Did The Games Really Help New Delhi?

A year after the notorious Commonwealth Games 2010, the capital is reaping the benefits of upgraded infrastructure

It was March 26, 2006. As the Commonwealth Games drew to a close at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, a contingent of Indian entertainers and a tiger mascot named Shera sent a confident message that was beamed across the world, ‘See You in Delhi’. The words of optimism promised a world-class city with outstanding infrastructure for sports and transportation. Four years down the line, Delhi was caught up in a maelstrom of derision and blame games as work was delayed, stadiums were incomplete, and security concerns cropped up even days before its commencement.

A year after the games, the blame game is still on but the city is reaping the benefits of work done in its preparation. The 26 flyovers and 31 foot over bridges constructed during the course now ease traffic congestion on city roads. A record 7,000 five-star rooms had also been added to meet tourist influx with leading hotels refurbishing its entire look. Sanzeev Bhatia, Assistant General Manager of The Metropolitan Hotel said, “We had pretty good business during that period. We had two large groups staying with us; one was from a renowned international media organisation and another was from an international travel company.

Our restaurants, bar, lobby, reception, coffee shop and rooms and guest floors were renovated. We also installed a baggage scanner, DFMD, Boom Barrier and other latest security gadgets, which are still operational.”

At the onset, the goal had been to construct new and renovated stadiums like Nehru Stadium and Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, The Commonwealth Games Village, and improve transportation options on board the Delhi Metro and Bus Rapid Transit Corridor, and upgrade infrastructure facilities. The city asked for about `4,000 crores to cover the refurbishment costs of the city and a further 500 crores to improve the cityscape around the venue of the games.

As part of this agenda, facilities at the new international airport being managed by GMR were refurbished with dedicated travel ports, a new Terminal 3, exclusive waiting zones and a reception area for athletes. A source at the committee that managed the preparations for CWG 2010 at the airport said, “Around 20,000 guests excluding spectators were expected for the games, which included 11,000 sportspersons, 1,000 international media, 5,000 family members of athletes and officials, 2,500 technical officials, 350 members of international sports federations, 100 representatives from World Anti Doping Agency and others. The Delhi International Airport (P) Ltd management had made special arrangements at T3 which included CWG welcome desk next to a dedicated immigration counter, CWG Lounge at Terminal 3 domestic arrival canyon, dedicated parking area capable of accommodating 2,000 cars and hundreds of buses, and more.” Inside Terminal 3, DIAL had earmarked the domestic arrivals area for setting up accreditation, immigration and customs counters. Some baggage belts were also used dedicatedly for the baggage of CWG guests.

The operations and passenger movement at Indira Gandhi International Airport, which was handled smoothly during the Commonwealth Games, has now spilled over to regular passengers as well. The airport even received the coveted ‘ACI Director General’s Recognition Award’ from the Airports Council International World Director General Angela Gittens in April this year.

However, Rome was not built in a day. Delhi’s transition from a heritage city to a metropolis had set into motion during the 1982 Asian Games. Skyscrapers, flyovers, a new public transport system, first of the five star properties and planned city complexes built within 20 months changed the way the city was perceived. Stadiums like The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium and the Yamuna Velodrome became part of the skyline as did the Asian Games Village developed at Siri Fort, hotels like the Kanishka, the Mughal Sheraton and The Taj Palace, and wide roads and flyovers that reduced commuting time within the city.

In the words of Tuhien Roy, a member of the design committee for the 1982 Asian Games, “The city changed overnight. Becoming a battlefield over the span of four months prior to the games, Delhi under the vision of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, was to become what Barcelona became during the Olympics of 1992 and Montreal became in 1976.” Former IPS Officer Kiran Bedi earned the nickname of ‘Crane-Bedi’ for her iron hand regulation of the city’s traffic during the games.

In contrast, chief Mike Fennell hailed Commonwealth Games 2010 as a “cumulative success”. The games overcame concerns on security and infrastructure to end with a lively closing ceremony as the mantle of the host was officially passed to Glasgow. As a rapidly growing city, a dynamic economy and an integral part of India’s growth engine, it stood up for itself and pulled off albeit haphazardly one of the cleanest and punctual games of all times. As Fennell said, “I never considered giving up on Delhi despite the many problems during the build-up to the Games. I knew Delhi will pull it off and it did.”

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