Sunday, October 3, 2010

Delhi and "The Friendly Games": Let the 2010 Commonwealth Games Begin!

An unidentified girl runs with the Queen's baton with the Taj Mahal in the background, during the baton rally for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Agra, India on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2010. The baton, which contains a message to the athletes from the queen in her role as head of the Commonwealth, will cover more than 190,000 kilometers (117,990 miles) in 340 days before it reaches the Indian capital in time for the Oct. 3, 2010, opening ceremony. (AP Photo/Pawan Sharma)

I certainly wish India all the best with the upcoming Commonwealth Games. It is very sad that there has been such controversy recently about the country's preparedness for these Games, both in terms of site completion, and ongoing social issues, some of which have complicated the work schedule. While on the one hand, India is an emerging economic power, and "the world's biggest democracy", on the other hand social difficulties and inequalities remain, are very stark, and entrenched. It seems to fall into the category of "3rd world country socially" with a "1st world income nationally".

In some ways, the population of India is so great that it is easy for it to the biggest or near biggest whatever: largest middle class (~300 million, ie almost the whole population of the USA); 3rd largest army in the world; 3rd largest Muslim population in the world; 1st largest Muslim minority population in the world; one of the world's largest domestic markets; etc. And certainly when there was recent criticism of the Game venues, the government didn't hesitate to threaten economic reprisals against those countries complaining, or hinting at a boycott.

There are always concerns and controversies about any major international sports event, and these Commonwealth Games are no exception. Some of them are less common ones though: high levels of corruption, massive volunteer walkout one week before the games, alleged racism (against African Commonwealth nations), serious labour violations (paid less than Indian minimum wage, excessive hours, unsafe conditions, ~50 deaths on construction sites, no safety equipment, squalid and crowded living quarters leading to illness, children accompanying working mothers to construction sites), use of child labour  (as young as age 7), mass and arbitrary arrests of beggars, razing of housing on a large scale, human trafficking, sex slavery and prostitution, internal ethnic terrorism, and a potential dengue fever outbreak.

Still, from October 3-14, Delhi will be the site of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, which began as the British Empire Games in 1930, when India was part of the Raj, and the sun never set on the British Empire.  The Commonwealth Games have long been known as "The Friendly Games", and this year is planned to be the same. The mascot will be Shera, modeled on a Royal Bengal Tiger (the animal symbol of India), but also a "large-hearted Indian gentleman", "who loves making friends and enthusing people to ‘come out and play’", and a representative of the modern Indian: "an achiever with a positive attitude, a global citizen but justifiably proud of his nation’s ancient heritage, and a fierce competitor but with integrity and honesty." 71 Teams are invited to "Come out and play" 17 official sports, and as a demonstration sport only, kabbadi, a South Asian team combat sport.

The sun rises over the historic India Gate as Indians jog in the early morning in New Delhi on October 1, 2010. (INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images)

Countries expected to participate

The Queen's Baton Relay, carrying a message from the Queen through all the Commonwealth countries, to its final destination the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, where the Queen's delegate Prince Charles will open the Games and read the message aloud, is nearing completion. Barely a day remains before the start of the Games, but I thought these pictures and captions from India prepares for the Commonwealth Games, which I have rearranged thematically, give some insight into what has gone before. No matter what, the athletes are dedicated to their sport, the Indian workers are courageous in continuing with dignity under such adverse conditions, and the Indian people welcoming.

After the Bid and Before other Preparations

A migrant woman washes clothes behind a Commonwealth Games banner in New Delhi, India, Monday, Sept. 27, 2010. While poverty remains one of India's most intractable and enduring problems, officials have tried to ensure it is not what games visitors remember. Many of this city's beggars have been arrested or forced from the streets, migrants have been rousted, and thousands of homes have been hidden from sight. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Indian slum dweller Amit Kumar stands on the spot where his hut was demolished in New Delhi on September 27, 2010. Before the October 3-14 Commonwealth Games, authorities are trying to hide the miseries of New Delhi - homeless, beggars, families sleeping in the street - to transform the capital of 18 million inhabitants to a "world class city" by razing slums or putting up hoardings to hide them from visitors' view. (MANPREET ROMANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Children search for their belongings among the debris of demolished shanties in Gurgaon, in the northern Indian state of Haryana, September 30, 2010. The shanties were demolished by municipal workers near the Commonwealth Games shooting range on September 28, local media reported. (REUTERS/Parivartan Sharma)

A man rides a bicycle past a billboard spray-painted with graffiti in protest against the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in New Delhi on October 1, 2010. (MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Civic workers fog for mosquitoes at the athletes' village for the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India, Friday, Sept. 24, 2010. (AP Photo)

A civic worker sprays pesticide to eliminate mosquito larvae to check the spread of malaria and dengue fever near the Commonwealth Games village, in New Delhi, India on Sept. 8, 2010. (AP Photo/File)


Indian laborers work in front of the Lawn Bowls venue at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on September 24, 2010 in New Delhi, India. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

An Indian mahout rides on his elephant past the Commonwealth Games Village in New Delhi on October 1, 2010. (MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)

