Like many other citizens, I was concerned when I read the headlines earlier this week about how unprepared Delhi is to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games. While much needs to be done in setting up the physical infrastructure, all that is a necessary condition, but not a sufficient one.
When you visit a foreign country, especially to experience something as big as the Commonwealth Games, your experience starts with travel bookings, hotel confirmations, flight convenience, the airport experience, the taxis, etc. The quality of rooms, the information and services available in hotels and guesthouses, the courtesy and professionalism of the hosts are all part of the larger issue of ‘infrastructure’. These ‘softer aspects’ are what make a deep and lasting impact.
Having travelled to Beijing many times on work, I perceived a change in 2006. Cab drivers were greeting me in reasonably proficient English; I was getting bills for my fare, and the people were wearing the pride of being hosts of the Olympic Games, then still two years in the future, on their faces. On April 11, 2007, the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games had launched a four-day workshop to train the 110-member staff whose job was to deal with the over 100,000 volunteers during the Games. Some 450,000 people had applied.
To carry out an event like the Commonwealth Games successfully, we must set the highest standards and not get hemmed in by current constraints. People who are the best in the business from wherever in the world should be brought in to ensure flawless execution at short notice. Three-four-member committees headed by a chairperson should be formed with clear responsibilities and authorities — the committee size being small enough to function smoothly and with a clear line of accountability. Fifty thousand volunteers should be recruited and start training on different functions they will be performing during the games. They should be linked to training institutes for the service (airlines and hotels) industries.
Between exponents of our traditional music and art forms and those of ballet, modern dance and Bollywood choreography, we should ensure that a fabulous show is put up for the opening ceremony that the world talks about for times to come. Weekly progress updates on various fronts should be published in the newspapers and 5 kilometre runs and other mass participative events should be undertaken along with public trips to the stadia as well as to the parks, monuments and museums that make up the rich history and culture that is contemporary Delhi.
These are the things that will begin to make a difference. This is not the time to point fingers or to build fiefdoms or to look for reasons why something cannot be done. This is the time to focus on the goal at hand: hosting a fantastic 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
Rahul Verghese is a Delhi-based brand-consultant