We may agree or disagree on whether India, a poor country, should have bid on the CWG, but surely we should all pull together and support them since they're a fait accompli? Now, a month later, and about a month from the Games' inauguration, I've reluctantly had to revise my view and have come to share his cynicism.
Anyone who follows Indian news even in a cursory way has read or seen the countless stories about more than the usual amount of corruption involved in building the infrastructure, the poor quality of the construction, and the utter state of chaos that New Delhi has been reduced to in the lead up. I won't trot those out here. Now, this is to some extent par for the course in India, but the CWG fiasco represents yet another missed opportunity for India.
When the previous NDA government bid for the Games, it was meant to be the capstone of its "India Shining" re-branding of the country. When the NDA fell from power, to a large extent because it was voted out of office by the still impoverished folks in the far-from-shining countryside, the successor UPA government, elected on a platform to put the "aam admi" or common man at the centre of things, made a political calculus to stick to the previous government's commitment to put on the CWG.
For a while, most of us, save the eternally cynical, were hopeful. The Games would give India a chance to showcase the progress we'd made since opening up the economy in 1991 and represent, not an endpoint, but a mile marker along the route to modern economic development. As an exemplar, China hosted the spectacularly successful Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008. If they could pull that off, surely we could manage the much smaller and admittedly less glamourous CWG?
Alas, the saga of ineptitude, incompetence, and idiocy that has unfolded has been epic, even by Indian standards. Far from showcasing our accomplishments, the preparation, or lack thereof, for the Games has put on view all of the bad stuff that made us or our parents' generation leave India in the first place: a sense of complacency and entitlement amongst the privileged elite, engrained and endemic corruption, and a blase disregard for what all of this will do for India's self-image and self-respect, to say nothing of its image abroad.
I'm sure that, somehow, Delhi will manage to pull this out, without a major catastrophe. But what will the legacy be? Mouldering and second-rate stadia, a once-green city reduced to a concrete jungle, and a mountain of debt that the country can ill afford are the main ones that come to mind. Meanwhile, a third of the population will continue to live in extreme poverty, not sure where their next meal is going to come from, while back in the corridors of power in Lutyens' Delhi a few well-connected contractors and politicos will count their gains.
Mr. Aiyar, you were right.