The 19th Commonwealth Games (CWG) are clearly falling apart. Even if they go ahead, there is no excitement about the event. Not a day passes without a news report about collapsing bridges, falling ceilings and filthy habitation related to the Games. Sportspersons from teams such as Canada, Scotland, New Zealand and Australia are pulling out, robbing the Games of sporting glamour.
That is not all. Delhi is almost under siege: Blocked roads, ripped pavements, lost business and traffic chaos have sapped the enthusiasm of its residents. Indians are outraged as to how matters came to such a pass. How did an event billed as a sporting extravaganza turn into one big organizational nightmare?
Some clues to the situation can be found in the public pronouncements of politicians and officials organizing the Games. On Wednesday, Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit insouciantly told a news conference that while there were “problems”, the Games were in no danger. Her confidence was in contrast to the attitude of delegations from various countries that expressed serious concerns at the state of disarray in CWG facilities. On Tuesday, CWG federation official Mike Hooper termed the sports village “filthy and uninhabitable”. In response, CWG official Lalit Bhanot blithely argued that “their” hygiene standards were different from “ours”. Whatever happened to global best practices? Evidently they are not meant for India.
What these denials and excuses tell us is that all along, right from the day the Games were awarded to New Delhi, laziness and lack of vision have accompanied efforts to organize the event. Managing a complex sporting event is like managing a device with many moving parts. Civic infrastructure needs to be refurbished and sporting infrastructure needs to be created anew. This requires careful coordination. Instead, corrupt practices and lack of coordination have dogged the Games. Project completion deadlines were announced and dismissed without thought. Stadiums were constructed at the same tired pace as a public works department project. Instead of making new roads, old ones were commandeered in a fashion reminiscent of an authoritarian country.
It is too late now to rectify the faults. Matters are simply beyond the control of a few individuals now. The blame, however, rests with them.
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