When this piece appears, the Commonwealth Games (CWG) would have just been over. To be part of the excitement that gripped the city for the duration of the Games, I bought tickets for my children and myself for last Friday’s women’s athletics events in the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Some people suggested that the Metro might be an easier way to get there because the roads could be crowded and the walk to the stadium might be shorter than that from the car park. The CWG contact centre said shuttle services would be available from all Metro stations. On emerging from the Metro station, I discovered that no public transport is allowed around the stadium—no buses, no private cars, no autos. So as you step out of the Metro station, you enter this transport-free zone and you keep walking until you find your gate. That’s what I did—kept walking, like that ad for a whisky brand asks us to.
6.15pm: We emerged from the Metro and met a CWG volunteer, who saw my ticket and said: “Oh, yours is gate No. 6, that’s a very long walk.”
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“But isn’t there a shuttle bus? The call centre said there is,” I asked worried.
“I’ve been here five days. I haven’t seen any,” he shrugged.
6.30pm: I ask a bunch of volunteer girls how far gate 6 is. “Very far,” they said in chorus and ranted about how tough it was for them to get to work each day without local transport.
6.45pm: I am tired holding the younger one in my arms all the while. I ask a lady inspector how much longer I have to walk. She looks at me sympathetically. A red CWG bus passes by. I point to that and ask excitedly if we can take that. “No, that’s only for officials,” she says. The knowledge that the destination is nowhere in sight makes it even more tiring.
6.55pm: I reach a main road that forms one side of the rectangle of the stadium. Gates 1 and 2 are on this road. But gate 6, according to a policeman, was still very far, across the road and another 2km further. A crying child hanging on the hip, a sullen older one and a mother with despair in her eyes. It was like a scene from a war movie where a refugee family keeps walking to find some recourse. It moved the policeman enough for him to advise that we go to the nearest gates and request entry. Gate 1 was for VIPs and gate 2 for media reporting the event, so the security there smiled and sent me away. One reporter from a television channel was complaining bitterly about walking from gate 9 to gate 2.
7.00pm: We finally get an auto willing to drop us at the Sewa Nagar crossing—the nearest road to gate 6.
7.10pm: Ah, finally we are there. As I pass the metal detector gate, I comment to the guards there about how lousy the facilities are. “Everyone says that and we have to bear the brunt of their irritation,” they muttered. Behind me, a furious gent stormed in, cribbing about missing so much of the event just trying to get to his seat. Empty red and green CWG buses kept driving in and parking ahead.
7.12pm: This was a moment of truth. Stretching out in front of me was a long, seemingly endless concrete path.“Where is the stadium?” I asked disbelievingly from no one in particular. “There, that bridge you see in the distance,” someone said. Numbly, I picked up the kid and began again.
7.20pm: I spot two elderly couples trudging back from the event. Cars full of army men with guns and wireless phones line the path. One of them says there is 300m more to the bridge.
7.25pm: We stagger up the bridge. I can finally see the stadium stands up close. I confidently tell my relieved kids that we’ve reached. Our steps are faster and we get to the end of the bridge. And stop. Below, after the flight of steps, another stretch looms ahead. I laugh aloud—a slightly maniacal laugh of one pushed too far. A Central Reserve Police Force man looks amused.
7.40pm: After a couple of security checks we finally get to our stand and flop into the seats.
I found out later that on the main CWG website—not the one for buying tickets—under venues, there are instructions to alight at the Jor Bagh Metro station if your entry point is gate 6. So, unless the spectators have gone there to check or heard about it from someone, they would go through what I, my children and co-walkers did. Plus, the contact centre is ill-informed for saying shuttle buses are available for all gates from the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium Metro station. With a little imagination, routes and ways to reach the venue could easily have been printed on the back of tickets. For a big public event like a sporting spectacle, the organizers need to inform the public how to get to the venue. The information should be available everywhere—on tickets, proclaimed loudly on websites and maybe even as part of Metro announcements. Because the public is by and large clueless and is not likely to do its homework before heading to a sports event.
The only silver lining was the excitement of cheering on Kavita Raut as she determinedly strode her way to a bronze medal in the women’s 10,000m.
Vandana Vasudevan writes stories of mass urban consumer experiences. She is a graduate from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, and currently works with HT Media Ltd. Your comments are welcome at email@example.com