By most accounts, the XIX Commonwealth Games 2010 were a success. Held every four years, the Olympics-style event brings together 71 nations, most of whom are members of the Commonwealth (née the British Commonwealth). This year, India had the honor of hosting in Delhi. And the Games were indeed a success. That is, now that they're finished -- and no one died. The leadup was nothing short of disaster.
The snafus included:
- On Sept. 21, a footbridge leading to the main arena collapsed, injuring 23. The accident occurred as construction crews "carried out some last-minute concreting work." It was initially feared that the Games would need to be delayed by 12 days, but the Indian Army stepped in and rebuilt the bridge in "record time."
- Newly built quarters for the athletes were described as "unfit for human habitation" after teams found substandard plumbing and electrical systems, infestations of bugs and snakes, discarded rubbish, even human waste left behind by workers.
- What was described obliquely as "problems with a ticketing system" proved to be shady workers and volunteers trying to scalp tickets -- causing security to prevent even legit ticketholders from attending some events.
- A large chunk of Australia's swim team fell victim to "Delhi Belly," prompting a thorough medical examination of the pools. They were eventually cleared of any wrongdoing.
It was not India's finest hour.
But now, with the footbridge, snakes and feces forgotten, officials are "confident" that India is ready to host the Olympics. Exactly when, no one dares to say. Might I suggest 2032, once the Delhi Metro is finally finished and government officials are no longer so corrupt?
Forgive my cynicism. I truly love India. My wife's family comes from Chandigarh, a few hours north of Delhi, and I've spent a fair amount of time there. But building durable, efficient infrastructure is not one of India's strengths. Labor and materials are cheap, sure, and the country is filled with well-educated engineers, architects and urban planners. But there's just too much corruption, which leads to delays, overruns, and substandard construction -- at best. It's a miracle no one died when that bridge collapsed.
Hosting the Olympic Games is a huge undertaking. As one sporting events expert told the Guardian, "The Olympics is 15 times as big and much more complex." Unless India is willing to build an entirely new city from scratch, it's simply not feasible. Not anytime soon, at least.
Jeff Koyen is the Deputy Online Editor of Travel + Leisure.