With less than two years to go for the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, there is a very real chance that Delhi could lose the right to host the 2010 edition if the organising committee does not get its act together on time. The Commonwealth Games Federation panel reviewed the preparations recently and its Chairman Austin Sealy said that if the organisers were forced to shift the athletes’ village from its present location at this late stage, it would jeopardise India’s chances of hosting the Games. The panel also raised concerns over the delay in starting the velodrome construction and urged the organisers to intensify efforts. Construction delays have already forced next year’s world badminton championships to be shifted to Hyderabad.
Mr Sealy’s comment should not surprise anyone, least of all the organisers. From the initial stages, the Games village, which is being built on the earthquake-prone bed of the Yamuna river, was embroiled in a legal case after a petition raised environmental concerns over the project. The Games village site violates a Delhi High Court order that prohibits encroachment on the Yamuna flood plains.
Inter-party politics also delayed things and proved how our leaders failed to rise above petty rivalries, even when the country’s international prestige is at stake. With elections round the corner, this has become a hot issue with the Opposition BJP hoping to earn some brownie points. The BJP’s chief ministerial candidate, V.K. Malhotra, insists that the Games village would not have been there if his party was in power. Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit countered this, saying that her government did not review the sites — this was done during the tenure of a Lieutenant Governor who was from the BJP. Even as this meaningless duel continued, there was no discussion on how to move forward and make sure we don’t end up losing the Games.
But when it came to study tour junkets, however, everyone from the Chief Minister to sundry officials went out abroad to assess the situation on the ground. Whatever happened after that is anybody’s guess. The Games could have been a tremendous opportunity to reinvent the city, showcase it as a city on the move or even bid for the Olympics 2020. But at the pace at which things are moving, we seem to have lost the race before it has even begun.