But Suresh Kalmadi, chairman of the Commonwealth Games organising committee,says such concerns are misplaced and argues that the Games ‘will create a world class sporting infrastructure and serve the various non cricketing sports in the country.’
To many, though, it’s a dubious assertion. Some of the wrestling centres this writer visited, for example, were in appalling condition. Sanjay Pehlwan Akhada, of the Sanjay wrestling club, which is located seven kilometres east of Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, says that wrestlers at his club are forced to stay in huts even though two people from his centre are taking part in the Games.
‘If the government helped then the future of wrestling would be bright,’ says Rabindra Sharma, a wrestler from a village in Haryana.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Pradeep Magazine, a leading sports journalist, says he regrets that ‘the wonderful opportunity that came India’s way to develop a sporting culture and infrastructure has been wasted by the Indian government and the Organizing Committee.’
He adds: ‘It’s foolish to compare the Commonwealth Games with the Beijing Olympics.’
Despite such criticism, Kalmadi insists the Commonwealth Games will be a bigger success than the Beijing Olympics and that they will showcase India as an emerging power.
Yet the scenes broadcast around the globe just last month of unfinished and dirty accommodation and newly-built infrastructure collapsing are a depressing sight for a young generation of Indians who have had their hopes built up for a world class event.
‘It was a wonderful opportunity for India to showcase its modern face, but the Organizing Committee has failed the new generation,’ says Prerna Raj, a Delhi University student. ‘It feels as if we’ve been taken back to the India of past…I’ve lost all interest in this event.’
Author Mazumdar, a sports historian, says the debacle has hurt India’s brand. ‘Brand India continues to suffer…With (these) recent experiences it will be difficult for India to get an opportunity to hold any international events of importance in the near future.’
In the meantime, athletes from the 71 countries participating will eventually return to their home countries, organizers will rest easy in their upscale bungalows and Sahu will be forced to spend his nights sleeping on his fruit cart.
‘It’s humiliating to work here,’ he says. ‘But I have to support my family somehow.’