At the heart of every Commonwealth Games lies the Olympic ideal. The spirit of athletes competing for their own sake. The spirit of the amateur athlete. And the spirit of athletes being ambassadors of their nations, bringing the varied cultures of the Commonwealth nations into closer contact.
The early fears that in Delhi, these ideals may not be realised have been proved groundless. With Thursday’s closing ceremony as spectacular as the opening, with most of the sporting events in the 11 days in between going off without a hitch, Delhi could deservedly bask in the thanks and congratulations that speakers at the closing ceremony heaped on it.
Initially, some of the fears seemed to be coming true. Not content with the botch-ups in the run-up to the Games, the organisers made it virtually impossible for Delhiites to buy tickets, leading to empty stands and very little atmosphere during the sporting encounters.
But as soon as tickets were easily available, all that changed. Not only did Delhiites throng events like wrestling and boxing (in which India has a record of doing well), they also turned up in large numbers for athletics and gymnastics (where Indians have been known to lag behind by global standards).
At the end, sport was the winner. The crowds cheered the triumphs of athletes from all over. And they stood with pride each of the 38 times the national anthem — following each gold medal win — played out.
The Indian contingent’s total haul of 101 medals surpassed all expectations. What next? Bring on the Olympics? Perhaps.