Like Guido, the hero of Roberto Benigni’s 1997 film Life Is Beautiful, those entrusted with organising the Delhi Commonwealth Games must have misread the great 19th century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. Guido and his real-life compatriots in Delhi seem to believe that what Schopenhauer stressed in his treatise, The World As Will And Idea, was that if you will something forcefully enough, it will happen. Only if... Just repeating the ‘Yes, we can’ mantra doesn’t make us a First World country, make us a global power, or, as in the case at hand — make Delhi prepared to host ‘the best Commonwealth Games ever’. First, the evidence. As this paper reported yesterday, freshly-constructed venues have been washed away, about to collapse, already come down, damaged badly or leaking badly. Concerns about the completion of projects in time had earlier brought Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit out of the wings to announce an August 30 deadline. Now that worry has been subsumed by a bigger one: will the structures hold up? Keeping a time schedule is one thing; maintaining quality and safety control, especially when constructions take place at a blistering pace, is quite another. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.
It would be churlish to even suggest at this stage that the Commonwealth authorities may have bitten off more than they can chew — especially when their definition of ‘chew’ may not match up to international standards. But to worry about the quality of preparation isn’t something we should sidestep just because it’s bad form. Frankly, it’s better to hyperventilate along rational lines about construction and organisational shortcomings in Delhi’s Commonwealth Games preparations now and to correct them, than to leave things to only blind optimism and that unreliable fuel in brick and mortar matters as these, patriotism. Surely the authorities are already taking stock of the quality of work being done as you read this to ensure that further embarrassment at an international scale (since, as a nation, our threshold for embarrassment is rather high) does not occur.
As for the concerns of top athletes such as sprinter Usain Bolt, swimmer Cate Campbell and cyclist Chris Hoy giving the Commonwealth Games a miss because their dates clash with Olympics qualifier events, there’s little the authorities can do. Except to thank their stars that the Indian public — hopefully not overwhelmingly comprising officials and policemen — wouldn’t know that they are absent. Instead, let the authorities put up a show in October that doesn’t cut corners or make life hell for those who are the real hosts of the Delhi Commonwealth Games: the worried people of New Delhi.