can and cannot be used while the Olympics are on. Considering the minuscule readership of this blog, I write in the comfortable knowledge that I won’t be found out if I break any rules.

Not denigrating the athletes, but in magnitude, depth and variety, the Commonwealth Games cannot quite hold a candle to the Olympics. However, there is a striking similarity in the stories that haunted Delhi in 2010 and which now surround the London Games.

Taking into account the most recent events in London, it is evident that criticism of the preparations is not going down very well with the media. Mitt Romney’s comments have led the Guardian to declare that he has jeopardised his election chances, supported by several readers (see comments) up in arms against an American republican’s denunciation of their Games. This certainly has me confused- all over the site, there are various articles peppered with comments on how the Games are just a corporate charade, a massive waste of money etc. Presumably, it is wrong and unfashionable for a foreign politician to voice the exact same concerns that the residents of a country have.

Two years ago, Indian preparations for the CWG came in for a lot of flak. Unaccustomed to our propensity to finish things at the very last minute, the foreign media couldn’t tell what was going on- to be fair, neither could we. Transparency isn’t out biggest virtue. The hygiene standards and the safety of the venue after the bridge collapsed during the run-up to the Games were rightly scrutinised by visitors, and the criticism stung India. However, despite all the fears and the corruption, the Games went on without a hitch and were successful. I like to believe that at some level, the unfavourable reports abroad must have helped. Incompetence was tolerated within the country, but the expectations from an international sporting event were very different.

We are quick to take offence at any foreign criticism, the latest example being the Time magazine cover calling Prime Minister Manmohan Singh an underachiever. Things don’t seem set to change in the near future, but in this case, instead of admitting that there are concerns with the manner in which the government is functioning, large sections of the Indian media have chosen to get defensive. Outrage and anger prevail, while the deeper issues are ignored. Blinded by irrationality at some point, we lose our capacity to acknowledge the flaws in the system, and instead indulge in an absurd defence of correctly detected problems. Criticism is rarely considered constructive.

The UK seems to be going through a similar phase with the Olympics- quite self-deprecating at times, but very sensitive to any criticism from outside. It doesn’t help matters that the Games are dangerously politicised; sport mingles with politics and several incidents have been adding up to prove this unpleasant fact. The Olympics have barely begun, but there have already been a few upsets. The South Korean flag was incorrectly displayed on screens instead of the North Korean one, the Taiwanese flag has been replaced by that of Chinese Taipei, and Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou has been pulled out of the team for a racist tweet. Ajay Maken, India’s sports minister, jumped into the fray earlier when he tweeted that some athletes considered the Delhi CWG Games Village better than the one for the London Olympics. And now, Romney has added to the existing confusion with his own politically incorrect comments.

So when does it become unacceptable to raise questions over the preparedness of a venue for a global event? Why should Romney’s comments- which, in all fairness, seem quite justified- make him a scapegoat? Is a politician, by virtue of not being a participant, disqualified from expressing his opinions without having to placate his hosts? The media shows a tendency to blow things out of proportion- to say that Romney’s faux pas will have a direct effect on his election bid is stretching it a bit. Where, for all other purposes, Americans are written off as a not-very-astute bunch of zealous patriots, they are now being associated with a keen interest in the Olympics and British politics. That various media channels themselves have strong political affiliations only serves to worsen the situation.

With the Olympics officially beginning tomorrow, it will be good to see sportspersons on the front pages for a fortnight- if we can get the politics and the corporate capers out of the picture, that is.

The Transformation of Sport: Politics, Money, and Scum

I write this article entirely from an outsider’s perspective; from what I watch as a spectator, read in the papers and comment threads, and talk about with friends. I have no idea what actually goes on inside the complicated world of modern sport, but this is how murky they seem from the outside.

With the Olympic Games due to begin in less than two weeks, it is no wonder that they are hogging the headlines. However, more than athletic prowess, the talk is about sponsorships, politics and human rights. Indeed, even the Ancient Olympics are believed to have had political leanings. So it should come as no surprise that while athletes continue to compete against one another and keep statisticians busy, corporate sponsors and governments continue to orchestrate events to suit their own ambitions.

The London Olympics, just like any worldwide sporting event, have been marked by controversy for a long while now. With austerity measures being introduced everywhere thanks to the financial crisis, public opinion naturally rages against what an ordinary man on the street would see as unnecessary expenditure. Stories about once-used Olympic venues, now desolate and crumbling, surface time and again in the press; the enormous strain that such massive events lay on a country’s public transport and residential systems, disrupting normal life in the process, cannot be denied.

