Their Finest Hour: Armed Forces Sports Leaders, Administrators & Organisers

The 4th CISM Military World Games held at Hyderabad & Mumbai in October 2007 conveyed a message which went far beyond the motto of the Games: "Friendship Through Sport"

Their Finest Hour: Armed Forces Sports Leaders, Administrators & Organisers

The 4th CISM Military World Games held at Hyderabad & Mumbai in October 2007 conveyed a message which went far beyond the motto of the Games: Friendship Through Sport

" The successful conduct of the Games was a result of the effort of all members of the Armed Forces in general and that of the Indian Army's Southern Command and Indian Navy's Western Naval Command in particular. I congratulate the Organising Committee of the Indian Armed Forces and the CISM for the successful conduct of the Games."

- Pratibha Devisingh Patil, Former President Republic Of India -

The Prelude

In the contemporary world which is hamstrung by the curse of terrorism, war fighting, putative armed threats, and the possibility of conflict engendered by ethnic, territorial, political, ideological, religious and economic considerations, the Armed Forces of India hosted and paticipated in the 4th CISM , Military World Games (MWG) Hyderabad & Mumbai from 14 to 21 October 2007.

The Conseil International Du Sports Militaire, International Military Sports Council's (CISM ) Mission Statement- "endorsing friendship amongst soldiers, CISM is the worldwide international military sports organization devoted to bringing together armed forces personnel from all nations through sports activities, thus enabling physical training, military readiness and education for the armed forces." Accordingly, from this flows its Vision Statement - "the world's leading military sports organisation enhancing mutual respect, solidarity and promoting peace through its various activities."

Photo Courtesy; SSCB

Sports In The Armed Forces

It is not for nothing that it is said that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton. This implies that the values taught and learnt therein attributed to the military success of Britain. But, going beyond that and in consonance with the Mission and Vision Statements of CISM- sports foster confidence, cohesion, fitness, identify, train and motivate talents, provide exposure to and experience through international competition and develop leadership traits in soldier athletes. It also enhances intercultural and international competence, solidarity among nations, deconflication/ peace building and can be used as a diplomatic enabler.

From its very humble beginning on 18 February 1948 when five founding nations - Belgium, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, and Netherlands created CISM while meeting in Nice at a fencing event, it has today more than 133 member nations and is still growing. Such a presence led to its recognition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the 1st CISM Military World Summer Games were held in September 1995 in Rome. Since then, the Military World Games are organised every four years, a multi-sport event held one year before the Summer Olympics. The second and third Military World Games were held in Zagreb, Croatia and Catania, Italy.

Photo Courtesy; SSCB

4th MWG 2007, Hyderabad & Mumbai

It is not about oneself or else what was collectively achieved by an ad hoc organisation, vertically and horizontally integrated and created to provide leadership in a mission mode during the Military World Games (MWG) 2007,  Hyderabad and Mumbai, and which was a resounding success in public perception. Instead, it is about learning, imbibing, articulating, enabling, practising and leaving a legacy for posterity to benefit from. What was achieved by a team that was cobbled up in very trying circumstances of military hierarchy, which more often than not, is driven by rank and position than intimate understanding of domain knowledge and subject expertise.

Participants from 101 countries competed in 14 sports disciplines. The Opening Ceremony for the largest sporting event in India's long history resembled the opening night at the Olympics - complete with military pomp and circumstance to boot. It was officially declared open on October 14 at the Gachibowli Stadium by Shrimati Pratibha Devi Singh Patil, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of India, with a colourful celebration of Indian culture that uniquely expressed CISM's goal of striving for World Peace by uniting the Armed Forces through sports.

The Armed Forces of India a.k.a. Services had got inveigled into hosting the 4 th CISM Military World Games 2007, by the guile and convincing ability of Brigadier General Giani Gola, the President of the International Military Sports Council. The offer was accepted by the then President of the Services Sports Control Board (SSCB), which is held in rotation by the three constituents and at this point in time it was the IAF.

