Empty seats need Indian fans to fill them
The sport is now under way at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi but I am still finding it hard to focus entirely on the competition.
We all witnessed a spectacular opening ceremony on Sunday. However, it is currently impossible to ignore what is happening in front of my eyes. Journalists are often told to "report it like you see it". Well, I've spent much of the past day looking at row after row of empty seats.
Let us be absolutely fair. No Commonwealth Games could boast a total sell-out of tickets on day one. Some of the first-round events are not always that appealing. If you are a fan of badminton or netball, for example, you might well decide to save your money for the latter stages of the competition.
Never, though, have I seen a major sporting event as badly attended as the beginning of these Delhi Games. I spent much of the first day touring venues, trying to judge the spectator experience.
My honest conclusion can only be that there is currently little interest amongst the Indian public in attending these Games, as hardly anybody turned up to watch at all.
At the netball venue, there was barely a spectator in sight. If I said that 50 people had paid to get in, I'd probably be being generous. The table tennis and badminton venues were also very empty.
The gymnastics arena can hold 19,000 but needed a tiny fraction of that capacity to cope with demand on day one. Even when the home nation was playing hockey, a popular sport here, the stands remained bare.
The Prince of Wales went to watch the morning swimming session. Unfortunately, he was joined by only a couple of hundred others, although there were more for the finals later in the day.
It would have been apparent to anybody watching on television just how few people had decided to come to watch the Games. It is impossible to hide empty seats.
Once again, though, I should be fair here to Delhi. There were plenty of empty seats during the Beijing Olympics - although not as many as Delhi - but those Games were considered to be a success.
It is hard to put a finger on why so few people have attended so far. Some tickets can be purchased for as little as 50 rupees, which is about 70 pence. Outlets were limited until recently, though, and there were fears that security would cause lengthy delays.
At least the organisers have acknowledged the problem and claim that the situation will improve. Suresh Kalmadi, the chairman of the organising committee, said at the start of day two of competition: "We have set up ticket box offices in every stadium. There were
queues. I don't think this [issue] will continue for long. There were problems yesterday but we have improved our systems and all the stalls [ticket box offices] are up today."
He also hinted that schoolchildren might be allowed in for free.
I mentioned in my previous blog how I feared that there had been so much negative publicity about these Games during the past few weeks that it would be very hard for Delhi to turn the corner and begin generating a positive flow of news.
The opening ceremony helped the cause but the fuss around the boxing weigh-in - when the scales were found to be inaccurate, forcing a day's delay - emphasise my point.
If the Games had been going well, then negative stories like this might well have been lost. But once things start to go badly, difficulties tend to stand out. People often appear much quicker to criticise when they believe that they are not in the minority.
There is nothing that I would love more than to be able to make my next blog from here a positive one. Delhi still has time. These are India's first Commonwealth Games. If they are to be a success, then the Indian people need to get behind them.
Nearly everybody who has ever visited India will vouch for the fact that the Indian people are special, friendly, helpful, charming and enthusiastic.
Now is the time for the Indian people to prove that they can be passionate sporting spectators. These are Delhi's Commonwealth Games. They are India's. If the Games are to be turned into a success, then I believe the Indian people must play their part.