In the end — or should we say, by the time it started? — it was a gala affair without a hitch that made everyone sit up and take note. Such has been the journey up to the opening ceremony of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi that people can be forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief and considering the dazzling display at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Sunday evening as a success just by dint of the fact that nothing untoward happened. India showed its best colours and Delhi enjoyed its reputation as a great host. Kudos to those who organised the show on Sunday and made many of us proud. The fact that things can be done and done with aplomb was driven home not so much to the world at large but more to our own selves. Over the last so many months, we have swayed from illogical pride to illogical (self) derision, no small thanks to the chaos strewn all around before the show started. The truth, as in most occasions, lay in the middle: the journey to the destination was nerve-wracking and embarrassing but the destination has been reached.
The presence of spectators from all walks of life attending the opening night of a fortnight-long multi-sports event was more than just a heartening sight. It showed that with the right effort to showcase a sporting event — a non-cricketing one at that — people will be interested. The dignified address and welcome note by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pratibha Patil set the tone for India’s role as a host of the Games. Both speeches also showed how we need not overstate things and use such platforms for chest-thumping. What we set on the table should speak for our capabilities.
Which brings us to the slightly embarrassing bit where there was a speech that used the event as a platform for some out-of-place India brand-building. Talking about how great an economic power we are and how ‘world-class’ we’ve become isn’t what hosting an international sporting event is all about. Doordarshan commentators went one step further by embarrassingly pointing out (when an African contingent was marching past) that the country was “one of the least developed nations in the world”. But such lack of tact was amicably made up by the grand display put on by hundreds of performers. And we hope that all of us gain genuine pleasure by following a sporting spectacle underway in our backyard and be proud that such an opportunity has come our way.