The Oct 3-14 Delhi Commonwealth Games were in the eye of a storm before they began, but the splendid opening ceremony came as a turning point. Let's take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of the mega event, which is still making news for the right and wrong reasons.
First, what's good about it.
The opening ceremony: Around 7,000 artists put up a spectacular display of Indian art and culture, making for a grand welcome for the 6,000 Games athletes and delegates. The three-hour-long show saw a giant airostat float above the crowds in the night air, reflecting iconic images of Mahatma Gandhi, the Taj Mahal and the Buddha. As the crowds at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium went wild with enthusiasm, millions felt proud just watching it on television.
Volunteers: They have made up one of the strongest pillars of the Games. Assisting on almost every front, the 15,000-odd volunteers, trained for over three months, are earning a good name for the event. From guiding and controlling guests to extending small courtesies, they are doing it all.
Food: Paranthas, pastas, Punjabi dishes and vegetable biryani at the Games Village are giving everyone a high. CWG Federation chief Mike Fennell has been all praise as have the participants been. A mini 'Chandni Chowk' dishing out the snacky street flavours of old Delhi gave an upset belly to some, but overall the elaborate menu has enthused.
Games Village: Arrangements have made the thousands of athletes and delegates putting up here happy. The teams, fed on negative stories, have been left wide-eyed at the world class treatment, complete with luxurious rooms, salons, a bar and even a disco.
Next, the bad.
Delays: The delay in completion of Games work, last-minute glitches and shortcomings that dogged the event right until they began were a major embarrassment. The collapse of a bridge outside the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium attracted the worst criticism.
Last-minute hygiene issues at the CWG Village, complete with loitering dogs and snakes, prompted the international media to dub India as unprepared.
Traffic: Clogged roads were the worst part for Delhiites. With a whole lane dedicated to vehicles for CWG athletes and delegates, traffic moved at a snail's pace. While the fear of high fines kept many out, some took the opportunity to slip into dedicated lates when no one was watching - or so they thought. There were over 1,600 'challans' or fines by Sunday.
Public transport: With the Delhi government encouraging the use of public transport but at the same time taking 1,500 private blueline ones off the road, the masses had to bear the brunt of overcrowded DTC buses.
The Metro train remained the fastest and best option, but again was choked. A separate coach for women came up but couldn't make much difference to the overcrowding in other compartments.
Tickets: For most events, while ticket counters showed 'full' signs, the stadiums remained empty. Of the 1.7 million Commonwealth Games (CWG) tickets, the bulk reached counters here a day after the opening ceremony -- some so late they ended up with the scrap dealer, unused. With irregularities in ticket sale, the organising committee even had to replace the ticketing head.
Now for the ugly.
Bad press: Continuous criticism from the Western media has dogged India, which is now putting up a good show at the Games. Australia is where many negative stories erupted from. Swimmers even complained of a stomach bug here even as Village authorities issued denials.
Racism: Racist comments have made their way into the Games. South African swimmer Roland Schoeman described the crowds as "monkeys" for shouting continuously. An English official used an expletive against Indian archery head coach Limba Ram in two different incidents. Then again a New Zealand TV anchor made fun of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit's name.
India too has been accused on this front. First, Malawi objected to being called 'one of the least developed countries' during the opening ceremony, while Uganda complained against the unapologetic attitude of the Indian administration after its players met with an accident at the Village. While Doordarshan apologised for the comment on Malawi during the opening ceremony, the organising committee said sorry to the Ugandan team as well.
Corruption: Treadmills on hire at Rs.9 lakh, air conditioners at Rs.4 lakh, toilet paper at Rs.3,757, umbrellas at Rs.6,000 per piece! From the exorbitant rates to Scheduled Caste funds being diverted for construction work, these Games have certainly been sullied by allegations of massive corruption.