Paul Lewis on sport

Paul Lewis is the Herald on Sunday's Sport Editor

Paul Lewis: Games disgraced in Delhi

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The Commonwealth Games lost their dignity in Delhi, even before they began.

There's been so much handwringing and angst over the Delhi games; so much breastbeating over whether to go or to delay; that we all rather missed how ridiculous it had become.

It took the experience and common sense of Roy Williams, the New Zealand gold medal decathlete and sportswriter, known to a generation of journalists as "Alfie", to put it all in context with his Games tales of cockroaches, dogs peeing on the athletes' ice cubes and students being shot.

Delhi has been far from alone in terms of hardship and some athletes, commentators and others need to harden up a little or say what their real motivation was for pulling out.

But the Delhi saga has underlined that this should be the end of the sentimental practice of awarding the games to countries that have never before staged them - and maybe the end of the Commonwealth Games as we currently know them.

It's sad for India, a mighty nation and one of the world's fastest growing powers; a country that could be - should be - one of the drivers of the global economy.

This was to have been a coming out party; a celebration of India's capabilities.

Instead, it will be remembered for the human excrement left on the floor of a New Zealand apartment in the athletes' village - a forlorn little deposit symbolising the incompetence, perhaps corruption, and the folly of trying to impose Western rules, regulations and process on a culture which has always moved to the beat of its own drum.

It's not just India that's copped it. Dave Currie, the long-serving New Zealand chef de mission, did a sterling job as Chief Poo Detector and Whistle Blower, alerting the world to the, uh, crappy job.

Only problem was, Currie had made several trips up there before the excremental one and had returned with modest noises of praise and support for the job India was doing. Turns out he was shown a model tower, not the ones the Kiwi athletes were actually going to be living in.

This reminded me of the colleague some years back who visited India for the first time. He was happily clumping along the street, drinking in all the sights, smells and sounds, when he noticed he had a little gob of poo on his shoe.

Horrors. He stopped in mid-stride, surveying the offending piece of ordure. Salvation. Just ahead of him was a grinning Indian shoeshine boy. With shitless shoes now shiny and bright, he commenced walking again.

About a kilometre later, he did a double-take. His shoe had somehow grown another piece of excrement.

As he marvelled about the ability of poo to appear on shoes in India, he realised that he was close by to another shoeshine boy. Then he realised it was the same one.

Then he realised there were two of them in the scam. The first patrolled the street, flicking with amazing dexterity on to the shoes of unsuspecting foreigners, a little droplet of doo-doo. The shoeshine boy set up just ahead of the mark and ... bingo.

Shame someone didn't work the poo scam on Currie and other NZOC types to wake them up as to what was going on; before it looked as though their earlier visits to India appeared to amount to so much fat-cat schmoozing and being conned by the shoeshine boy's big brothers ...

If Currie lost a few credibility points, so did Mike Hooper, the New Zealand CEO of the Commonwealth Games Federation who lives in India and was riding shotgun on the whole thing. But India lost massively.

The village shenanigans, the collapsing roof, the collapsing bridge, the sting by the Australian TV channel news team who purchased explosives and then ferried them into the main stadium without even a hint of a security presence - all have painted a picture of a country tangled in its own desperate machinations to appear sophisticated.

Delhi has cost well over $2 billion and counting - the most expensive Games ever. They were supposed to usher in India's brave, new future. Instead they have confirmed only that this huge, colourful, interesting and vibrant land is not ready for its own future.

It might be a technological powerhouse but, along with the millions of dollars on show in cricket's IPL and its Bollywood star owners, it literally cannot find a pot for workers to crap in.

India also damned itself with its responses. The explanation for the TV sting at the stadium was that security wasn't ready yet and that no one would get any explosives in once the whole security system was working.

Al Qaeda will have had a good laugh over that one.

Organising committee boss Lalit Bhanot came out with a ridiculous assertion when tasked with the accusations of hygiene in apartments supposedly not fit for human habitation.

"Maybe to me and you, the room was clean," he said. "They [Westerners] want a certain standard of hygiene and cleanliness which may differ from my standard, his standard, your standard ... So we have upgraded things so that level of hygiene will be done."

That said to the watching world that India has a different standard of hygiene to the West; managing to offend India and much of the rest of the world at the same time.

Maybe, however, Bhanot and co have done us a favour. This could end the extravaganza era of the Games. Maybe now we stop awarding them to countries who struggle to accommodate them.

This, unfortunately, includes New Zealand, who pulled out of the race for the 2018 Games. Maybe we reduce the number of sports to classic Games events. Before it all went poo-shaped in Delhi, there were over 4500 competitors expected to attend; more than double the number of athletes that attended the Auckland Games in 1990. Why?

Games funding should move away from the imperialistic era of benign dictators awarding Games to those who woo them best. Instead, they could be rotated through cities that have already held them or Olympics and have the facilities.

That includes London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow (site of the 2014 version) in the UK; Edmonton, Montreal and Victoria in Canada.

Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in Australia. You could also deal in Kuala Lumpur (1998 Games) and, maybe, Singapore which has just hosted the Youth Olympics. The funding model would have to change but surely that's better than what we have right now: crapping in our own nest.

- Herald on Sunday

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