A revelation in the news today from Mike Fennell, president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, “There is still a lot of work to be done.” Now there is an understatement if ever there was one. India’s Commonwealth Games has been under intense criticism lately over security, safety, and sanitation even. The athlete’s village is at the center of concerns over everything from fire alarms to structural integrity of buildings. “Will these games end in disaster?” This is the question on everyone’s mind.
Even as organizers scramble to patch these games together, news of deplorable conditions, even the collapse of a pedestrian bridge at a stadium, hit the presses daily. The images of animal footprints on mattresses, raw sewage, garbage, the gambit of deplorable human condition – how can any world class athlete be asked to attend such? This has to be in the minds of anyone watching. Thinking about these games, it is impossible to escape one element – the haunting reality that India has had seven years to show the world – world class gamesmanship. And now this.
Fennell addressed just this issue with CNN saying;
“Last year, when I paid a visit, I made some very critical remarks about what needed to be done, and there were a lot of people that were upset about those remarks at the time. But I said far more needed to be done very urgently, and I have had visits subsequently … and we pointed out all along the way what needed to be done. So this is not something that was just discovered now.”
Raising a voice, when one is the President of the games? Meanwhile more and more horrendous news seems to emerge from these games the closer we get to the opening ceremonies. On Friday another scandalous bit about child labor being employed in back breaking work – kids 7, 8, and 9 years old we are talking? If ever there were a PR nightmare, India has one in these games. As the world looks to the Indian sub-continent as a refreshing emerging economy and culture – medieval images and squalor make for a bad bedfellow.
Seven thousand athletes are scheduled to descend on Delhi for these games. It seems almost inconceivable, the level of non-professionalism and neglect officials there have displayed. Even a dangerous dengue fever epidemic in Delhi was played down to cover up some of the dangers for athletes and spectators apparently. Meanwhile, Sify online correctly lays this mess at India’s Prime Minister’s feet. Manmohan Singh won’t soon live this one down – not with the whole world watching.
As if on cue, the International Olympic Committee chimed in on this news too saying; .”Global sports events like next month’s Commonwealth Games will always face last-minute problems but it is the way organizers deal with them that will make or break them.” The IOC should know, having had its share of global PR disasters like the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili – another example of sport gone to the dogs. But there is a bright side to these games and the ongoing PR disaster.
Even according to Bloomberg, the backlash – the revelation of actual conditions within India – will likely damage India’s economy. Investment in a system so unstable as to allow this kind of episode? Any investor would be mad to throw resources into such a mess. This goes without saying. This is a $trillion dollar mistake that will not soon be forgotten. Excuses, misdirections, no matter what else happens for the Commonwealth Games, people will remember the images – and the excuses.
All the intelligent voices from India are saying these games will be a worldwide public humiliation for India. Looking at all the images and video from India of late, no one could disagree – these games are a disaster for the Indian people. This is the PR goof of the new Century for India – no doubt about it.
Home image cut from Life Magazine feature image, and center image courtesy Life.