India was supposed to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, signaling to the world a new level of development and economic potential. But at this point, it's a question how many of the athletes scheduled to compete will even show up. Some have already pulled out, with entire countries threatening to withdraw.
There are, of course, reasons for this sudden loss of interest. In the past week, a footbridge outside one of the stadiums collapsed, injuring 30, a ceiling at one venue caved in, and, as Sumon Chakrabarti reports for Time, "advanced parties dispatched to the venues by a number of participating countries have been so outraged by the hygiene and safety conditions at the athletes' village that they have threatened to withdraw from the event." The games are scheduled to start October 3.
How to deal with this slightly embarrassing state of affairs? Some Indian leaders think foreigners are overreacting; a few foreigners agree, throwing in a dose of post-imperialist guilt. Other commentators are taking the opportunity to point out how far India still has to go in terms of infrastructure and leadership. Here's the summary.
- Exhibit A of India's Woes "The woes of the fast-approaching event are a good illustration of the reason why India, which shared the same gross domestic product as China 40 years ago, now trails an economy three times its size," declares James Lamont in the Financial Times. "Testing India’s ability to deliver infrastructure to a deadline was always risky," he says, but "the Commonwealth Games is a textbook case of how governance can go awry in India, leading to an assortment of ills that strip an ambition of its quality and integrity. ... What baffles Indians is how long it took for the Congress party-led government to step into this crisis."
- 'Indian Organizers Seem Unfazed,' reports Sumon Chakrabarti
for Time. Despite complaints about dogs "soil[ing]" athletes' beds,
lack of electricity, and standing water encouraging the spread of
dengue fever, "organizing Committee secretary general Lalit Bhanot even
suggested that the problem was a cultural difference in standards of
hygiene." Meanwhile, "Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dixit, couldn't
understand the alarm raised by the bridge collapse. 'The footbridge was
not meant for athletes and delegates,' she said on Tuesday. 'It was for
the use of common man.'" In fact, some organizers are "annoyed" at the
head of the Games, "who they believe has changed his tone under
pressure from some of the key participating countries," previously
having been "upbeat" about preparations.
- Don't Even Mention the Terror Threat "All India is abuzz over New Delhi's incompetent planning for the Commonwealth Games. But it's the return of terror that the city should be most worried about," argues Praveen Swami at Foreign Policy. An attack on New Delhi's Jama Masjid mosque on September 19 may have seemed "trivial" compared to "the grim levels of violence to which Indians have become accustomed in recent years," but it also "suggests that India's jihadi movement can no longer be ignored. " In fact, "the ease with which the attackers at the Jama Masjid disappeared after their assault demonstrates that weaknesses in India's police infrastructure--so brutally exposed during the slaughter in Mumbai--remain."
- After Houses Being Bulldozed for the Games, the Athletes Should Show Up, says Amelia Gentleman in The Guardian, indignant on behalf of "poorer Delhi residents" she talked to several years ago. "Complaints from team officials about the standard of accommodation might be viewed as rather petulant." While there may have been corruption, and the 'resettlement of so many city residents raises uncomfortable questions ... however misguided these decisions were, the price has already been paid." Concludes Gentleman, "in the spirit of friendliness the games is meant to evoke, the athletes should fret less about their personal comfort and insist on travelling to Delhi. Turning up to take part is the least they can do."
Got to Be Kidding Me "So, because India treats its poorest people
badly, all the athletes should suffer dysentery and be bloody well
pleased about it," summarizes The Spectator's Rod Liddle, aghast at Gentleman's argument in light of health concerns.
Does anyone care about the Commonwealth Games? Most of the countries which take part in it seem to hate us anyway, although the smaller ones enjoy winning the occasional medal. Perhaps we should hold it every four years in England, but not take part ourselves, and run it a bit like a giant pre-school sports day, safe and sanitary and you’re not allowed to take photographs. A gift from us to those parts of the third world whose lives we enriched with our language, organisational skills and sense of inherent decency. I wonder what The Guardian thinks about this idea.