What’s your definition of an uber optimist? The answer would have to be Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. For even before we have reached the ‘on your marks’ stage, leave alone the ‘get set’ and ‘go’ of the Commonwealth Games, the dear lady says that our gameplan is to get Delhi ready to bid for the Olympics in 2024. We wonder how Ms Dikshit is so buoyant when the Commonwealth Games Federation chairman Michael Fennell has said that he is extremely worried about New Delhi’s colossal lack of preparedness to host the prestigious event.
The main sports venues are still under construction, connectivity is abysmal and there is a woeful lack of hotel rooms. Even if, by some miracle, we manage to pull it off by 2010, the damage to India’s image has already been done. From the word go, things have not gone smoothly for this mega venture. At first there was political sniping and then of course, bureaucratic delays and red tape. Finances were never a problem, it is just that all sorts of power groups have come up, each more determined to do the other down than get the Games up and running. Ms Dikshit, for all her enthusiasm, has little control over the city’s land use policies, its sanitation, police or traffic. So, much of the inputs for the Games is not really in her hands. It would be a body blow to India if the Games were to be moved to another country. The portents for Delhi are worrying. Already, two flyover projects that were to improve traffic movement for the Games have fallen through due to lack of availability of land. So far, we have seen little official concern over the progress of work on the Games sites. We have, however, seen some unholy interest in the disposal of flats that are being built for the Games village. There really can be no excuse for this cavalier attitude.
New Delhi went into this venture with its eyes wide open. The Games were to herald Delhi’s arrival as a serious sporting venue and as a player in the big league. For quite a while, we were told that work was held up due to the elections. However, when it comes to such an internationally prestigious project, the task should have been left to professionals who do not feel the need to cease work because an election is on. We still hope against all hope that come October 2010, the curtain will go up on our reputation and not down on the Games.