In the interregnum and closer to the year (2007) for the conduct of the Games, the rotation brought the Indian Navy to helm the SSCB and after dabbling with related issues for about 8 to 9 months and just about more than a year from the event, expressed its inability to organise such a multi discipline International Sports Festival. The argument put forth was that the Indian Navy is small in size and does not have an onshore presence in Hyderabad, where 12 of the 14  Sports disciplines were to be held.

The Army, by virtue of its physical presence at Hyderabad and ready availability of human resources, which could be deployed from within its Regional Command (Southern Command) became the stooge; and it was decided at the highest level of inter services decision making that the Indian Army shall organise and conduct the 4 th CISM, MWG 2007 and will be assisted in the same by the other two branches of the Military, to the extent they can and must. Thus, with just about a little over a year left to put the requirement of fiscal approvals from the MoD.

Photo Courtesy; SSCB

Creation of civil works infrastructure, equipment procurement, import clearances, selection of teams and training, putting into place standard procedures and constituting of several committees and subcommittees, protocol, boarding and lodging, travel, kitting, venue management, volunteers, outsourcing and contracts, publicity, media, staffing and selection of Competition Directors were some of the challenges which confronted the Organizing Committee.

It seemed that, when we initially bid for the Games, the President and the Secretary SSCB were literally trapped by the shrewdness of Brigadier General Gianni Gola, who was fishing for a host Nation and we took the bait without realising the enormity of the challenge. Therefore, it is wisely said that "respect the challenge before overcoming it."

To host 14 sports events (for both Males and Females) in Hyderabad and Mumbai and these in venues for which the Armed Forces would have to fully and substantially depend on the existing International level stadias of the state government of Andhra Pradesh for 8 sports including accommodation for about 1000 athletes, as also the opening and closing ceremonies. Sailing and Triathlon were being looked after by the IN at Mumbai, Parachuting by the IAF at Hakimpet and Military Pentathlon and Football (M&F) by Artillery Centre, Golconda.

Now, here was a situation in which the 4th MWG were: a tri-services enterprise had its Command Centre at New Delhi in Kota House, the men and material Resources were with HQ Southern Command in Pune, the troops on ground were held with HQ 54 Infantry Division, the Competition Directors were from the three services and from all over, local logistical support was with HQ Andhra Sub Area and the Games Technical Conduct Committee (GTCC ), the actual centre of gravity of the Sports Extravaganza which was spearheaded by the Chairman Army Sports Control Board (ASCB) was co-located in the Directorate General of Military Training and HQ SSCB.

And it was not as if the key functionaries were exclusively deputed for their responsibilities and hence taken off from the discharge of their routine work, which nonetheless continued unabated. No international multi disciplined sports event, with 101 contingents from different countries participating in it, was ever held in the manner in which the 4th MWG, 2007 was preparing for and delivered.

The imponderables and uncertainties associated in the phases, stages and steps of the preparation and conduct were many, given the agencies involved in it and their priorities, perceptions, degrees of accountability and liabilities to be dealt with punitively.

There were far too many silos of authority belonging to different colours of uniform, matters of civil military cooperation and coordination, seamless integration of available resources, far too many two star and three star general rank officers of the Army and their equivalent in the IAF and IN, who were in the ladder of the decision making chain and were first required to be educated and taught about the facts by those very officers who initiated the process and then got approvals from them only because it was a part of the red tape culture, which obtains in the Armed Forces and the Government Bureaucracy in equal measure.

This caused huge losses of time and redundancies when the opposite was needed. The organisational matrix created for the organisation and conduct of the 4th MWG 2007 was a Chinese Puzzle, which was at variance with the essential premise of having one team, one tent, rather than several, who were there not because of their expertise in the subject domain but only because of the positional power they wielded in the military hierarchy.

This is an ideal recipe for mediocrity, or else a disaster waiting to happen. That it did not happen in the sports pageant of MWG 2007 is not because the postulate averred to by me is hogwash, but most likely owing to a providential intervention, which saw the Organizing Committee pull it through and with palpable applause and encomiums.

