FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Going Mad in Delhi

by BINOY KAMPMARK

Everyone has an opinion on it, and few seem to be positive. But the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi is on life support and there are many happy to turn off the switch.  In the face of this, New Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has specialised in the understatement.  ‘There are some problems’, but they were far from ‘insurmountable’.  The Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna has decided to be hyperbolic, claiming that these games would be ‘one of the most successful’ in the history of the competition (The Economic Times, Sep 23).

A terrorist attack has been cited as a genuine one (aren’t they all, according to the wisdom of the authorities?), but such arguments are standard fare in the modern age of mass sporting spectacles.  To single out India as a special case ignores the obvious fact that an attack might happen on any other equivalent event held in another country.

For all the talk about terrorism, the security threats posed by collapsing foot bridges and roofs seem far more cogent.  Yet the argument of chaos and infrastructural problems is far from a new thing.  Order, good timing and planning are rarely features of such events.  Australia’s famed swimmer Kieran Perkins could still remember the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, when ‘they were still paving the village when we arrived.’  Ditto with Atlanta, where ‘roads were still being laid and venues were still being put together’ (ABC PM, Sep 22).

Searching questions were being asked prior to the Athens Olympic Games over specific organisational issues that threatened to delay, if not banish the Greek effort to oblivion.  Rowers were angered by the inappropriate choice of venue, claiming it was more fit for surfers than serious aficionados of the oar.  Teams went missing for hours, kept on coaches whose drivers could not locate their hotels.  And a Ukrainian archery coach found himself bitten by a stray dog, one of a 60,000 strong population (New York Times, Aug 17, 2003).  This has made the Commonwealth Games England President Dame Kelly Holmes optimistic.  ‘I compare it to the Athens Olympics when they were still planting trees on the day it opened.  I don’t think it can get any worse than that’ (Press Trust of India, Sep 22).

There is little doubt that a crisis, of whatever proportions, is afoot.  Timing is everything, and the sporting representatives who chose to arrive a bit too early found a ‘filthy athlete’s village – where excrement was found in some of the rooms’ (Metro, Sep 23). Good things come to those who wait, though waiting is not something sports personalities or officials do very well.

The authorities have also been blessed by rotten luck, with unseasonable weather from a rather stubborn monsoon producing flooding in the athlete’s village and a potential outbreak of dengue fever.  Stagnant pools in the city are an inviting prospect for industrious mosquitoes.  Athletes will be terrified and running for their various pills and syringes.

Debates have also turned to the issue of relevance.  For one thing, the cost of such an event tends to be astronomical, and certainly far in excess of what can be recouped.  Athens continues to lick its wounds after its Olympic efforts of 2004.  A good argument might well be made for the abolition of such events altogether.  But it should be unsurprising that such a fixture has been shaded by misconceptions and diminishing respect for the ‘Commonwealth’ as such.  Promoters of the Commonwealth cite its diverse membership ‘that has come to encompass every region, religion and race on the planet, something no other organisation apart from the UN can boast’ (The Independent, Nov 26, 2009).  Dissenters point to the Commonwealth as something of a consolation price for Britain’s post-empire blues, a retirement home of diminished colonial expectations.  In time, the home might well be closed, and such contenders for membership as Sudan and Yemen might be left in the political cold.

Should these games commence, they are likely to be a diminished affair, with its bright plumage clipped.  Top athletes, citing concern for their children and families, would sooner be safe than sporty.  We would have seen the best theatre off stage, with its chaos, colour and controversy.  Those who do intend to participate will see their medal prospects dramatically improve with the exit of the more fancied names.  May their efforts be rewarded.

BINOY KAMPMARK was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
February 12-14, 2016
Andrew Levine
What Next in the War on Clintonism?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Comedy of Terrors: When in Doubt, Bomb Syria
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh – Anthony A. Gabb
Financial Oligarchy vs. Feudal Aristocracy
Paul Street
When Plan A Meets Plan B: Talking Politics and Revolution with the Green Party’s Jill Stein
Rob Urie
The (Political) Season of Our Discontent
Pepe Escobar
It Takes a Greek to Save Europa
Gerald Sussman
Why Hillary Clinton Spells Democratic Party Defeat
Carol Norris
What Do Hillary’s Women Want? A Psychologist on the Clinton Campaign’s Women’s Club Strategy
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Election: Any Good News for Palestine?
Linda Pentz Gunter
Radioactive Handouts: the Nuclear Subsidies Buried Inside Obama’s “Clean” Energy Budget
Michael Welton
Lenin, Putin and Me
Manuel García, Jr.
Fire in the Hole: Bernie and the Cracks in the Neo-Liberal Lid
Thomas Stephens
The Flint River Lead Poisoning Catastrophe in Historical Perspective
David Rosen
When Trump Confronted a Transgender Beauty
Will Parrish
Cap and Clear-Cut
Victor Grossman
Coming Cutthroats and Parting Pirates
Ben Terrall
Raw Deals: Challenging the Sharing Economy
David Yearsley
Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Formation: Form-Fitting Uniforms of Revolution and Commerce
David Mattson
Divvying Up the Dead: Grizzly Bears in a Post-ESA World
Matthew Stevenson
Confessions of a Primary Insider
Jeff Mackler
Friedrichs v. U.S. Public Employee Unions
Franklin Lamb
Notes From Tehran: Trump, the Iranian Elections and the End of Sanctions
Pete Dolack
More Unemployment and Less Security
Christopher Brauchli
The Cruzifiction of Michael Wayne Haley
Bill Quigley
Law on the Margins: a Profile of Social Justice Lawyer Chaumtoli Huq
Uri Avnery
A Lady With a Smile
Katja Kipping
The Opposite of Transparency: What I Didn’t Read in the TIPP Reading Room
B. R. Gowani
Hellish Woman: ISIS’s Granny Endorses Hillary
Kent Paterson
The Futures of Whales and Humans in Mexico
James Heddle
Why the Current Nuclear Showdown in California Should Matter to You
Michael Howard
Hollywood’s Grotesque Animal Abuse
Steven Gorelick
Branding Tradition: a Bittersweet Tale of Capitalism at Work
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s UN Victory and Redemption of the West
Patrick Bond
World Bank Punches South Africa’s Poor, by Ignoring the Rich
Mel Gurtov
Is US-Russia Engagement Still Possible?
Dan Bacher
Governor Jerry Brown Receives Cold, Dead Fish Award Four Years In A Row
Wolfgang Lieberknecht
Fighting and Protecting Refugees
Jennifer Matsui
Doglegs, An Unforgettable Film
Soud Sharabani
Israeli Myths: An Interview with Ramzy Baroud
Terry Simons
Bernie? Why Not?
Missy Comley Beattie
When Thoughtful People Think Illogically
Christy Rodgers
Everywhere is War: Luke Mogelson’s These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories
Ron Jacobs
Springsteen: Rockin’ the House in Albany, NY
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“The Martian”: This Heroism is for Chinese Viewers Too
Charles R. Larson
No Brainers: When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail