Sunday, September 26, 2010

Lemming Tracks: 2010 Commonwealth Games and Bad Publicity

An important issue, for the Lemming, is why it took India five years to get started on "proper preparations" for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Maybe the leaders didn't realize just how much work goes into putting together an international sporting event. Maybe there was political and/or bureaucratic wrangling over who got credit for India's triumph. Or maybe it's part of that non-western relaxed approach to tasks that Americans of the sixties were told was such a wonderful idea.

Whatever the underlying cause(s), today India is not getting particularly good publicity.

"Snakes?" Only One was Reported

"India removes snakes, filth to ready Games village"
Reuters (September 26, 2010)

"Workers painted walls, drained out rain water and removed a snake at the Commonwealth Games Village as India raced on Sunday to address complaints of filth and hygiene a week before the start of the showpiece event.

"The Games were supposed to enhance India's image of a rising power, but shoddy construction, filthy accommodation and security fears have underlined governance and accountability issues, hurting the runaway pride of Asia's third largest economy...."

That's not the way someone who likes India's image as "a rising power" would want a global news service to start an article about their 2010 Commonwealth games.

Turns out the games' Village is built on the plains of the Yamuna river. Building on a flood plain isn't as daft as it looks. It's easier to design and build any large structure or set of related structures, if the surface they're on is flat. A river's flood plain, where sediment collects after floods, is often the only really large expanse of flat real estate in an area.

There are going to be water-relate issues, of course: so some sort of drainage system, probably involving pumps - and dikes to deal with the next flood - should be near the top of a developer's priority list.

"Some Minor Issues"

Back to India.

"...'All finishing work is going on in full swing,' said Dalbir Singh, mayor of the Games Village where the athletes will stay.

" 'It's a world class facility with some minor issues and work is going on to fix those problems.'

"Indeed, most of the 34 apartment blocs are gleaming and spacious and fitted with Italian marble. But much of what is good about the facility has been overshadowed by athletes' complaints of filth and unfinished work in some of the living quarters...."
(Reuters) [emphasis mine]

That's the good news.

Collapsing Bed Shocks Indian Boxer

The bad news is that there may still be undiscovered booby traps, when athletes who haven't pulled out of the games arrive.

"Booby traps" may be an unfair term. There's no evidence that anybody's trying to hurt the athletes. Besides, would an Indian work crew want to take out one of their own country's athletes?

"...The Times Now news channel said about 150 rooms meant for athletes were unliveable. Indian boxer Akhil Kumar was in shock when his bed caved in on Saturday. It was found the mattress had just been placed on the bed frame without any support underneath.

" 'Laborers have done a very bad job. They had spit 'paan' (chewing tobacco) on the walls, stains of which are almost unremovable,' Lalit Bhanot, secretary general of the Games organizing committee, told Reuters.

" 'We are identifying rooms which are dirty and shutting them down. But we have adequate rooms so there is nothing to worry.'

"The Games are estimated to have cost $6 billion. India was awarded them in 2003 but did not begin proper preparations until two years ago. Michael Fennell, chief of Commonwealth Games Federation, has said India's image has taken a beating...."

Spit on the walls? In America, that would indicate possible labor grievances. Maybe in other cultures, folks don't spit on something to indicate displeasure or dissatisfaction. Not that we do it in America, all that often. The habit's considered a bit uncouth in this culture.

China's "Spectacular 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics"

Apparently China did a wonderful job, putting on the 2008 Summer Olympics. Reuters presents those games as a sort of benchmark, a goal which India may one day hope to achieve:

"...India had hoped to use the Games to display its growing global economic and political influence, rivaling neighbor China which put on a spectacular 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

"Instead, they have become a major embarrassment for the world's largest democracy, where infrastructure projects have progressed slowly and are a drag on economic growth...."

Reality check, please.

The Lemming will grant that China put on a "spectacular" show in 2008.

Impressive, too, considering how many tons of algae they had to fork out of the Olympic Sailing Course. Then there was the little matter of air quality.

Still: the fireworks were spectacular. After some CGI.

Under the circumstances, the Lemming thinks that China's current leaders did quite well in handling the Olympics. All things considered. (more, in Related posts, or click "2008 Olympics" in this blog's label cloud)

It's possible that the reporter and editors who put that Reuters article together don't remember little details about the 2008 Summer Olympics, or have decided that selected televised images are what really count. There are many possible explanations.

Then there's this Reuters article:

"Analysis: Games chaos exposes India infrastructure challenge"
Reuters (September 25, 2010)

"The chaos surrounding the Commonwealth Games exposes how far India still needs to go in executing on big-ticket projects and building infrastructure of the kind that helps make China an economic powerhouse...."

There's more, about bureaucratic chaos and potholes.

Ah, China: that economic powerhouse. An inspiration to workers' paradise leaders everywhere, which only last month produced a 60-mile-long traffic jam. (August 25, 2010)

Yes, India has a long way to go.

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