For months, media representatives had warned the Organising Committee (OC) that the build-up to the Commonwealth Games should not be reduced to a ‘secret', let-us-keep-the-media-out exercise.
The warnings have apparently gone unheeded. On Sunday, accredited media representatives were denied entry into the Dhyan Chand National Stadium by security personnel when they tried to witness a practice match between the Indian men's team and England.
On Saturday, the security did not allow the scribes to enter the stadium to watch a practice session of the Indian women's team.
“The authentication has to be done by the OC. If someone is not being allowed, then he must not have been authorized to enter the stadium,” said the Delhi Police spokesman.
An OC spokesman confirmed that startling news. “Yes we have issued instructions (not to allow the media), but we will review this on Monday.”
On Saturday, journalists were made to run from one gate to the other by policemen on the argument that they were trying to enter through the wrong gate.
“Please dial 100, this is the number to help common citizens in distress,” one of the policemen said. Obviously, etiquette is the last thing that has been taught to these policemen in their training, if there was one, while preparing them for the Games.
In other countries, during the Olympics, Asian Games or Commonwealth Games, or for that matter any international championship, security personnel go out of their way to help everyone.
The police had harassed the scribes no end during the World Cup hockey tournament in February-March last, and the ‘test events' in various disciplines after that.
The OC Chairman, Suresh Kalmadi, had promised better access control then. But the nightmare is back. And this looks to be just the beginning.
For a Games already hit by scams, roof leaks, bridge collapse, filthy ‘Games Village' and stinking toilets, issues such as the lack of a proper build-up, stadia being declared out of bounds for the media for months, and black-outs of teams' activities and athletes' entries makes matters much worse.
The ‘best ever'
Nowhere in the world do we have a situation like this, except for entry into the main stadium during opening ceremony rehearsals or during a security lock-down, normally 24 hours before opening.
But then the OC and the CGF have set the ground rules for these games claimed to become the ‘best ever', without the journalists knowing who has come, who is participating and who else could be coming.
On Sunday, officials at the Nehru Stadium also complained of harassment at the hands of security-men and said that for the first time in their experience, in an Olympics or at any major championship anywhere in the world, the policemen would be manning the ‘field of play' (FOP) also in these Games which would make it extremely complicated.
On Saturday night, a team from OC, despite having proper authorization, and cleared by the Ministry of Home Affairs, doing the job of erecting ‘view-cutters' around portions of the outer periphery of the National Stadium, was prevented from carrying out its job by the police.
The Police did admit that it knew of the OC team's job of installing view-cutters as a security measure, on the request of Delhi Police, but it would not allow the same since there was a ‘lockdown'.
A case of the right hand not knowing what the left was doing!
The National Stadium, by the way, will look almost similar to the Central Vista during the World Cup, all but out of view from the front, barring an opening to let VIP vehicles through. Holding the Games ‘in camera' would be an option worth considering!