Child labor at work on a stadium, via Metro
I love India, but I think these Commonwealth Games are the worst PR possible for that nation. The news has been all corruption, bureaucracy, and delays, plus dengue, shootings, child labor, filthy bathrooms and cobras, for color. As an introduction to the world it’s pretty much the worst possible. It’s like, you know all the horrible things you heard about India? They’re true. This is sad, because many of these things aren’t true, of new India, but the abject failure of the organizers is putting the whole nation to shame. Actually, the whole subcontinent. Meanwhile, down here the relays team didn’t because of a court order in a possibly corrupt selection case while Pakistan is mired in high level cricketers allegedly on the take. They say that sport brings out the best in people, but on the subcontinent it seems to bring out the worst.
India has a bad reputation which it doesn’t entirely deserve – namely as some place dirty, unsafe and disorganized. This is still true of much of the ginormous country, but it is really not true for a part of the country which has really developed rapidly. With proper presentation it is possible to show an incredible India. With poor presentation it’s possible to show a horrible one. The latter is what the Commonwealth organizers seem to have done, for over $2.8 billion dollars (orders of magnitude more than the $210 million estimate).
India has a reputation for bad bathrooms combined with a bad urge to use them. I actually haven’t experienced this and there is a whole class of traveller for whom the experience is probably better than at home, but photos were released of the athletes village which showed filthy commodes. In response an official messed things up even more saying:
“These rooms are clean to both you and us,” Mr. Bhanot told Indian reporters this week. Foreigners “want certain standards in hygiene and cleanliness which may differ from our perception,” he said. (NYTimes)
India also has a reputation for being dangerous, something the Commonwealth Games haven’t helped. In the run-up, workers have died, overpasses have collapsed, a tourist was shot, dengue has spread and they found cobras in the athletes village. In short, everything that could have gone wrong has, which is sad. The saddest thing of all, however is the corruption and disorganization atop the Indian sports bureaucracy. If this national embarrassment doesn’t spur them into cleaning up at least that, then it really is a shame.