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Long route home Our trip all the way home, trying to catch no planes and stay on the ground like civilised people. It's taking us via India all the way to Europe from Japan, the furthest of the Far East...

Get De Hell outta here

INDIA | Thursday, 16 September 2010 | Views [668]

Let's begin with a fairy tale. Once upon a time, there was a city called Delhi. It was a huge and wondrous city, home to millions upon millions of people. One day, Delhi was chosen to host athletes from many countries in a huge celebration of sport, athletic endeavour and fair play. The officials of the city understood the enormity of the undertaking, and the possibility to show their wondrous city to the world, and to build venues and infrastructure that would serve the millions of inhabitants for many years to come. They began immediately, worked very hard, and made sure that they made the best out of the piles of gold that had been entrusted to them. On the eve of the Games, the athletes cheered from their lovely clean rooms, the sports administrators cheered the well built stadiums and the people cheered in excitement and pride at their gleaming new roads.

In reality, the budget is now over one hundred times the original. The levels of corruption have shocked even the Indians who are truly inured to such things
The test events were a disaster: the roof fell in during the swimming event, and the weightlifting was called off after security refused admission to the Federation's president.

Put simply, much of Delhi is still a building site and it is hard to see how they will be ready. Perfectly good pavements were dug up so that prettier mosaic tiles could be laid in their place. The tiles are sitting in piles next to the rubble. There is a Dengue fever alert because of the large areas of stagnant waters where infected mosquitos are breeding. CWG traffic lanes have been drawn in the road, with no work done to reduce the total cars using the limited space left to them. The venues are not finished, and there hasn't yet been time for safety checks. Much of the work is being rushed and so shoddily built that there is little chance of them being usable in a year's time - people fear that some will collapse during the Games. A number of top athletes, and indeed whole delegations are not coming due to health, safety and security concerns. The basic worries over the shoddy venues and rushed completion are multiplied by a very real risk of terror attacks. It is so sad, to see something that could have been a source of national pride reduced to a shambolic national joke.

It's not clear whether the Commonwealth Games are the cause of the chaos we witnessed in Delhi - perhaps it's just exacerbated existing problems. Certainly it doesn't help that lots of the hotels are all in a clump, with all the touts, cockroaches and dirt that groups of hotels everywhere seem to collect. Connaught Place, 10 minutes from our hotel, was heralded in the guidebook as a luxury shopping centre area. The luxury shops are there, and it's quite a picture to see smartly dressed people picking their way through rubble to get into the likes of Louis Vuitton/Hermes/Chanel etc...

Perhaps we're becoming allergic to capital cities - in Kuala Lumpur it was fevers and infected feet, in Dehli it was our eyes. But then I wouldn't be surprised to have picked up all kinds of illnesses in Dehli, parts of which were more cess pit than city. Parts of it are modern and developed, even pleasurable to be in, but it is hard to avoid the squalor. Forgive me readers, as I squint at the screen through my itchy blood red eyes, for a slightly unbalanced view, but perhaps that too reflects the city itself.

We were in Delhi to organise visas and see our friend Tom, visiting from Doha. Poor Tom probably didn't expect to spend his limited holiday in a hot, fly-ridden, building site. He was probably also unprepared for the hour long walk through the filth to reach the Jama Masjid, (yes the mosque where two Taiwanese tourists were shot just days later). The mosque was magnificent, as was the nearby Red Fort, with a great Museum of Independence. It was great to see Tom, I hope he didn't curse us all the way home. We managed to minimise the pain through plenty of beer, camping out in restaurants and at points, hiding in the hotel!

As for visas, we are now the proud holders of Nepalise visas, and our passports are waiting (we hope) at the Khazak embassy. For a long time, India was always on the horizon as the next big step, with Europe a distant speck even further on. That speck is starting to come into focus now as we have to plan more of the journey and read more about the delights in store.

Tags: commonwealth games, delhi, india


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