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Are the Delhi Games doomed?

Soutik Biswas | 11:38 UK time, Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Commonwealth Games village

Are the Delhi Commonwealth Games doomed? After creaky stadiums, leaky pools and allegations of dodgy deals come complaints from visiting teams that the athletes' village on the outskirts of the capital is filthy and "unfit for human habitation". Apparently more than half of the 34 residential towers at the village are still far from complete; and a quarter of the rooms for one of the visiting teams are flooded.

This is the same village that Delhi organising committee chief Suresh Kalmadi had praised recently as better than the one at the Beijing Olympics.... Except, critics say, the toilets in Delhi are dirty and the rooms waterlogged and stacked with debris, among other problems.

Critics say the Delhi Games village - luxury apartment homes which are to be sold for upwards of 20 million rupees each - represents all that is wrong with India. Officials have ignored protests that the site is on a flood plain in a zone more prone to earthquakes than other parts of the capital, environmentalists say. To make matters worse the Yamuna river is clogged with monsoon rains and areas nearby are a breeding ground for mosquitoes. But the authorities don't appear to care.

What has happened to the Games village comes as no surprise to most Indians. Delhi has a reputation for badly constructed, leaky buildings as developers collude with authorities to cut corners and compromise on quality. It is also possibly India's most corrupt city. The current row comes as no surprise when you consider the fact that work on building the stadiums and most other infrastructure has gone down to the wire and become a shoddy race against time. All this while smug authorities told the people that all was well, and things would be fine. "It's the Indian way of doing things, which the West doesn't understand," was a common refrain. Clearly, the "Indian way" hasn't worked - and the Games are turning out to be India's bonfire of vanities.

As I write this comes the news that a bridge near the showpiece Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium - where the inaugural and closing ceremonies will be held - has collapsed, critically injuring a number of workers. This, after scores of workers have already died during the construction. What next? How much worse can it get?


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