The only word for the Commonwealth Games is ‘shambles’

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Photo by Matt Dunham - WPAPool/Getty Images

Dating as far back as 1930, the Commonwealth Games is not merely a sporting event but more importantly a tradition uniting nations across the globe. India, one of the Commonwealth’s most populous nations, have been privileged with the great responsibility of hosting these games for the first time this year, yet they have found themselves being pummeled with criticism for their lack of planning and organisation not only disrupting the actual running of the events, but even jeopardising the safety of participating countries, with the collapse of one of the constructed bridges injuring close to thirty people.

Many New Delhi residents had hoped that the billions of dollars the country was spending on hosting one of the world’s biggest sporting events would rid the city of its problems. But as construction work was being carried out right up until the scheduled start in early October, it looked like their problems were not being restored by hosting the competition, but instead were being made worse.

Monsoon rain was a constant hindrance for the labourers, working day and night on the various structures needed for the games, with conditions so bad that their health has been a serious concern for many. Dug-up construction sites with shallow pits of muddy water serve as ideal habitats for disease-carrying mosquitoes. Surely this is not just a worry for the Indian workers, but also those competitors heading out to the nation themselves, which concerned many other countries as they prepared to send out their teams. In remarks broadcast last month, the city’s chief minister, Sheila Dikshit, urged the nation to pray in case rain ran right up until the start of the games, when she said. “… I can only pray and request you to pray, the city to pray, the whole country to pray,”

Clearly this is much more than a sporting competition for those directly effected by the games in New Dehli, and their hosting was in essence a glimmer of hope for their troubles. So is the criticism that they have faced fair, considering the environmental disasters plaguing the country over the year?

Scott Stevenson, director of sport for Commonwealth Games Canada, believes it is in his statement issued before his athletes were due to arrive in India, when he said “We recognize that the monsoon rains have made things more difficult for workers here. But the current conditions are unacceptable and we have formally requested that the (Commonwealth Games Federation) and the organizing committee get these issues resolved prior to the athlete arrivals.”

His criticism is mainly directed at the poor state of the Commonwealth Village which Michael Cavanaugh, chairman of Commonwealth Games Scotland, described as “uninhabitable” and “filthy,” not secure, and noted that there were stray dogs lingering around the complex, putting many at risk.

In essence many have blamed poor planning and an embarrassing lack of organisation on the sorry state of the event this year, not ignoring but believing that India’s failure cannot be forgiven or forgotten because of the natural disasters that have plagued the nation. I agree with this completely. India were given an opportunity to display themselves as developing and maturing, and getting a chance to create a new image for themselves for to the world as a whole. I know they have been faced with more than difficult circumstances in trying to do so, but you have to wonder, if those circumstances did not exist and rain did not act as any sort of prevention, would India truly have been giving the world any more hope in their ability to produce a memorable year for the games? I think not.

Yes I believe they failed, but criticising them will not repair the damage they have caused to an already disputable reputation. If anything what we need to realise is not what a travesty they have concocted, but instead what a tragedy the country has faced, as this beacon of hope that they were given in the shape of the Commonwealth Games has been lost. India does not need a telling off right now, it needs sympathy and help as their problems have only gotten worse, and it’s the everyday citizen, just like me and you, who have to pay the price.

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