The New Delhi games mess

I’m finding the situation in New Delhi fascinating.

For those outside the Commonwealth and/or who haven’t heard, the city is having enormous problems getting ready for the Commonwealth Games. Sure, there are always stories like this ahead of big events, but in this case, there’s been an apparent terrorist attack (several tourists injured in a gun attack on a bus on Sunday), complaints about the athletes’ village being incomplete and unhygienic, a bridge collapsed (also injuring a number of people, on Tuesday), and part of a venue ceiling collapsing (on Wednesday) — and the Games are due to start in about a week and a half.

As it happens, last week I noted season one of the satirical TV series The Games on sale for $10 and snapped it up. It pokes fun at the preparations for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, with things like the 100 metre running track they discover is too short, and the transport crisis meeting that’s cancelled because the traffic is so bad nobody can attend. But I don’t think it covers anything quite so serious as what’s going on in Delhi.

One of the reasons I find the Delhi problems interesting is that in my paid work, we deal with IT people in India, and I went to a briefing which covered some of the cultural differences. One of the things I was told is that the culture is one of pride, and wanting to be seen to be helpful and able to do the job… to the point where sometimes if someone is asked if they can get the job done, they’ll readily say “yes! No problems!” even when it’s going to be quite difficult and complicated, and just getting it finished is not a foregone conclusion.

It may be a simplistic way of looking at it, but I wonder if a bit of that has gone on with the Games.

Don’t get me wrong — I think it’d be great if the event goes off without major problems, proving that developing countries like India are able to meet the challenge, just as South Africa did earlier in the year with the World Cup.

But at present, you’d have to say it’s not looking great.

Bye bye Games

Bye bye to the Commonwealth Games.

I’m not normally that enthused by sport, but going to see the athletics at the MCG enthused me somewhat. I also saw the big fish thingies on the Yarra on Friday night, and enjoyed wandering amongst the big crowds. I watched some of the TV coverage, and noted that there were possibly only two sports that I could not even attempt without risking immediate and serious injury to myself: gymnastics and diving.

Two thirds of the team from Sierra Leone have gone missing, presumably wanting to stay in Australia. Anyone would think they didn’t want to go back to their war-ravaged poverty-stricken country.

Anything to escape the sight of 1000 Dame Ednas, I suppose. Jeez, gimme a break.

Ah well, the Games have finished now.

For just ten days there were heaps of people roaming the streets with huge Games ID tags with undecipherable acronyms written on them.

For just ten days you could catch a train after 7pm without waiting for half an hour, and a bus home from the station in the evening. Barely a single cancellation in that time, yet this morning the old familiar beep beep of an SMS train cancellation alert was back.

For just ten days, some of the world’s best athletes were wandering around town. Some of the Canadian team on Friday were intrigued enough to explore the esoteric and exotic realm of TieRack in Collins Street. Earlier I observed one of the Botswanan team chomp down a burger. (Hopefully it was after his event.)

For just ten days, you could blame anything that went wrong on The Games.

For just ten days, no matter how crowded the streets were, or how long it took to get anywhere, everyone seemed to be in a good mood.

Now it’s all over. I think I’ll miss it.

Delays expected – Blame the games

Blame the Games

Okay okay, it hasn’t really been that bad. But I had to laugh when seeing about five of these signs in a row going up St Kilda Road the other week. One really did say “Avoid inner suburbs.”

See also:

(Note March 2016: originally this was a Flash animation – it has been remade as an animated GIF.)


Australia’s Kerryn McCann says she was prepared to be beaten in the women’s marathon, until she heard the roar of the MCG crowd.The Age

Such a thrilling thing I haven’t seen in a long time. She didn’t know it, but 76,500 of us in the MCG were watching her progress against Hellen Cherono Koskei of Kenya from about Princes Bridge onwards. They kept exchanging the lead, and as they came through the tunnel back into the ground, the crowd stood and erupted into a roar. Kerryn crossed the line just two seconds ahead, to deafening cheers around the stadium. What a fantastic moment.

All of the runners, both men and women, got big cheers as they came in, applause at their strength and ability, having run the 42.195Km course all around Melbourne.

Errol Duncan of St Helena got a special cheer — during the two initial laps of the stadium, he managed to get half a lap behind the others, and almost kept doing laps before directed out onto the course. He finished last, almost an hour behind the winners, but by golly he finished, to plenty of applause.

Other notable moments on the day:

During one of the EAD (Elite Athletes with a Disability) 100 metre heats, a visually impaired runner kept going after the finish line, doing almost a complete lap before being stopped.

The crowd’s awe of watching South African Sunette Vil Joen’s winning javelin throw of 60.72 metres.

Amusement at the remote control car used to ferry the javelins back to the athletes. Imagine, there’s a guy out there somewhere whose job at the Games is to work the remote control car.

Medal ceremonies for the women’s and men’s marathons, and the women’s javelin. We stood and sang for Advance Australia Fair. We stood for the others (Isaac remarking of the Tanzanian national anthem: “I don’t know this one.”)

Watching the fastest man on the planet, 100 metres world record holder Asafa Powell of Jamaica zoom off down the track, before slowing down to what seemed like a jog whe he realised he didn’t need to stress to win his heat.

Right at the end some woman ran onto the ground and was tackled by two police officers.

But mostly: Though perhaps not as much as for the Aussies, there was plenty of enthusiastic applause for all comers, for all who did well, no matter what country they were from.

(And before you ask, transport to and from the venue was relatively smooth. Plenty of extra trains on my line, crowded but not uncomfortable. Not so on the Burnley lines after the event, with trains few and far between, causing platforms 9+10 to fill and the station entrance to be periodically closed, in turn causing delays for the crowd on Brunton Avenue. Blame the Games.)