An Indian worker welds a gate, as the sun sets, near the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the main venue for the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India, Friday, Sept. 24, 2010. (AP Photo/Mustafa Quraishi)

A laborer, his face spattered with paint, rests in front of the Commonwealth Games athletes village in New Delhi September 26, 2010. (REUTERS/Parivartan Sharma)

An Indian laborer bathes in the street next to a temporary camp for migrant workers in New Delhi, India, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

A supervisor stands next to an Indian laborer painting markers onto a roadside curb in New Delhi on September 23, 2010. (PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images)

A worker arranges figures of the mascot of the Commonwealth Games before packing them in a factory at Mohali in the northern Indian state of Punjab September 28, 2010. (REUTERS/Ajay Verma (INDIA - Tags: SPORT)

Council of Delhi workers sweep the streets in front of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on September 29, 2010 in New Delhi, India. Workers all across Delhi are scrambling to complete last minute preparations for the upcoming Commonwealth Games. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Workers are seen through security razor-wire as they stand on top of Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, preparing for for the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

A crane lifts debris from a pedestrian bridge that collapsed on Tuesday September 21st outside the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the main venue for the Commonwealth Games, in New Delhi, India. Top Indian officials dismissed international anger over the pedestrian bridge collapse and the revelation that sports officials arrived to find filth in the athlete's village, news reports said Tuesday. The statements come as some athletes announced they would not attend the Commonwealth Games, and international sports officials warned their countries may be forced to withdraw amid a frenzy of last-minute preparations. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Indian workers paste a rainbow sticker on a footbridge that had earlier collapsed, as Indian army trucks unload construction material to build the footbridge in New Delhi, India, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010. (AP Photo/Mustafa Quraishi)

An inside view of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and the newly-installed aerostat, a large helium balloon designed to lift equipment and lights and to serve as a central projection screen, in New Delhi on September 15, 2010. (MANPREET ROMANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Laborers work on a giant puppet inside New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium as part of preparations for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, September 13, 2010. (REUTERS/Adnan Abidi)

A worker cleans the window of a room meant for athletes at the Commonwealth Games village, in New Delhi, India on Sept. 16, 2010 - the Akshardham temple in the background. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup, File)

The Athlete's Village for the Commonwealth Games is seen behind the Akshardham temple, in New Delhi, India on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)


An Indian police officer stands guard outside the Dr. S.P. Mukherjee Swimming Stadium, the swimming venue of the Commonwealth Games, in New Delhi, India, Friday, Oct. 1, 2010. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

A security officer is seen in a guard tower amidst billowing smoke from anti-mosquito fumigation at the Commonwealth Games athletes' village New Delhi, India, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010. (AP Photo/Gurinder Osan)

A security guard stands guard outside the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, the main venue of the Commonwealth Games early in the morning in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010. With athletes trickling into New Delhi on Saturday and cleaning crews rushing to scour their rooms, the Commonwealth Games chief said India was working hard to ensure it is prepared to host the beleaguered sporting event scheduled to start Oct. 3, though much remains to be done. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)

Nagaland police personnel stand guard near the Commonwealth Games headquarters in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010. (AP Photo/ Mustafa Quraishi)


A swimmer takes part in a training session at the Dr. S.P. Mukherjee Aquatics Complex ahead of the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games on October 1, 2010 in Delhi, India. (Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

Athletes practice as a thick white cloud from fumigation floats above the field at the Commonwealth Games village, in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

A man performs Mallakhamb (gymnast's pole) during a practice session at a playground in Mumbai September 13, 2010. Mallakhamb is a combination of traditional Indian gymnastics and martial arts and it can be traced back to the 12th century. For centuries, the sport has been dormant but is now regaining popularity in the country. The group will perform during the opening and closing ceremonies at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, according to their coach. (REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui)

A member of the Bhiwani Boxing Club practices inside a stadium in Bhiwani in the northern Indian state of Haryana September 9, 2010. The club consists of more than 150 members, out of which three have been selected to compete in the 2010 Commonwealth Games that will be held in New Delhi, club officials said on Thursday. Picture taken September 9, 2010. (REUTERS/Adnan Abidi)

New Zealand's cycling team take part in a training session at the Indragandhi Sports Complex which holds the cycling, gymnastics and the wrestling events ahead of the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games on October 1, 2010 in Delhi, India. (Feng Li/Getty Images)

Australian hockey player Glenn Turner (right) shoots on goal as England's Richard Smith attempts to block the shot during a practice match as they prepare for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, on October 1, 2010. (WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)

A diver prepares to make a practice dive at the Dr. S.P. Mukherjee Aquatics Complex on October 1, 2010 in Delhi, India. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

A competitor dives during training at the Dr. S.P. Mukherjee Aquatics Complex ahead of the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games on October 1, 2010 in Delhi, India. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)


An Indian woman watches as the Queen's Baton relay arrives at the historic Vijay Chowk of Lutyen's Delhi in New Delhi on October 1, 2010. (INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images)

Indian students dressed in folk costumes wait to perform in a welcoming ceremony for athletes at the Commonwealth Games athletes' village in New Delhi, India, Friday, Oct. 1, 2010. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)

Team members from Cook Islands applaud during a flag hoisting ceremony at the Commonwealth Games village in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010. (AP Photo/Gurinder Osan)

Indian schoolgirls wait to perform during the welcome ceremony at the Commonwealth Games Village in New Delhi on October 1, 2010. (PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)

What are your impressions of the controversies about the 2010 Commonwealth Games?
How important was it for India to have the Games over other bidders?
What does it mean for India's profile in the world to host these Games?
Is the country ready for this?
Has the attention to negative social realities been overall a positive or a negative thing?
Will your country be participating?
Are you planning to follow the Games?
Favourite sports?
Are the Games themselves worthwhile, or a colonial relic, or too unimportant compared to the Olympics?
Any other comments, thoughts, impressions?

