Let the Games not begin

Jyoti Thottam in Time:

If New Delhi is India’s glittering emerald city, Suresh Kalmadi must surely be its Wizard of Oz.

On Sept. 15, Kalmadi, a career politician, stood in the middle of Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in front of an 80-m-wide, $8.8 million, helium-filled balloon commissioned for the opening ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games. The aerostat is his pride and joy, and he stood before it to try to reassure a group of journalists that everything was under control. The Commonwealth Games begin on Oct. 3 and will be the largest sporting event ever held in India. But the city is still furiously finishing some of the venues. Many top athletes will not be attending, thanks to weeks of reports about construction delays, shoddy work, an outbreak of mosquito-borne diseases and an athletes’ village deemed “uninhabitable” by visiting delegates.

Glossing over all that, Kalmadi, the chairman of the Games’ organizing committee, confidently predicted that New Delhi would be “100% ready.” At least that’s what I think he said. It was difficult to hear him over the din of construction inside the stadium, and I was distracted by the workmen digging into the middle of the track right behind him. “There’s no work going on, except a little bit of polishing,” Kalmadi baldly said. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. More:

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