The anger is probably not directed at the sporting events themselves, but the organisations and the people who run them. Who is to say that sporting committees do not function in a manner akin to other major organisations, practising the organised deception that has turned into an unwritten law and can almost be taken for granted? Ostensibly, the purpose is to promote sports- but what of the rampant merchandising, the large posters exhorting people to buy what they do not need, so that sporting empires can be created to retain power and favour with politicians? Tickets for the London Olympics can be bought only with Visa cards, and even within the Olympic Park, they will be the only ones valid for purchases. Food and drink will predictably be supplied by McDonald’s and Coca Cola. Spectators are of course prohibited from bringing their own food in- for how else does one force people to spend exorbitant amounts on unhealthy food against their will? The story of the involvement of Dow Chemicals floats in and out of the picture, depending on its suitability as a diversionary tactic of the Indian government.

Sponsorship is of undeniable importance to sport, but after a point it grows rabid, particularly when in conjunction with politics. In many sports, the pernicious combination of corporate interests and politics overshadows sports and respect for human rights. Bahrain’s tenuous relationship with Formula One is a case in point. As Bernie Ecclestone continued to foster his carefully-built empire, people protesting against brutalities were ignored in order to prevent monetary loss. I have enjoyed F1 unapologetically for over a decade, despite all the criticism it receives for being a rich boys’ sport, and the various ugly scandals its administrators have found themselves embroiled in: I like a good race with plenty of skillful driving and overtaking, I enjoy reading about the technology and the rules of the sport. I would argue violently with anyone who said it wasn’t a sport because of its enormous reliance on technology. However, even as an avowed devotee of F1, I was sad to see the Bahrain Grand Prix go on without so much as a murmur of protest from the teams. (This article by Mihir Bose gives an interesting perspective into the Bahrain GP and several other sporting events’ associations with human rights abuses.) The humongous sums of money that flow into sport from various sponsors take teams and sponsors to the pinnacle of glory, but also enslave them to their corporate bosses, so much so that they seem to lose the right to free speech. No longer can a sportsperson speak up freely for fear of violating a contract and finding himself dropped, not for lack of performance, but because he hasn’t been politically correct.

F1 is certainly not the only culprit. There have been reports on the occupation of favelas in Brazil in a bid to spruce the country up for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The circulation of money and allegations of racial discrimination are rife in the EPL. Politics cannot always be ignored in sport, of course: the apartheid-era ban of South Africa was aimed at doing away with racial discrimination in the country. Aspersions were cast on Ukraine’s moral right to co-host the Euro 2012 following political turmoil and allegations of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko being ill-treated by authorities. However, more often than not, the association of politics with sport is inevitably accompanied by power struggles and dalliances fostered by the lure of money.

The Indian subcontinent by itself provides enough examples to fill a book. Cricket tournaments between India and Pakistan have more or less been dictated by the political relations between the two countries; as of today, they are bridging the gap again with the announcement of a bilateral series to take place in India in December. Terror attacks on visiting teams have demoted Pakistan’s position as a host of cricket tournaments; they were also the reason why it couldn’t take its rightful place as a co-host in the 2011 World Cup held in the subcontinent. Indian cricket is, of course, inextricably linked to politics and business, the IPL being a shining example of the state of affairs. The owner of the Royal Challengers Bangalore, Vijay Mallya, runs the Force India F1 team with support from Sahara- now, with Kingfisher Airlines in deep trouble, what happens to his racing ambitions remains to be seen. (See Joe Saward’s blog for a short summing-up of the Mallya story, breweries, airlines, F1 team and all.) The 2010 Commonwealth Games and the resultant mud-slinging, followed by Suresh Kalmadi’s timely dementia, formed only a part of the several ills plaguing various sporting bodies across India. The tennis selection fiasco for the Olympics well and truly disgraced everyone involved. It doesn’t help at all that most sporting bodies have such heavy political involvement. Instead of improving facilities, all it serves to do is to make up the numbers in the sporting contingents that travel to various events around the world. It wouldn’t be surprising at all if officials outnumbered athletes in these groups.

The existence of omnipresent media channels surely doesn’t make life easier for sportspersons and teams. Scrutiny rests not just on performance, but also on the way they fulfill what are seen as their obligations towards various parties. When you read the sports pages, you want to focus on the prodigious talent of a sportsperson or the exquisite beauty of a game. While you can choose to ignore the scum surrounding the pure, exciting thrill of sport, it is sadly something that cannot be easily done away with. The intrusion is so glaringly obvious that much as you try to, you cannot shut your eyes to the unsightly reality that the politics-money-sport nexus is.