In this photo taken on September 13, 2010, a view of Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium is seen at dusk in New Delhi. (MANPREET ROMANA/AFP/Getty Images)


Wendy said...

I just hope they can pull it off without too many problems. It's unfortunate that there wasn't good leadership during all of this. It is probably no surprise that there have been problems what with graft and corruption running rampant in India.
I was surprised that nobody seemed to realize what was happening (or not happening) until so close to the end. India will always be a fascinating country for me in so many ways. I truly don't want the games to fail or to bring any further black eyes to the country.

Chiara said...

Wendy--I also hope for the best for these Games, and for India's reputation regarding them. However I am perplexed at the choice, given how unprepared they were at the time of the bid. I recognize that there are a lot of politics involved in which place gets the games and a wish to favour new venues, but I would have liked to see these Games in 2010 go to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada because of the history. The first Games were held there in 1930, and Hamilton did put in a bid for these Games. They had more infrastructure at the time of the bidding, and wouldn't have had these particular readiness problems. Still, it is historic in another way to have these Games in India.

The photos here of the working conditions really bother me--especially the one of the welder doing such an attentive job, and with so little safety equipment; the boy worker washing at a spigot, and the man with the paint splattered all over him. I fantasize I see safety harnesses on the workers high on the structure, because the thought of a fall is a nightmare.

The festivities will be colourful and beautiful I am sure. All teams are intending to show up, though not all athletes, so it should be a good competition.

I will be watching the synchro events at the very least!

Thanks again for your comment!

Wendy said...

Chiara, you are right about the lack of safety equipment - it is horrifying. I guess I'm rather used to seeing these conditions in Africa and and ME countries and pictures of workers in China and other parts of the world.
I hope the opening ceremonies will be shown again as I would imagine they were beautiful. Reading the news this morning the Canada handlers are fighting very hard to ensure the athletes get looked after and it sounds an uphill battle but it's being won.

All these events now are political and not what they should be and that's rather sad.

Chiara said...

Wendy-thanks for your further comment. Though I have also seen workers in Morocco, and especially China with no safety equipment to speak of (the latter in a steel plant no less, and moving molten steel around), I still have an OMG reflex, and then a rapid "first aid/emergency medicine run through" goes through my brain. I can't even walk buy roofers in Canada without having the same reflex. I worry about them falling, and then quite ignobly, worry about having to attend to the "splat". :(

Thanks again for your follow up.

I hope others will jump in!

Majed said...

I have no doubt whatsoever, that, indian officials were quite sure that India will make everything ready in time to have the event carried out very successfully, despite their unquestioned awareness of the scaring level of corruption that is corroding the very foundations of our nation, and that is why they always make arrangments when they appropriate budget money to a certain project as to make up for the money that drains through dirty channels to the greedy leeches who live and prosper on sucking the nation `s blood, the officials themselves.

that is why they offered to pay $125000 for each country participating in the games, and that is how Delhi won the bid against Hmilton by 46-22 votes while Canada offered $70000 each country, and the Indians also promised the athletes of travelling fairs and luxurious accommodations while in india.

I felt very sad and embarassed when BBC,CNN, TV5 of france and others kept for days slandering and distorting the image of india on sattelite channels and repeatedly showing the video clip that shows animal poop on a bed linen and a dirty bathroom, they should have at least shown something that was good besides I am sure there was something worth mentioning and many of those teams threatened to boycott the games it was quite a scene.

What everyone forgot to mention is that the main reason was the incessant monsoon rains which lasted for weeks that hampered the completion of preparations not only negligence and corruption,as due to this heavy continuous rains even snakes, lizard and scorpions where looking for higher grounds and taking shelter in cars and houses I think those poor labourers mentioned in the post are no less than those creatures, they also need and deserve shelter from rain and safty from snake bites and stings of scorpions that was roaming the all over the ground.

Yet, the indian government is to blamed for having muddled india 's and indians reputations in the ground, there are a lot of things that could have been done to save our faces and spare us the shame.

It is right that indian democracy is the Largest democracy and it is also a monopoly and legacy of a handful of politically powerful families and only those who has financial power no matter the source of of their money can ever think of getting into it. in an earlier comment I said that a vast majority of indian politicians have criminal backgrounds ranging from minor crimes upto capital crimes. that is 100% true and due to them and due to peoples ignorance and innocence we are lagging behind.
And India remains Great.


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