Going Mad in Delhi


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

October 08, 2015
Michael Horton
Why is the US Aiding and Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Genocidal War in Yemen?
Ben Debney
Guns, Trump and Mental Illness
Pepe Escobar
The NATO-Russia Face Off in Syria
Yoav Litvin
Israeli Occupation for Dummies
Lawrence Davidson
Deep Poverty in America: the On-Going Tradition of Not Caring
Thomas Knapp
War Party’s New Line: Vladimir Putin is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
Brandon Jordan
Sowing the Seeds of War in Uruguay
Binoy Kampmark
Imperilled by Unfree Trade: the TPP on Environment and Labor
John McMurtry
The Canadian Elections: Cover-Up and Steal (Again)
Anthony Papa
Coming Home: an Open Letter to 6,000 Soon-to-be-Released Drug War Prisoners From an Ex-Con
Ramzy Baroud
Listen to Syrians: The Media Jackals and the People’s Narrative
Norman Pollack
Heart of Darkness: A Two-Way Street
Gilbert Mercier
Will Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite Militias Defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq?
John Stanton
Vietnam 2.0 and California Dreamin’ in Ukraine
William John Cox
The Pornography of Hatred
October 07, 2015
Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Witness to a Troubled Saint-Making: Junipero Serra and the Theology of Failure
Luciana Bohne
The Double-Speak of American Civilian Humanitarianism
Joyce Nelson
TPP: Big Pharma’s Big Deal
Jonathan Cook
Israel Lights the Touchpaper at Al-Aqsa Again
Joseph Natoli
The Wreckage in Sight We Fail To See
Piero Gleijeses
Cuba’s Jorge Risquet: the Brother I Never Had
Andrew Stewart
Do #BlackLivesMatter to Dunkin’ Donuts?
Rajesh Makwana
#GlobalGoals? The Truth About Poverty and How to Address It
Joan Berezin
Elections 2016: A New Opening or Business as Usual?
Dave Randle
The Man Who Sold Motown to the World
Adam Bartley
“Shameless”: Hillary Clinton, Human Rights and China
Binoy Kampmark
The Killings in Oregon: Business as Usual
Harvey Wasserman
Why Bernie and Hillary Must Address America’s Dying Nuke Reactors
Tom H. Hastings
Unarmed Cops and a Can-do Culture of Nonviolence
October 06, 2015
Vijay Prashad
Afghanistan, the Terrible War: Money for Nothing
Mike Whitney
How Putin will Win in Syria
Paul Street
Yes, There is an Imperialist Ruling Class
Paul Craig Roberts
American Vice
Kathy Kelly
Bombing Hospitals: 22 People Killed by US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan
Ron Jacobs
Patti Smith and the Beauty of Memory
David Macaray
Coal Executive Finally Brought Up on Criminal Charges
Norman Pollack
Cold War Rhetoric: The Kept Intelligentsia
Cecil Brown
The Firing This Time: School Shootings and James Baldwin’s Final Message
Roger Annis
The Canadian Election and the Global Climate Crisis
W. T. Whitney
Why is the US Government Persecuting IFCO/Pastors for Peace Humanitarian Organization?
Jesse Jackson
Alabama’s New Jim Crow Far From Subtle
Joe Ramsey
After Umpqua: Does America Have a Gun Problem….or a Dying Capitalist Empire Problem?
Murray Dobbin
Rise Up, Precariat! Cheap Labour is Over
October 05, 2015
Michael Hudson
Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism
Patrick Cockburn
Why We Should Welcome Russia’s Entry Into Syrian War