Where did it go wrong between the Delhi Games and the media?

October 15, 2010

Fireworks explode over the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium during the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony in New Delhi October 14, 2010. REUTERS/B Mathur
Delhi closed the 19th Commonwealth Games in spectacular style on Thursday — a Bollywood finale during which not only the crowd but athletes on the field, TV crews and young helpers swung and shook to the best-of-Bollywood medley.

Best of all, some journalists who perhaps had spent weeks cataloguing corruption allegations, filthy athletes’ flats and half-empty stadiums that hobbled the Games, clapped along and jigged their shoulders in between typing their story for the night on laptops. Others, though not all, smiled and clapped and the mood felt good.

The media’s relationship with the Games and its organisers, especially its pantomime villain and chief local organiser Suresh Kalmadi, has see-sawed. Violent swings in how the Games were portrayed tested Indian authorities’ patience.

“Whatever small amount of credibility you the media had left before the Games has gone,” a top Indian bureaucrat said to me, as we were preparing for me to interview him.

“First you decide India is a shithole, and then suddenly it’s not a shithole.” Did he mean foreign media or Indian media? Both, he said.

Every day has seen Indian commentators soul-searching in articles, editorials and TV panel discussions. They questioned what the event said about India, what image was projected to the world and whether the Games were even worth hosting in the first place. Then pride swelled after a widely praised opening ceremony and as India’s medal count soared.

Aside from the Games’ many problems, from snakes in the Games Village to a collapsed footbridge, the organisers did not help themselves when it came to hosting the media.

The route to the media centre in central Delhi — one of the first things a visiting journalist would see with their pens poised — was accessible through a blink-and-you-miss-it side street that turned into a bumpy track. This set off much grumbling the day I went to collect my media pass there.

On Thursday night, there were rowdy scenes at the stadium entrance I passed through, as journalists were directed and then abruptly refused entry to the media door. Heated exchanges broke out with the guards and then that turned into a mini scrum as the crowd ignored instructions to keep back and pushed their way in.

At the one press conference I attended, the mood was sullen. When Games chief Mike Fennell was seized by a coughing fit while addressing reporters, a voice from the back suggested Fennell had taken a dip in the Games’ swimming pool, which had been blamed for incapacitating athletes with “Delhi belly”. Another reporter asked after Kalmadi’s health because of his non-appearance, which even caused another Games bigwig Mike Hooper to giggle.

The closing ceremony gave the Games a great send-off. What will we remember them by?

(Click here for full coverage of 2010 Commonwealth Games )


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There’s little soul searching required. Events such as the CWG and Olympics have come to be expected to attain perfection. Media seeks out stories to tear the perfection down. And the crowd piles on. That does not excuse officials for mismanagement.

For India, one lesson: accountability of public officials. But the CWG issue is a minor defining moment for India, and one which has no impact on the immediate or medium term India investment story.

In the end, India can be proud of the show, it’s athletes, and even its citizens’ angry lashing out at games officials – fully and freely on display for all to hear and see in the open.

TrivCap – Inside the box thinking. Because all the nutters are outside.

Posted by stickyfeet | Report as abusive

You are a western organisation and you must know in which western country you can make taxpayer’s money flow like water. That’s the issue this report has glossed over. That’s where the games failed. And as we all know – governmental corruption always, always go unpunished in India. Media must be praised for highlighting the corruption, rather than making it look like a bunch of fools.

Posted by Buddhatoday | Report as abusive

Here, this editorial tries to explain where things went “wrong”:- http://www.indianexpress.com/news/tempor ary-insanity/657162/
I totally agreed with it then (August, 2010), and i agree with it now.

Posted by VipulTripathi | Report as abusive

CWG 2010 was definitely a playground for corrupt Govt. officials. The Media (especially television), while highlighting these problems could have also shown what had gone well.

All the negative talk has in no way helped our image as a Country. People would definitely think twice before asking India to host such an event in the future.

I would be happy if the Hon’ble Prime Minister promptly orders detailed inquiry into all the corruption charges and holds all of the involved parties responsible and amicably penalises them.

Posted by gunnermojo | Report as abusive

I think there are two different issues here.

The media expose of corruption and gross inefficiency.

The conduct of the games themselves.

Naturally the bureaucrat would like to combine the two – what he is implying is that by exposing corruption and corrupt officials, the media portrayed the games would be a flop. Not tue at6 all. That is also the same ploy Sheila Dixit used – don’t slam the organisers it is unpatriotic, the Games belong to the Nation – plain Gobbledogook.

The media never tried to make out the games would be a flop. They demanded accountability and exposed kalmadi, Dixit, Reddy, Gill and their minions who had been entrusted with managing the preparations. Does the bureaucrat imply that there was no mismanagement or corruption? No he doesn’t, he is however trying to deflect the blame for the corruption behind the success of the Games. This time though the man in the street is saying “Sorry, we don’t buy this BS anymore.”

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive