The corruption and scandal-ridden run-up to the New Delhi Commonwealth Games has attracted adverse publicity internationally and placed a question mark over India’s capability to deliver, writes COOMI KAPOOR.
ON the eve of the 19th Commonwealth Games, Delhi is on edge.
The run-up to the Oct 3-14 Games has the hosts in panic while foreign guests entertain second thoughts about participation.
The authorities repeatedly recite the all-is-well mantra, which actually convinces no one, given the monumental evidence of bungling and misdirection.
Admittedly, no one could be blamed for the fury of nature.
It is taking a big toll, what with the Yamuna River flowing well above the danger mark and flooding low-lying areas, forcing evacuation in a number of poor colonies. Sewage flows back even in several middle-class colonies due to the rise in the river waters.
Most thoroughfares are cratered by a record rainfall this late in the monsoon cycle. Worse, there is a dengue and bird flu/H1N1 viral scare in the city, thanks to the inordinate rise in the mosquito population during the rainy season.
While there can be no control over the elements, it is the manmade crisis that has most Delhiites worried stiff.
Having undertaken to host the Games, the organisers seem to have only competed with one another in creating a mess and a still bigger mess.
Though only a few days remain before the inauguration of the Games, all Games-related projects are far from ready. Working against the clock, however, has its own hazards.
Notice the mishaps of only the last couple of days.
Security issues came to the fore when two men on a motorcycle fired at foreign visitors in the vicinity of the historic Jama Masjid in old Delhi on the morning of Sept 19. Two members of a Taiwanese television crew were injured, one seriously. Within minutes, a car laden with a crude explosive device caught fire nearby.
Police later claimed that the car bomb was meant to target media crews who had rushed to the spot following the firing on the foreign visitors.
The shooting incident heightened fears of security for the visiting athletes, even though the authorities claimed that they had put in place a foolproof system for their safety.
A day later, a footbridge under construction near the main Games venue collapsed, injuring 20-odd labourers, five critically.
In typical fashion, the incident was underplayed, with Delhi chief minister Shiela Dikishit claiming that the bridge was not meant for Games participants or VIPs.
The next day brought a far bigger blow, this time from none other than the president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Michael Fennell, who said the games village, which will serve as home to foreign contingents throughout the Games, was “unlivable”.
Representatives of two other foreign teams found the conditions “filthy” and “unhygienic” with “stray dogs wandering around, stains on the walls, human excrement and stinking toilets”.
The stinker left everyone shell-shocked since no expense had been spared on the construction and furnishing of the fancy flats in the village, which are set to be sold to the public after the Games at more than US$300 per sq ft.
The Games were meant to showcase a new and confident India and focus on the rise of Delhi as a modern world-class metropolis.
Of course, the Games will still be held. But the excitement and honour will be missing from the proceedings due to the odour of scandal and shoddiness.
Indians were short-changed by those entrusted to showcase their country.
nCoomi Kapoor is resident editor of The Indian Express Group and writes a weekly column on political developments for The Star in Malaysia. She was recently elected secretary-general of the Editors Guild of India.