India's Commonwealth Games Face Hurdles
Athletes from around the world are supposed to be arriving in New Delhi this week for the Commonwealth Games. Thats a quadrennial gathering, a sort of Olympics for countries and territories with historic ties to the old British empire. It features core sports such as lawn bowling, netball, rugby sevens, along with games you might be more familiar with - swimming, track and field.
But the run-up to this year's games has been sullied. Many teams have delayed their arrivals, some athletes have cancelled and India is frantically trying to salvage the event.
Digvijay Singh Deo is an associate sports editor for CNN-IBN television in New Delhi. He says the problems begin with construction delays.
Mr. DIGVIJAY SINGH DEO (Associate Sports Editor, CNN-IBN): Well, construction has been a major problem for these games. Almost all deadlines were skipped. Only one stadium, which was to host the netball, actually made the cut in April. But most of the stadiums were taken over by the organized committee only in August, and that's the reason why there's so much news about leaky roofs and all that stuff.
SIEGEL: Yeah, and also a bridge collapse, which is no small matter.
Mr. DEO: Yes. It was a construction going on on a public road outside the stadium, which was to link the games village to the main stadium. Any kind of collapse at this time only leads to more panic. And I think the civic authorities here have faced a lot of flack for some kind of event like this.
SIEGEL: Yeah. The thing that seems to have everyone's attention today are photographs of just filthy conditions inside the athletes village.
Mr. DEO: Yes, and it's been a major embarrassment. They're really high-end apartments but the workers who built these apartments, they left a lot of dirt and filth behind and those were not adequately cleaned. For the last two days, 1,500 people are working around the clock. And as of now, about 90 percent of this mess has been cleared. The remaining mess, as they're saying, will be cleared by about 12 in the afternoon India time.
SIEGEL: But it just looked awful. The bathrooms looked filthy. It looked like there were dogs paw prints over bed clothes. It seemed just awful looking.
Mr. DEO: Yeah, and it not only has shocked people around the world, it shocked us here in India also. But the good news is that these aren't permanent states. These are something like, you know, workers in India when they work, they chew something call a betelnut(ph) and a lot what you see is betelnut stains. But, yes, from the outside, it does look very dirty.
There are reports of dogs that are roaming around inside the games village and that hasn't helped matters.
SIEGEL: Well, the prime minister, I gather, held an emergency meeting on this question today.
Mr. DEO: Yes, the prime minister had an emergency meeting at his residence, but many are questioning, is it too late? But to be fair to the government, they had a group of ministers, empowered committee which was looking into things apart from the organizing committee. And most of the stadiums I have been to are ready. They're ready to host the games. The problem it seems now is only this cleanliness issue at the games village and that has led to a lot of bad publicity.
SIEGEL: Well, Digvijay, just before you go, if you had to sum up in a simple phrase for ignorant Americans, what is netball?
Mr. DEO: Well, that's a question a lot of Indians would ask, too, because it's not an Indian game at all. It's a bit similar to basketball. On either sides of the court, you have a single net. You have to put the ball inside. It's something which Indians will also probably give a miss when the games are on.
SIEGEL: Well, Digvijay Singh Deo, thank you very much for talking with us about the Commonwealth Games.
Mr. DEO: Thank you so much.
SIEGEL: Good luck with it. Digvijay Singh Deo is an associate sports editor for CNN-IBN television in New Delhi, India.