Almost everyone has heard of the 19th Commonwealth Games 2010 being held in New Delhi. With a participation of almost 7000 athletes from the 71 commonwealth nations, these games will feature Archery, Aquatics, Athletics, Badminton, Boxing, Cycling, Gymnastics, Hockey, Lawn Bowls, Netball, Rugby 7s, Shooting, Squash, Table Tennis, Tennis, Weightlifting and Wrestling. Athletics, Swimming, Powerlifting and Table Tennis events have also been organized for Para-athletes. Being held on October 3rd – 14th, these games have attracted attention majorly for the malfunctioning at different levels.
According to an Indian News source the budget had risen from 22,000 crore Indian Rupees (~5 billion USD) to 30,000 crore Indian rupees (~6.8 billion USD) by April 2010. The increase in budget can be attributed to delay in projects, frequent changes in plans, and the emergence of unplanned projects such as streetscaping. In addition, the government used the Games as an excuse to increase the insfrastructure in the city. Hence money allocated for the Games was used for projects which bear no direct relationship with the Games.
Corruption in tenders and illegal cash flows had been making the headlines too. 16 game related projects had fake or suspicious quality certificates.
Incomplete construction sites
A 164-foot bridge built outside the Nehru Jawaharlal Stadium, the venue of the opening ceremonies, to transport the athletes to the stadium collapsed on September 21st. Sporting venues have seen crashing of installations. Concerns were also expressed regarding the quality of the swimming pool water.
People are also complaining about the unavailability of tickets, and the hassle of even getting one, even for games with no mass appeal. This is followed by empty stands in the Games. The organizers blamed the slow server for not updating the system fast enough.
The athletes’ villages had all kinds of problems from incomplete wiring and plumbing to issues with power supply, internet, mobile telephone coverage. Some rooms were still filled with leftover building debris. The area around the games inundated with water from the rain and became a breeding ground for dengue and malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
Among those who pulled out of the Games due to the unhygienic conditions of the athletes’ residence are sprinter Usain Bolt, cyclist Travis Meyer, table tennis player Stephanie Sang, tennis player Elena Baltacha. They withdrew due to concerns about disease and hygiene. In addition to a reported case of mosquito-borne dengue fever, more than a dozen swimmers from Australia and England fell ill at the Commonwealth Games.
A New Zealand commentator, Paul Henry, ridiculed the surname of the Indian Delhi Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit, inevitably creating diplomatic tensions between New Zealand and India. Later on the same day, a South African athlete called the people in the crowd “monkeys” and the Games “a joke”.
Three Ugandan officials were injured by a malfunctioning security barrier at the games’ village. Later, a Ugandan official raised allegations of discrimination by Indian officials for not apologizing in a timely fashion.
Every cloud has a silver lining
Despite all the problems, the opening ceremonies, attended by a crowd of 64,000, were spectacular. They featured traditional Indian dance and music performances. A $16-million helium blimp also hovered overhead and displayed a visual crawl of the nations’ flags as they were announced. Surprisingly, and to everyone’s relief, Pakistan, India’s archrival received one of the largest applauses from the audience.
Also, the government of India announced free education for all the medal winning students from the Commonwealth Games. According to the minister of Human Resource Development, “Our boys and girls are competing with sportspersons who have better infrastructure in their countries, and our boys are doing well. They are our heroes and the nation must go out of its way to support them.”