Highs and lows of CWG so far
We are half-way through the 19th Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. And it’s been a mixed bag so far. As a self-important hack stuck somewhere in the middle, it’s been tiring and refreshing, hectic and easy, disappointing and inspiring — all at the same time. For a variety of reasons.
Running around the venues and stadiums, I’m sure everyone goes through the same feelings. The ‘Fast Track’ buses do not run on schedule, the media shuttles dilly-dally, the guards at the security posts complain about inane things that aren’t even mentioned as banned substances. Sometimes there is heat and humidity (outside the stadium). Inside, it is freezing, similar to the Tundra (or Taiga, you can take your pick). Some volunteers are super-helpful, who assist with a smile. Others are full of attitude, who look like they have been compelled to sit at the help desk, looking as bored and dazed as a pack of zebras caught in the glare of headlights. But there are times that make you glad to be a part of this multi-crore, salutary, big-in-the-name Commonwealth Games. Here’s why.
Athletes are a good enough reason. From mighty England, Canada and Australia to tiny Nauru or Nieu and Guernsey. Their players are what make any competition or tournament successful. Athletes may appear unapproachable, uni-dimensional, a tad bored, unaware of anything outside their sport, champions in their own right, almost God-like for the mortal fans. But in close vicinity, knowing them bit by bit, it is refreshing to see the way their minds work, what they like, how they compete and develop that intense focus. I discovered various facets to these men and women who may seem out-of-this-world initially. For instance, squash women’s world No. 1 Nicol David loves to doodle in her spare time and keeps a notepad handy all the time. Women’s world No. 2 Jenny Duncalf loves the piano and poetry and anything to do with music.
Then there are the para-athletes. An altogether different world of inspiration and hope . Their ability to compete against all odds, without a limb but with a smile, without a vital body part but with immense courage and determination — it just shows how unbreakable the human spirit is. I met an English archer, Danielle Brown. She is confined to a wheelchair due to a disorder known as ‘reflex sympathetic distrophy’ that causes weakness in her lower limbs. And she is the first para-athlete to respresent England in an able-bodied event at the Games. Danielle is beautiful, stunning in a way most blonde models are, with sleek golden hair, perfectly arched eyebrows and eyes alight with a sparkle. But she cannot walk. And yet she hasn’t let that particular disability hinder her life in any way. She jokes, laughs, appreciates life around her and then competes with a focus that would scare most people. And when you watch the Games or any ceremony associated with it, what pulls at the heart is the bright smile and happiness on the faces of the para-athletes. What a healthy, able-bodied human being might perceive as a huge complication cannot even be compared to what the athletes go through. Maybe we can go a long way if we learn something from them.
So far, the venues have been great. The stadiums, the fleet of buses, the Main Press Centre, the sleek workstations and the LCD screens — everything is swanky and shining. Like a progressive, ambitious country waiting to break free from its history and take a giant leap into the future. But there is misorganisation on every level. The volunteers are simply clueless, the organisers and heads of different levels are just too willing and eager to pass the buck, the DTC bus officials don’t think it is their job to provide quick-enough services to the waiting journalists at the Transport Hall. But meeting athletes from around the world and chit-chatting with them makes up for all the unorganised chaos surrounding the Games. The athletics track might have to be relaid, the spectator count might be extremely disappointing, Suresh Kalmadi’s numerous gaffes might be embarrassing to the nation, and the amount of money pumped into India’s showpiece event might have gone a long way in alleviating poverty around the country, or ensuring schemes like the NREGS work seamlessly. All these lurk under a very Indian chalta hai mindset. But what the people will never forget are the montages that showcased India in all its splendour and glory — an eight-year-old curly-haired Keshava, the Mumbai dabbawallahs and doodh-wallas running all around, the Indian Railways, the small-time sand artists, and Jai Ho, that ubiquitous youth anthem for the country.
By Moonmoon Ghosh