India had hoped to dazzle the world by putting on the “best ever Commonwealth Games” yet – a spectacle so grand, so beautiful that it would rival the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Well, like many other things in India, this too, might be a distant dream.
What started as an effort to showcase India’s potential as a cosmopolitan and economic powerhouse has in fact, ripped open the widespread corruption that has been allowed to go on rampant, unchecked and definitely unpunished. While Indian organizers are still confident that they will be able to pull of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, daring to go to the extent of claiming that it will be a spellbinding spectacle, everything right now points towards the event turning into a “debacle of epic proportions.”
What makes matters worse is the attempt of top government officials to pretend as if all was under control and there is absolutely nothing to worry about. The constant charade that things are following a smooth course and all incidents happening at the construction sites are nothing more than acceptable glitches is not just pathetic now; it is infuriating.
The collapse of the footbridge outside the flagship Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Tuesday, September 21, which left 27 people injured, (four seriously so with spinal fractures) was dismissed by the Union Urban Development Minister, Jaipal Reddy as a small problem, a “minor hiccup” in his own words. Echoing a similar sentiment was Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dixit, who simply could see why there was any reason to be concerned by the bridge collapse. She commented that “The footbridge was not meant for athletes and delegates. It was for the use of common man.”
I am confused here. Would it have been more of a concern if top athletes and delegates had been among those injured? Perhaps the common man of India buried under a collapsing footbridge is Ms. Dixit’s idea of “minor hitches and glitches.” I sure as hell don’t see anything dismissive about 30 odd lives being put at risk on or even near a venue that’s about to host a major international sports venue.
In addition, there is also the issue of lack of hygiene and safety at the athletes’ village that has drawn outraged comments and reactions from members of the sports community all over the world. According to Commonwealth Games Federation President, Michael Fennel, “the Commonwealth Games Village is seriously compromised” and some member associations have declared the conditions inside the Games’ village “unlivable.”
In a meeting held between the host committee and the Commonwealth Games Associations of Canada, New Zealand, Scotland, England and Wales, the latter has voiced concern over the “hygiene, cleanliness and preparedness” of the residential areas of the village. From the dirty and unhygienic bathrooms to the stray dogs that were found curling up cozily on beds (the same beds that athletes are expected to sleep in when they arrived, by the way) to the mounds of rubbish dotting the landscape around the 34 apartment towers, it seems pretty much everything was axed down with great vengeance by the delegates at the meeting. With good reason too!
However, in the typical hurry to explain themselves, Indian officials managed to put their foot into their mouth yet again. Jaipal Reddy was casuan and dismissive, stating that the complaints about the cleanliness and maintenance are being addressed. But he was also quick to point out that “Some friends could be too finicky.”
In the same vein, Organizing Committee Secretary General, Lalit Bhanot, went on to make the preposterous suggestion that these complaints stemmed from cultural difference in standards of hygiene. According to him, foreign delegates wanted “certain standards in hygiene and cleanliness” which were probably different from “our perception.” Groan!
Let’s see how the grand fiasco of the Commonwealth Games 2010 unfolds in the coming weeks. Our prayers are with the brave athletes who have chosen to participate in spite of all odds.