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Are you game for the Games? The Delhiite is not (Comment)

In just about four months, the Indian capital will host one of the biggest sporting events — the Commonwealth Games, 2010 — spending thousands of millions. But the selection trials for the games to finalize the athletes are yet to begin. Countries like New Zealand and Australia have already readied their squads and begun practising.

But sports and winning is not our priority, obviously. Instead, all our energies are single-mindedly focused on giving Delhi a makeover — both physical and attitudinal — so that we can live up to our traditional reputation of being good hosts.

For the average Delhiite, the preparation is taking a toll, the welcoming excitement fading when she experiences the chaos around games venues, hears the war of words between politicians at the federal and state levels, between politicians and officials, and the Indian officials and their international counterparts.

The pride that the hosts should be wearing like a smile is barely visible.

The now-famous sparring between the International Commonwealth Games Committee and the 2010 Commonwealth Games chairman Suresh Kalmadi can be a serious contender for an official game — the dug-up pavements are littered with new cement blocks ready to be laid just in time for the games, even as Delhi’s legislators are lobbying to get the Commonwealth Games village flats for a song.

Delhi Tourism has painstakingly drawn up a list of dos and don’ts for citizens, even as we hear that Delhi is in spitting distance of fixing local men’s wee problem. Of course, women will not need any special dispensation as the Women’s Reservation Bill would have been legislated by then!. The latest ‘breaking news’ on the games front is that the Delhi Metro is gearing up to tackle the issue of spitting and defacement of its new imported trains.

Civil society is questioning if Delhi Police can provide the security cover to sportsmen and the games village even as the gourmands are busy deliberating whether to serve beef, organic broiler chicken, fresh seedless cucumbers from the neighbouring Congress-ruled state of Haryana or purple cabbage from the kitchen gardens of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati.

If Delhi matriarch and chief minister Sheila Dikshit had her way she would like to inoculate the city with etiquette shots at the next poliodrop camp so that 15 million Delhites earn paeans from the guests for ‘pehle aap’, ‘ada’ and ‘adaab’ (courtesy, politeness and decency). As if the newly found etiquette ‘magic wand’ – or is it the ‘magic remedy’ – will transform Delhiites!

They will not stop honking, overtaking from the wrong side or spitting betel leaf only when no one is watching them. The rule that clotheslines have to be cleared of laundry well before sun rise will not apply on rainy days. All this so that the city of her dreams carries overnight the tag of a spanking new, welcoming, and caring metropolis.

An initiative by leading industry lobby, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), has trained and certified staff at thousands of roadside eateries so that the guests don’t have to experience the proverbial Delhi belly. After all, our guests expect to be entertained and not hospitalised.

There is so much entertainment being played out in the making of the Commonwealth Games in the media that when the actual extravaganza starts, it might end up as an anti-climax.

The city is no longer speculating whether the games will be held because various sparring parties have made us believe that the games infrastructure will perhaps be ready the morning before the games. Also, the Indian inventiveness will help us sail through the flooded, albeit empty roads, as schools and colleges, we are told, will remain closed for the duration of the games.

The entire city of 16 million people will be on vacation on the opening and closing day. All this to ensure that the lipstick on the pig that we plan to resurrect excites the visitors.

No wonder we have heard very little about the games or the sportsmen. In a recent demonstration of the games politicians play, Sports Minister M.S. Gill stumped Suresh Kalmadi and Company by fixing a term for heads of sports federations. And as a sign of solidarity, the heads of sports federations went under one umbrella, while the Delhiites hope that the game being played by politicians and bureaucrats in preparation for the Games are soon behind them so that they can carry on with their lives.

(30.05.2010 – Sanjiv Kataria is strategic communications and PR counsel. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at sanjiv.kataria@gmail.com)

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