BBC BLOGS - Matthew Pinsent
« Previous | Main | Next »

Delhi may just be all right on the night

Post categories:

Matthew Pinsent | 11:56 UK time, Tuesday, 28 September 2010

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder but proximity to Delhi has sharpened my appetite for the Commonwealth Games.

Last week, the prognosis looked bleak - those photographs of the athletes village were everywhere, pools of water surrounding venues and the constant ticking clock until the opening ceremony. The whole thing looked to be heading for a melange of argument, recrimination and disaster.

I was half expecting a phone call to say "it's all off, stay at home". But now I'm in Delhi it's hard to find much evidence to suggest the Games aren't going to happen. It looks like they may actually be OK.

Before the revelations of the last week or so, there was some Indian sentiment that this was going to be the best Commonwealth Games ever, that it was going to trump the Beijing Olympics for impact.

While that looks to be putting gloss on the situation, there does seem to be a change as far as preparations are going. India could be pulling the largest rabbit out of their hat.

You must take some things into account, however. Every pavement is a jumble of broken tarmac, tile and unidentifiable rubbish, so to expect polished marble by Sunday is unfair.

The transport in Delhi is almost all decrepit but it works. I've spent the morning filming in the city and can count on one hand the number of times I've stopped for a traffic light while being driven around.

I'd need two hands to count the near-misses in every 10 minutes but it's just another simple adjustment. In the United Kingdom, a traffic near-miss might be five feet. In Delhi, six inches doesn't seem to raise many eyebrows.

In the UK, one beep of the horn means "you've really annoyed me", two "I'm going to stop my car and threaten you", and three means something even worse. Here, one horn means "hello", two means "hello, hello", and three - well you get the impression.

I spent most of Monday cowering in the back of a taxi waiting for it all to kick off, whereas I'm not sure anyone else was particularly ruffled.

I don't want to overplay the good news, however. There is no doubt the promised metro lines look unlikely to be finished in time to bring spectators to the venues, while some of the bells and whistles that were promised must have been cut back. As for the athletes' village, which is being improved each day, that is going to be inconsistent.

It is noticeable that the big teams with big media operations behind them have found the village far, far better than they feared it would be. However, the ire of the Sri Lankan team at the standard of their accommodation merited just one line in the Times of India - it would have been different had it been England complaining.

As ever, the issue of security is a sensitive one. How can any global sports event fully protect itself against the individual who passionately wants to cause chaos? The answer - it can't - is just as relevant for London and New York as it is for Delhi, so you just have to put it to the back of your mind.

In the cab on the way in from the airport, the driver was adamant at the terminal he knew exactly where the hotel was. Within five minutes, he'd paused to ask directions. After three more stops, I was getting tetchy and asked, "Are we lost?".

"No, no sir, not lost," he claimed, and so it continued. We stopped a total of eight times with me working myself into a fury in the back. Each of my acidic comments met with "we're on the way now, sir", or "no problems, sir".

As we turned into the entrance of the hotel, the driver turned back with a joyous smile and said, "You see, sir. I was right!"

The Commonwealth Games may well have taken a tortuous route to get here but they might in fact be about to arrive exactly where they said they were going to.


or register to comment.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.