What’s the deal with the Delhi Games?

September 23, 2010 in India, Social/Political Commentary, Sport, Travel by pacejmiller

The collapsed footbridge (source: cnn.com)

I haven’t used my blog to rant for a little while, so I thought I’d give the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games a go.

With a little over a week before the opening ceremony, all we’ve been hearing in the news lately is how awful everything is.  First there was the footbridge that collapsed, injuring around 30 people.  Then there was the ceiling that collapsed.  Today, pictures of a shocking looking athlete’s village were unveiled, with disgusting toilets, animal stains on beds and filth just about everywhere.  And of course, there’s the constant reminders of the potential terrorist activities, which has caused athletes to pull out and whole countries to delay or reconsider (today there was a report about heightened dangers because terrorits have abandoned mobile phones).

Seriously, are things really that bad?  Every single time there is a major sports event, there will always be media reports of things going wrong, things being rushed to completion and security scares (especially since 9/11) — from memory there were definitely such concerns at Beijing, Athens and even Sydney back in 2000.  I recall similar things for the Olympics at Atlanta, Barcelona and the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.

So is this just another case of the media blowing things out of proportion?  And let’s not ignore that these concerns may stem from the fact that a lot of people have a preconceived image of India that is not very flattering.

But let’s put things in perspective here.  For starters, we’re still 9 days away from the start of the Games.  As many of us know, the majority of the touching up and cleaning of the venues are done right at the last minute — there’s no way they would allow athletes to live in rooms like the ones we’ve seen in the pictures.  You can’t expect a place still in the thick of the construction to look spotless (though the animal prints are undoubtedly a cause for concern).

Source: smh.com.au

Source: smh.com.au

Secondly, papers were quick to point out that the ceiling of a venue had collapsed, but the reality is, it was a ‘false’ ceiling, a temporary thing while they connected the cables.  On the other hand, the bridge collapse has no excuse, even if it was still being worked on.

And thirdly, you’re always going to have terrorist threats at major sporting events.  The problem with India, however, is that the threat is not only very real, the potential terrorists have also been very vocal in disseminating their warnings.

So yes, Delhi is encountering common problems with an event of this kind, but they do appear to be having more difficulties than expected (or was all of this expected?).

Will everything be ready in time for the opening ceremony in 9 days?  I’m pretty confident it will be.  There’s just too much at stake here for Delhi to stuff this up.

I remember when I was there in mid-June and the city was a chaotic, dusty mess with workers working around the clock and sleeping on the sides of the streets in tents.  Looking at how far everything was from completion, I asked our driver whether it was going to be problematic getting things finished in time.

He nodded confidently and said, “Of course.  It’s a 24 hour, 7 days a week project.  Failure is not an option.”

I believed him then and I still believe him now.  The whole world (well, at least the Commonwealth countries) is watching and much like it was for Beijing, they’ll make sure whatever needs to get done is done and done in time.  It’ll go down to the wire but it’ll happen.  Besides, with what seems like an infinite number of people over there, surely they have the requisite manpower to put things in order.

Let’s hope so, anyway.