Commonwealth Games: Is India Prepared?

It’s been a while since we have been listening to the slogan “Atithi devo bhav” and goggling at advertisements and posters trying to educate us about civic sense and Indian honor. Hang on, it’s not some cheesy election campaign, rather it’s an effort contributing towards the upcoming common wealth games going to be held in none other than our ‘saddi’ Delhi. One can easily see ‘Shera’ the mascot being flaunted at the gate of every educational institution along with almost every important place in the city. Construction work is being implemented everywhere, metros are being introduced even in the remotest parts of Delhi, roads are being cleaned and graveled again, airports are being enlarged, policemen are being trained to handle a larger and more sophisticated crowd, security checks are being made everywhere, restaurants are being booked well in advance, one can almost hear the sound of cheers and feel the vibes of excitement and pride in the air.

The common wealth games would be a huge undertaking with 8,000 athletes flying over to Delhi from 71 different countries to participate. With 10,000 expected visitors and 30,000 eager volunteers, it is expected to be a huge success. However, there are questions being aroused, doubting the capacity of our country, citizens, and our officers as would we be able to host the event all by ourselves? Or would we be able to show the hospitality to all the visitors in the country? And would we be able to provide them good accommodation and food? The road sense of Indian drivers has always been criticized; public transport is even worse, layers of thick, choking pollution, the sanitation problem, thriving beggars and thieves in the streets, and much more. No doubt, the idea of hosting the games looks quite bleak. But by any chance that does not prove our incapacity to host the games. Games come and go in all the cities and countries around the world, leaving their social problems and personal interactions intact. They don’t change any of the enormous social problems prevailing in any of the big cities. Traffic, slums, air quality, pickpockets, crack houses, beggars, lack of congenial environment, all these problems are a part and parcel of any city life, not just Delhi. And any events such as common wealth games are not meant to change them or even get affected by them for that matter.

The common wealth games mean a lot to India on the world stage. And measures are being taken to make it a huge success. GNCTD has allocated a sum of Rs. 11.89 billion to upgrade and expand the infrastructure of our city. The Indira Gandhi International Airport has witnessed the formation of the longest runway in Asia, 4.43 meters, for double sided landing and takeoff to accommodate the huge air traffic. A six laned national highway NH8 has been built for well connectivity with the airport to ensure a better transport for the visitors. A four laned underground stretch of 2.2 km from ring road to lodhi has been built linking the games village to Jawahar Lal Nehru stadium, reducing the travel time for athletes. Our home secretary G.K. Pillai has ensured that there would be 2,000 CCTV cameras operating on the roads besides those inside the competition venues to ensure the safety of the athletes, visitors as well as our own citizens. Even the most traffic congested city of Delhi is not visibly smog infested anymore.

With so much going on and so much more yet to accomplish, the visitors and the athletes would be chaperoned through the games, without really affecting them in any way. Similar to the Beijing’s plan, namely shut down the factories, remove vehicles from the road around the time of games, rounding off pesky homeless people off the streets, a lick of paint to the city, filling up the ponds, illuminating the tourist areas, and rounding up the cows and beggars for a few weeks should be enough to carry on. It would all be a bit cosmetic though, and the tangible ones like the new metros, and better hospitality and kindness of the Indian nature would no doubt help in creating good everlasting and cherished memories. Delhi will show off in her party best for a few weeks, and hardly anyone would notice the existing problems in the city. Like most of the first time visitors, they would visit the country to enjoy our rich cultural heritage, watch the sport with the passionate and wild Indian crowd, go shopping, eat delicious food and leave with a starry potted rosy view of the Indian culture hoping to return again someday. Sheila Dixit, the Chief Minister of Delhi, herself agreed in one of her interviews that Delhi is running a lot behind the schedule, but let’s just hope it catches up in time. Till then let God bestow his blessing on Indian people and our country, Amen.

Rachayeta Singla