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.