Goa minister not keen to hold ‘colonial’ sports event

Panaji, Jan 7 (IANS) With the Lusofonia Games set to begin Jan 18 here, Sports Minister Ramesh Tawadkar said Monday that he does not like the concept of Goa hosting the Portuguese Commonwealth Games.

Tawadkar, a minister in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led coalition government, said that he warmed up to the concept only because the expensive infrastructure raised for the Games would be utilized by the coming generations.
“Initially, I was not willing to host the Games, which are essentially for Portuguese-speaking countries,” Tawadkar said.
“I did not like the concept,” he added.
Tawadkar’s ministry is raising sports infrastructure worth more than Rs.200 crore for the Games, in which 12 Portuguese speaking countries – Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Goa (India), Macau (China), Mozambique, Portugal, Sao Tome and Principe, and Sri Lanka – will participate.
Tawadkar is not the only legislator to oppose the Games, which are a Portuguese equivalent of the British Commonwealth Games.
Public Works Department Minister Sudin Dhavalikar said it went against his grain to support the event, which was a hark back to the colonial times.
Ruling party legislator Vishnu Wagh too has opposed the Games in the past.
“These are Games for Portuguese-speaking countries. Goa is not a country and India is not Portuguese-speaking, so how come we are hosting it?” the poet legislator said before eventually agreeing to compose the Games’ anthem last month.
It was decided in 2009 that Goa would host the 3rd Lusofonia Games when the Congress was ruling the state and then Congress state president Subhash Shirodkar headed the Goa Olympic Association.
Goa won the rights to host the event after Brazil withdrew at the last minute.
Tawadkar claims that the current BJP-led coalition government decided to go ahead with the Games only because of the commitment given by the past administration and because of the sports infrastructure, which would be created as a result of the Games.
A part of the Goa’s sports infrastructure bill, Rs.82 crore, is funded by a one-time grant from the central government.
“It was something done by the last government. If we did not fulfill their commitment, they would blame us for it,” Tawadkar said.
“The other reason we chose to go ahead is if the next generations can avail of good infrastructure because of the Games, it can only be good,” Tawadkar said.
The Lusofonia Games begin Jan 18 this year and will feature nine sporting disciplines like athletics, basketball, beach volleyball, football, judo, table tennis, taekwondo, volleyball and wushu.