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The dangers of delightful Delhi were overhyped

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John Beattie | 12:05 UK time, Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The West overhyped the dangers of Delhi on several fronts.

Liz McColgan predicted that athletes would skip the 2010 Commonwealth Games because they would be scared of getting sick. Just how much effect did warnings like hers have on the decision of some to wimp out?

Although the Games have been chaotic, India, and particularly Delhi, has been a winner.
Without tempting fate, Delhi (we were told by someone who should know his safety and statistics but because of his job has to remain nameless) is safer than London.

Yes, it'll be hard to forget the little girl who does backward somersaults through a hoop at the same set of traffic lights every morning to earn money.

The image of homeless families sleeping roadside will be imprinted on my mind forever, as will the small children calling us "uncle" and putting hand to mouth in a universally understood plea to be fed.

And I can't figure out if tuk-tuk drivers smoking illegal substances as they crash into roundabouts will ever take off in Glasgow.

But athletes are in a protected bubble and I, as a broadcaster, have felt more susceptible to a mugging in Glasgow than in Delhi.

Eilidh Child won a silver medal for Scotland in the women's 400m hurdles at the Commonwealth Games

Eilidh Child won a silver medal for Scotland in the women's 400m hurdles

The athletes' village, as a footnote, became one of the success stories of the games.
In general terms most of us are sick, to coin a phrase, of being asked: "Do you have Delhi belly?"

My understanding is that only 8% of the 280-strong Scottish camp, including athletes and management, got tummy upsets over here.

Crikey, when the five-strong Beattie family went on holiday to Centre Parks more than 8% percent of us got ill.

According to the Scottish medical staff, it is an accepted statistic that up to 40% of Western travellers get stomach problems when they head East.

And I suppose that's partly because athletes aren't merely travellers.

They have a medical team looking after them, the caterers are a specialist company who have cooked food for Commonwealth and Olympic Games - in fact it is so good that the Tongan team skipper Tom Cocker complained that his athletes were putting on too much weight - and it's the usual coughs and colds that have caused the most problems.

The upshot is that, so far, my guess is that Indian athletes coming to Scotland will encounter as many problems as Scottish athletes in Delhi.

We Westerners should take a long look at ourselves sometimes.

I watched swimmers David Carry and Hannah Miley interact beautifully with poor Indian children during one piece of filming we set up and I know the process enriched them.

My last two days now are taken up with finishing some links for BBC Scotland's Commonwealth Games highlights programme for Sunday.

The city is as stunning as the day I landed and the plan is to go to the biggest flower market in Asia at five in the morning - and getting ready for the closing ceremony and the handover to Glasgow on Thursday night.

I've been to see a sneak preview of the Glasgow display at the ceremony. I wasn't homesick when I walked in but I was by the time it was finished. A blend of old and new Scotland is all I'll say.

Here are a few closing thoughts: India is a fantastic place, and one of the safest I have been to. Mosquitoes, beggars and wild elephants do not assault you as soon as you step off the plane. You do not vomit within 20 minutes of landing.

And Scottish athletes have, predominantly, been healthy.

In short, there was a massive hyping of the dangers of India before these Games started that was completely unwarranted.

You do not understand what the Commonwealth Games mean until you are in the middle of them and see how a city buzzes around them.

In fact, if I wasn't married, and didn't have children, I think I'd stay on. If I didn't come from Glasgow, that is, and have to get back for 2014.



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