Commonwealth Games Blogs

Destinaton: Delhi

NAIROBI, KENYA - When I think about India, the land of my forefathers, images of coloured fabrics, roadside (overly spicy) foods, booming call centres and whimsical Bollywood movies come to mind.

I don't generally associate India with raging athletic prowess. Besides the country's cricket team, a handful of wrestlers and a couple of wealthy shooters (with their own private shooting ranges), India rarely makes an impact on the international scene. Even the country's once-proud field hockey team, which won eight Olympic gold medals, hasn't reached the podium since 1980. The country ranks pretty much last in the world in terms of total Olympic medals won per capita (among countries who have won a medal).

"Not a priority," my father, Raman Nayar, states succinctly when I broach the subject of his birthplace's less-than-stellar international sporting achievements. "The only priority is education, education, education."

And yet Delhi - India's hazy and hypnotic capital - was chosen to host this year's Commonwealth Games.

Selecting Delhi, as the Commonwealth Games Federation did back in 2003, was probably never about India's performance on the world sporting stage. Like the selection of South Africa to host this year's soccer World Cup, it's more about the country than it is about sport.

Delhi hosted the Asian Games back in 1982, but a lot has changed since then. The Commonwealth Games will help introduce the new India - the rising Asian superpower steeped in ancient mythology - to the world.
A myriad of sports

Contemporary sport in India is a diverse mix - including sports introduced by the British colonials, like cricket, field hockey and soccer. But beyond these popular modern sports, India is home to a world of traditional games, born from ancient battles and the pursuit of godly qualities.

Chess is thought to have originated in India. Other, more obscure, ancient Indian games, like kabaddi (a mix of wrestling and rugby) and kho-kho (a form of tag) are gaining ground beyond the country's borders.

Over the course of this blog, I'll travel through India's biggest rumbling metropolises and its backcountry bumbling villages. Along the way, I'll delve into India's rich history of games - from the power and control of its martial arts to the rural games of pittu and guli dunda.

I'll literally get stuck in the mud in India's akharas (schools for traditional wrestling) and join a game of pick-up cricket (I pity those on my team). I'll discover sport during walks through ancient ruins, prayer in ornate temples and by taking in a few good Bollywood movies.  
A trip though India's sporting history

From its skyscrapers to its ancient washing quarters, India is a place I've held close to my heart for as long as I remember. I'm told that on my first trip to the country, in 1982, I ate the candles on my second birthday cake.

Through my experiences discovering India's unique world of sports and games, I hope to present readers with a picture of modern India - in all its colours.

Anjali Nayar will be blogging for before and during the Commonwealth Games, which begin Oct. 3 in Delhi. For real-time coverage, follow her on Twitter.