Commonwealth Games in Delhi, Some Thoughts
— ABHIJATYA DHAR
The CWG is the talk of the town, reasonably so, as the games will be held in Delhi later this year. The history of the same is interesting. In 1911, the ‘Festival of Empire’, held in London, celebrated the coronation of King George V. Teams from various countries participated and competed for the coveted silver cup in boxing, swimming, wrestling, athletics, etc. for the ‘Inter-Empire Championship’ Trophy. The winner was Canada.
The first CWG, then known as the ‘British Empire Games’, were held in Canada in 1930 in Hamilton, Ontario, as perceived by a Canadian, Marc Robinson in 1929. Its success made it a regular event every four years (except for 1942 and 1946 when they were disrupted by World War II). In 1950, its name changed to ‘The British Empire and Commonwealth Games.’
During 1966-74, they were called the ‘British Commonwealth Games’ and from 1978 onwards, their nomenclature was ‘The Commonwealth Games’.
Unlike other games as Pan-American, Asian, African or winter Olympics, that are founded on geographical or climatic factors, the CWG is founded on history. A unique characteristic of this event is that everyone shares a common language and converses with each other in English.
The CWG 2010 is going to be the biggest multi-sport event. The hosting of this event is India’s first opportunity and Asia’s second. There is a lot of euphoria and hype about the upcoming sporting extravaganza in Delhi, the Indian capital. However, some vital issues have to be looked into.
An already congested city of Delhi is struggling with problems of traffic, unending construction work, dug up roads for accommodating flyovers and metro tracks and malls, overgrowing population, scarcity of water and electricity, high prices of essential commodities, etc. To add to the woes of the common man, the Delhi government has announced a cash crunch and a steep price hike to be expected as the games loom large on Delhi horizon. Almost everything, from LPG, fuel, diesel, petrol, clothes, mobiles, to cinema tickets will cost more, as a lot of money will be required to organise such an event. An increase in taxes as well as lowering of government subsidy will only make matters worse for the common man. Does he stand to gain or lose something into the bargain remains to be seen.
The objective of the Delhi government is clear. It wants to present a picture of ‘India Shining’ to the rest of the world, showcasing India as a youthful sporting country, a prosperous happy and modern 21st century nation with a fast developing economy. The authorities want to establish that in terms of sophistication, infrastructure and safety, India is probably at par with its western counterparts and is not just a country of snake charmers, spirituality and yoga, which may be the standard international image. The government, thus, is abolishing slums, building malls covering up loopholes, flaws and poverty, also to boost international tourism as a side benefit. To showcase sporting talent of India and to establish sports as a serious career, a summit was organised in the India Habitat Centre in the last week of March.
Since Delhi is a polluted city, the IITM, Pune, has developed a pollution monitoring system to ensure clean and fresh air around game venues. Rs.26,000 crores have been spent on infrastructure, Rs 7,000 crores on roads and stadium and Rs 40.84 crores on police modernisation. More than 12,000 new police posts have been created. From October 3 to 14, 2010, the world will witness this gala event.
However, there is a flip side to it. Delhites will see a steep hike in prices of essential commodities of almost everything — food, petrol, electricity, vegetables, meat, tea, coffee, road fares, and so on. The report of the parliamentary committee says that the work done so far and arrangements and preparations made are far from satisfactory, problems exist in all areas — parking, basic amenities, surface transport, entertainment, accommodation, roads, airports, power and water supply and others. There is a dispute between environmentalists and the government regarding the Yamuna riverbed and Pandavnagar near Akshardham temple where athletes’ village has to be built.
It is noteworthy that China’s glorious hosting of the Beijing Olympics was a result of continuous hard work of 6 to 7 years where children in schools were educated systematically in depth about the event and issues related to it to cultivate national pride, the commoners and taxi drivers learnt foreign languages and retired people volunteered to help in whichever way they could.
Delhi, on the contrary, has some peculiar problems. The civic authorities have spent millions on flyovers, buses, bus stops, signage, street scaping and metros to upgrade the poor transport systems. The notorious blue lines are replaced with 3,500 low floor buses and metro network is expanded. The question is where is the room at these new bus stops for a large crowd to wait for buses? Are these low floor buses safe? Some have been catching fire for no apparent reason; metro bridge has collapsed on an occasion also tarnishing the image of Delhi’s local transport after the killer blue lines. 11 lakh people have been evicted from roadside hutments and slums, many are homeless, hence development is only for a few.
Roads are still in bad shape, the city is dirty and crowded as ever, traffic snarls are as common as they were, flyovers are collapsing; accommodation, not ready commutation needs a lot of work, security up-gradation is still at the stage of buying gadgets and fancy equipment... Is there enough time to train the personnel to use the equipment?
The CWG organising committee has recruited 30,000 volunteers under the banner of ‘Delhi United’ to ensure cleanliness and present some culture and etiquette. Suresh Kalmadi, president of IOA and Sheila Dixit, CM, Delhi, have given statements to the Times of India that sound very optimistic of the success of the sports extravaganza but a latent apprehension of a fiasco cannot be ruled out. All Delhites should pray and co-operate to make the event a success as it’s a matter of national pride.
As a Delhite, I swear to keep the city clean, adhere to all rules and regulations and to co-operate in every way I can, to contribute my bit.