The 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games kicked off on Sunday and, despite negative reports in the lead up to the opening, so far there have been no major incidents to speak of. The worst thing that has happened (apart from having to resurface the athletics track), is that Dehli belly has hit a number of the participants.According to reports in late September, only 200,000 of the 1.7 million tickets available had been sold and stands for events for the first two days have barely been filled. Clearly, the negative stories have had an impact on ticket sales.
But let’s not forget that while India is the 11th largest economy in the world and one of the fastest growing, it’s also a country of tremendous financial divide. 42% of India falls below the international poverty line and is estimated to have a third of the world’s poor. Despite strong local support, how many tickets were ever going to be sold in India? And if hosting the Games was to attract an international audience to experience the country, why isn’t the rest of the global community there in numbers?
Beyond the financial implications for Delhi, we should be considering what this negative PR done may have done to the reputation for the Commonwealth Games? Think back to Sydney and Manchester and the feeling of goodwill that resonated for months after. At the moment, there is a real danger that India will be remembered only for the bad.
So what does this mean for the Games and more especially Glasgow in 2014?
No doubt there will be a high level review of every aspect of the Delhi Games and there will be much talk of lessons learned. But the danger is that expectations will now be even higher for Glasgow to deliver a world class event without incident and for the 2014 event to be used to restore the Games’ reputation. That is a huge challenge, bigger than anything the Games Scottish Organising Committee signed up for.
Just look at news coverage of the “Last Grandmother Standing” evicted from her home to make way for the athletes’ village. If that’s what’s happening four years out, what will it be like by 2014?
The Glasgow Commonwealth Games committee have plenty of time to learn from the mistakes made this year and Delhi still has time to warm the audience back up to the games and all it stands for. Let’s just hope that on the 14th of October when the baton, the symbol of the games, is handed over to Glasgow, the bad reputation isn’t handed over with it.