The frenetic pace of construction activity towards meeting the October 3 deadline for the Commonwealth Games has left Delhi looking like a battlefield. Delhiites have coped, mostly uncomplainingly, with the rubble, dust, trenches, and traffic snarls in the hope that less than nine months from now, they would be residents of a world-class city that Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit keeps promising. At the same time, there is a constant query from the public and the media: will Delhi be ready? Those unaware of the workforce of thousands, toiling sometimes in three shifts a day at the height of winter in a race against time to complete the infrastructure, might be sceptical. There is no need to panic yet. Two of the main venues will be completed next month to host international competitions in shooting and hockey. All other venues, except those for athletics and swimming, should be ready by March 31, according to projections. The concerns expressed by the Games Co-ordination Commission over delays in the completion of the athletics and swimming stadiums are, however, genuine. They demand urgent attention from the authorities.
In recent weeks, apprehensions have been expressed in Australia and England over the security risks — with some anonymous senior Whitehall officials quoted as saying there was “virtually no chance” of an England team coming to the Delhi Games in October. Mike Fennell, president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, has rightly taken a dim view of this. In an interview to The Times, he has warned England that there could be repercussions for the London Olympics if it stayed away from the Delhi Games. “A country that wants to host an event,” he has pointed out, “should think how other people will then view the security risks in their own country. The fact is there is always a security risk. Everybody has to make their own decisions but if you don’t go [to Delhi] I suggest you don’t travel anywhere in the world.” Financing the Games remains a major challenge. The Organising Committee has been slow off the blocks with its merchandising plans; as against a target of Rs.1,700 crore needed to pay back the government ‘loan’ of Rs.1,620 crore, it has so far managed to mobilise only about Rs.500 crore in sponsorship deals and television rights. The Committee has also had to work overtime on the technology and operations front. Plans to tackle the notorious Delhi traffic need to be put to test urgently. Finally, although multi-discipline Games are not supposed to be dependent on a few superstars for their success, there will be disappointment if several top-ranked athletes, including Usain Bolt, do not turn up.