Photo Courtesy; SSCB

The Games Technical Conduct Committee

All else apart, any sports pageant essentially entails the quality and level of the game/event, and the clock work precision, with which it is organised and conducted within the rules/laws which govern it. These two aspects are critical to the enthralling success of sports at the playing and spectator level. When multi-disciplinary international games are held, these throw up a unique challenge for the host Nation which has to not only meet the expectations of the participating competitors, but also has to make the presence of its own athletes seen and felt in striving to achieve podium finishes.

In the context of the MWG 2007, the SSCB which was entrusted with the responsibility to conduct, select, train and field teams in the games was also the nerve centre of the GTCC and I was its Chairman. The Secretary SSCB, Joint Secretaries and support staff made up the organisation. I literally parachuted into it from Pune, where I was in command of the Army Institute of Physical Training.

I was seized of this onerous responsibility, only to momentarily shudder at the thought of being up to it. But, then, after finding succour in my philosophy of bearding the lion in his den, I enabled myself to fully immerse myself in the demands of my charter. An overview of the organisational overlay and the structure of the various committees, which were aligned to perform and deliver, imbued me with a degree of assurance and cogent understanding. But, as time was at a premium and we didn't have the luxury of putting our act together over an extended time frame, such as happens when Games which are organised under the aegis of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), have, I set myself into an overdrive mode.

The heat in the kitchen was becoming more and more. During the course of time and into our preparations, there was an unsettling feeling gnawing within me that, while all other administrative, infrastructural and functional areas of operations were well articulated and delineated, the scope, authority, and structure of the GTCC was rather nebulous. As there were two distinct centres of executive authority within the Army, which emerged in the Organising Committee, we were adversely consumed by the varying perceptions and interpretations of those  who were engineering an insidious takeover of the management of the venues, which is always the prerogative and entitlement of the GTCC.

The argument put forth for this was rather ridiculous and unsubstantiated and which was- since the human resource was being provided by the lodger formation in Hyderabad, therefore, the command and control of the Venues must be with those Unit Commanding Officers whose troops were deployed therein.

Our energies were getting dissipated in attending to unfructuous issues, which were likely to impinge upon our modus operandi and that too when it is a settled conviction the world over that venue management in sports is the privilege and entitlement of the Sport Competition Director.

Nearer time, as we submerged under the subtleties of giving the last touches and final finishes to the nuances of our responsibility, the issue of the micro management of the venues was proving to be an irritant and likely to become an unwanted dampener in our preparations for the flawless conduct of the actual games.

It was in this situation of military hierarchy and rank overriding established procedures of sports organisation and venue management, which confronted me as the Chairman GTCC that I put my foot down and may have appeared to buck the system by relinquishing my current appointment, which I held. However, better sense prevailed and the matter was resolved but not before some unwanted acrimony between me and the concerned General Officer.

This writing is not about the successful conduct of the MWG 2007, but it is for the benefit of sports administrators and organisers in the Armed Forces and is about venue management in multi-discipline international sports, which one may have the privilege to be a part of as Chairman GTCC.

Photo Courtesy; SSCB

Venue Management

Seized of my responsibility, in the course of my browsing the internet, I happened to chance upon a one week capsule course which was scheduled in the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad for a somewhat related sports administration and management Capsule Course Program in 2006, organised under the auspices of The University of South Australia. It was here that we students were taught about the complexities of organisation and  conduct of multi-discipline sports events.

Mr Jeremy Evans, a Britisher and a Management Post Graduate working with The South Australia Olympic Organization, was our course Director. I prevailed over the COAS to subscribe for this and resultantly attended the Program as a sponsored student from the Indian Army. This, essentially, to invest me with the detailed knowledge about my responsibilities as a critical functionary in the Organizing Committee for the Military World Games, 2007.

One aspect which glaringly emerged from the instructions we received and imbibed during the course, was the stitching together of the numerous functions and responsibilities designated within the scope of the several committees and sub committees, constituted to prepare, organise, conduct and deliver the mega sporting event.

