Commonwealth Games 2010 – a review

The theme of the 19th Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India was, Come out and Play, unfortunately, the outcome was more of a mixed bag that may well have left all of India wondering precisely what the country would have gained from the massive and expensive undertaking.
The competition was very good. The participating countries saw to it that they were well represented and the athletes gave of their best. True, some of the world’s leading athletes from Commonwealth nations failed to turn up and give the much-needed boost to the promotion of the Games, but those who did attend put on a relatively good show for the local and international communities.
Indians are noted for their courtesy. At the Commonwealth Games the level of courtesy extended to all visitors, regardless, impressed everyone.
There is a sense in which the vestiges of the prejudiced caste system of social stratification were evident. Although every effort was made to suggest otherwise one felt the prejudice weighing heavily just about everywhere one turned in Delhi. Of course the prejudice wa an internal matter and not in any way directed at the participants.
One of the critical features of the Delhi edition of the Commonwealth Games was the tardiness in respect of the facilities. Tow years ago a similar situation had occurred when the Commonwealth Youth Games were held in Pune, India. In many respects the leadership of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) may well have felt that Delhi 2010 was Pune Part II.
One year out there were major concerns about the capacity of those involve din the construction of the several facilities to complete their work on time. With a few months to go there were still many concerns, one of which was the soundness of the facilities that the organisers were pushing the contractors for completion before the commencement of the Games. The collapse of the ceiling at one of the venues and of a bridge at the main stadium for the Opening and Closing ceremonies as well as Track and Field Athletics, rendered the concerns credible
The Games Village
The delays in respect of the Games Village deserve special mention.
Like so many of the other facilities constructed for the Games the Games Village was a well designed complex that should otherwise have ranked as high as the Village prepared by the Chinese for the Olympics in Beijing in 2008. Unfortunately however the contractors were quite tardy.
It is true that there were some explanations provided that would have accounted for some of the delays but the organisers have only themselves to blame. The project should have started much earlier in order to ensure that several months before the start of the Games the facility was completed, tested and duly approved.
The reality was that the Village, while expansive did not meet expectations. As with several of the other facilities the Village was not quite complete. The buildings all showed signs of incomplete work. They all lacked the finishing touches. There were wires here and there, fittings that were not quite fully functional, and dust everywhere.
Some of the problems encountered by athletes and officials staying in the Village were directly related to the dusty conditions which characterised the facility.
Even as the Games drew to a close there were still plumbing problems in some quarters.
The internet providers seemed to have experienced great difficulty meeting the demand for the provision of adequate access to wireless in the various quarters, something that proved to be a bone of contention throughout the Games.
By the time the Games had begun the problems that made the world news in respect of the poor sanitary conditions in the Village had been resolved, thanks to government’s intervention as well as the contributions of the early arrivants at the Village. Everyone pitched in to make the facilities habitable.
Credit must be given to the organisers for the provision of good quality food. Occupants of the Games Village had a wide variety of choices and the conditions under which they were prepared met all established standards.
While there were a few people who complained of the dreaded ‘Delhi Belly, the fact is that there was never any evidence provided that linked this to the food in the Games Village. The CGF vehemently rejected any accusations that sought to make such a link, having satisfied itself that the conditions were hygienic and that the food quality and water provided met international standards.
Training at the Games Village was also well catered for. There was a rather complete gymnasium that was fully utilised by all occupants of the Village. There were other facilities that allowed the athletes to get themselves prepared for their events.
Generally the transportation ended up being good. It did not begin that way, unfortunately.
The Organising Committee had guaranteed the Commonwealth Games family that transportation as well in hand. On arrival for the Games however things were remarkably different.
It took some of the Chiefs of Mission several days before they got their designated vehicles. This meant that they had to review their entire plans in terms of how they worked their way around to their various teams.
Even as the Games came to a close there were some Chiefs of Mission who had still  not received any designated vehicle. Happily some of the smaller delegations could have gotten around with the buses that were taking the athletes and officials to their respective sporting events.
The Games family fared little different with the designated cars being finally allocated long after the Games had started.
The buses for athletes and officials were quite good and the athletes and officials were quite comfortable.
One of the major problems throughout the Games however was the fact that several of the drivers were from outside Delhi and this meant that many got lost while carrying officials to competitions. This was a common feature.
On several occasions the drivers simply did not know where they were going and while possessing maps of Delhi and the location of the Games venues they were still experiencing grave difficulties getting around. It was common to find that a car taking some officials to this or that sport spent close to and at times more than one hour on the road before choosing to return to base without ever reaching the destination.
Information flow
One of the problems experienced at the Games was that of the slow pace of the information flow.
It was particularly difficult to access information on the different sporting events each day. This problem was not resolved until the Games was well advanced. This meant that at times the Chiefs of Mission and team management were hamstrung in terms of their planning of the next day’s activities.
It does appear that the information management system was one of the aspects of the Games that featured in some measure of discussion between the CGF and the Organising Committee. It was apparently resolved very close to the actual Games and thereby hangs a tale.
Security was excellent.
There are those who will argue that the security officials actually ran the Games.
Security was particularly tight. One had to understand the situation however as the organisers yielded great responsibility to the security forces given the threats that were made in advance of the Games and the reality of terrorism around the world today.
There were times when the security forces failed to understand and appreciate the importance of the Games protocol and insisted on their own approaches. When this occurred it certainly created major problems.
The CGF had to intervene on several occasions to ensure that the Games were not compromised and neither was the security of the participants.
Empty stadiums
Different stories have been told as to precisely why the people did not ‘come out and play’ as they were encouraged to do. The discovery of thousands of unsold/unused tickets in the offices of the Organising Committee is but only a partial explanation.
For the most part the absence of crowds at competition venues in a country that is the world’s largest democracy remains a major embarrassment to both the Organising Committee and the CGF.
It was not the absence of the best athletes in the world that caused the crowds to stay away. It appears that here were several issues impacting the decision of patrons. Clearly many were impacted by the negative media coverage prior to the start of the Games. Others were simply upset at the accusations of corruption that were levelled. Yet others found that the tickets were not readily available as originally indicated, finding themselves being repeatedly told that tickets were sold out even as the stands were empty.
The participating teams were dogged by the absence of crowds and one wonders whether the Organising Committee and the CGF could feel satisfied with the way things went in this regard.
India would have expended
Billions of dollars on its coming out party much like the Chinese did two years ago while hosting the Olympics. The results are starkly different.
In the face of all of the problems however India did prove that it has the capacity to host major sporting events like the Commonwealth Games and even, perhaps one day, the Olympics. The challenges are however ominous but not insurmountable.
It has however to begin by appreciating the fact that hosting such events does not require the reinvention of the wheel but rather recognition that hosts must be open to assistance from those who have been there and done that very, very well.