Monday, September 27, 2010

Uncommon experiences in Commonwealth games

A wealth of stories is appearing on the lack of organization, infrastructure and safety during the Commonwealth games. It is sad that security issues are being quoted as reasons for athletes and sportspeople to bow out of the arena, for India is no more or less dangerous than most countries in the world. The lack of proper facilities however is a different issue. Every day the news focuses on mishaps - and there seem to be far too many of them for comfort. For instance, today the South African High Commissioner said that a snake was found in one of the athlete's rooms. (He is quoted as having said, "We found a snake in one of our rooms. We don’t know whether it was an Indian snake. It certainly is a threat to our athletes' lives.") The good news is that we all thought snakes had been forever wiped out of Delhi. The bad news is - obvious.

The Indian pugilists arrived from Patiala (Punjab) to be kept waiting for four hours till a bus could take them to the sports village. The rooms were expectedly dirty, but what was unexpected was that the 2006 Commonwealth gold medallist, Akhil Kumar, was knocked to the ground even before he reached the arena. His bed collapsed as he tried to sit on it.

The media is complaining of lack of access to the warm up matches, information on participants etc. As a result we really don't know who is coming and who isn't until they write their blogs or announce their arrivals or cancellations through their governments.

What do we feel about all this? Needless to say, views are divided. But for the average middle class Delhiite, the last year has been ridden with frustration - seeing the entire city dug up and not put back, superficial face lifts in the name of improving infrastructure (coupled with an untimely monsoon) have made moving in the city very difficult. In addition, dengue has been spreading in all parts of the city because no matter how clean you keep your house and surroundings, those mosquitoes thrive in dug up roads and drains, fly long distances and zoom in on you. And you can't do much about it.

I have spent hours along with many others on the road, just gazing at people's faces and waiting for the traffic to move (in between calling to postpone meetings and chatting about who made how much money in which scam). Apart from all this, we know that the Yamuna river bed is not the best place to construct a games complex and town planning does not require designer super-slippery granite pavements, toilets which double up as coffee outlets and other such wonders at the expense of the taxpayer.

So, under the circumstances I can quite understand that most of urban Delhi will heave a sigh of relief as they vacate the city during the games (as schools and offices are closed) and move to the hills or beaches. At least this will promote tourism in India and partly compensate for all the cancelled foreign reservations.

As for me, I am hoping for many more gentle fiascos during the games, mainly because I hope that India's bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games will be foiled so that we can live in peace. A perverse and pessimistic kind of patriotism, perhaps.

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