It is only when the command and control organisation is structured, aligned and staffed in keeping with the tenets of business/corporate best practises and functions as "One Tent, One Team" that the challenge is overcome with efficiency, financial propriety and collective pride. That this did not happen in the case of the Organizing Committee, XIX Commonwealth Games, Delhi  as has become apparent from the plethora of damning reports, both in the print and electronic media, is the essence of the corruption and scam in the Rs 70,000 crore extravaganza. Our budget was a pittance in comparison.

The essentials, which must be understood and imbibed is mentioned hereunder in point form for easy assimilation:

  • It's all about sports. The stadium, The competitors and the officials; the spectators and the media together make the event.
  • Understanding the end product. Integrated teams. Planning down to minutest detail and elaborate event plan.
  • The Site - the equipment - staffing and operations.
  • Creating a model - operational integration - vertical and horizontal.  Process which integrates 30+ functional areas into fully functioning and fully resourced operational teams. It requires a macro level organisational understanding. Micro level planning process that develops each functional area into effective members of operational teams and ensures resources are identified and procured.
  • Building the Teams- Effective Command Structure - single point of authority.
  • Command and Control - Integration - Empowerment - Decision making forums - Moving to an event time structure- Rehearsing - One team, one tent.
  • Rehearsing- Contingency workshops - Integrated venue practises - Command centre simulations - On site contingency exercises.
  • Building the work force - Does not happen overnight- best use of people- Preparation and training is key.
  • Test, test, test- functional -venue - event wise - lessons learnt.

In Summary - Whatever the event, good venue installation and management is key. The Venue is more than the facility- it is the people , the operation, and the event. Get the venue right and you will get the event right. Integration is critical.

Photo Courtesy; SSCB


It is pertinent to mention here that in the history of conducting international multi sports event by the SSCB, never ever was a GTCC formed and constituted exclusively from amongst Armed Forces personnel and moreso, who didn't have any previous exposure to either have a Chairman or else sports Competition Directors from the Services.

In the past, whenever international multi sports  Events such as the 1951 and 1982 Asian Games, the Afro Asian Games, Hyderabad 2003, the Commonwealth Youth Games, Pune 2008 and the Commonwealth Games, Delhi 2010 were all held under the auspices of the IOA; the Armed Forces/Army personnel were used as officials and technical workforce to assist in one or more of the several committees/sub committees but never ever to organise an event of such magnitude on our own.

And more so the GTCC, which is an extremely technical and onerous responsibility. As it was a deliberate and conscious decision on the part of the Organizing Committee to have nothing to do with the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) for the 4th MWG 2007; as the latter owing to its status and authority [ being a conglomerate of all National Sports Federations ( NSF) and State Olympic Association ( SOA) ], is the supreme Sports Authority in the country and hence its President and Secretary General would have unduly demanded privileges for themselves and insidiously taken credit for the Games and wrested the turf from us; we kept it out of the Event.

This decision, though welcome and taken with the right intent, precluded us from availing of the professional and technical expertise of the IOA office bearers and hence threw up the biggest challenge of the Games for the GTCC.

As you would have seen from the above, Venue Management of an International multi sports discipline event, is an extremely specialised and technical matter, which is too serious a matter to be dealt with in an ad hoc manner by inexperienced persons.

But, we were confronted with a fait acompli and that was the biggest challenge for the GTCC. That, we didn't have a single protest or an eventuality during the 7 days of the competitions, is a befitting testimony to the passion, diligence, industry, commitment to excellence and resolute leadership at successive levels of the hierarchy within the GTCC.

I do hope that , this will serve the needs of those who are entrusted with similar responsibilities in the future.

About The Author

Brig. Sarvesh Dangwal, VSM (Retd) is a 1971 Indo-Pak War veteran & a former AIPT Comdt & DDGPT. He is an ardent advocate of APTC reform & is a prolific writer. Views expressed are the authors own and do not reflect the editorial views of Mission Victory India (MVI)

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