Commonwealth Games Blogs

Apologies and farewell from Delhi

Delhi, India - OK, so I have to make an apology. As my family well knows, I don't always admit when I'm wrong, but I think it's unavoidable in this case.

I started this blog by writing:

"I don't generally associate India with raging athletic prowess. Besides the country's cricket team, a handful of wrestlers and a couple wealthy shooters (with their own private shooting ranges), India rarely makes an impact on the international level."

My fault is glaringly obvious. It's written in the top right corner of the CBC Commonwealth Games website in the medal count. India is leaving the games with 101 medals, double that of their take from the 2006 Melbourne Games and yes, two spots above Canada.

India dominated in areas they have been traditionally strong, like shooting and badminton, but there were a good deal of new and surprising victories - like 19-year-old Asish Kumar, who brought home the country's first Games medals in gymnastics, as well as Krishna Poonia, who won the country's first gold in athletics.

India said it invested over 150 million dollars in its athletes over the last couple of years, and it shows. And now, with a number of world-class sporting facilities, I'm sure we will be seeing much more from Team India in the years to come.

On the subject of apologies

Since we are on the subject, I think a few more apologies need to be made. I've been really disappointed in the media coverage of the Games in general.

I won't get into specifics at this point, but there was a lot of misreporting. Let's just say that the press in India is very free, to the point where a lot reported was frankly wrong. Before the Games Abhinav Bindra, the gold medal shooter, explained the Indian media by saying: Indians like everything a little "spicy."

Indeed, Bindra more than once took to his Twitter feed to refute accusations of throwing tantrums and arguing with officials (whom he never even met with).

But this isn't just about personal politics.

The international media dropped into Delhi half way into a big story of a fallen footbridge and a dirty athletes' village. They had to report on the run from day one; they borrowed a great deal from the local press and even managed some misreporting of their own. Everyone loves a good controversy.

In the end, it was almost as if the major media story of the Games was over before the competition itself began. The thrill was about whether India would fail when it should have been about the athletes who were winning.

A couple journalists have been reprimanded for their coarse conduct, but way more should just go back and check their facts.

India put on a great Commonwealth Games

There were problems, absolutely. India suffers the same flaw that I do - everything is done last minute. But when India does something, it also does its best to do it right in the end. From the beautiful opening ceremony to the security that was more thorough than any I've been through in my life (including getting onto airplanes).

"What's this?" the security officer asked as I was filing into the wrestling stadium one day, late as usual. She had taken out every pen in my bag and was opening them in turn.

"A pen, haven't you seen a pen before?" I snarked.

"I'm surprised she didn't ask you to write with it," my friend James laughed at me later.

I was frustrated at the time because I missed the match, but it's no surprise that there weren't any terror incidents at the Games. The Delhi police said it had the security covered and they meant it.

So differences in cleanliness aside, it was a great Commonwealth Games, and a fantastic feat for any developing country.

In India you may get a belly bug, but it's likely to be a far more colourful and fun experience than most destination competitions. Everyone is put in the same boat, and if you come out with a medal, you take it in stride.

Apart from Maradona, who insists a bidet and toilet throne fit for a king are installed before he arrives at a World Cup, few athletes can afford to ensure a perfect transition. And frankly, I think Delhi did a pretty good job.

As the closing ceremony came to an end, so ends another blogging chapter for me at the CBC. I've been humbled by the incredible skill and dedication of all the athletes - both competing in the Games here in Delhi, and in traditional games around the countryside. It's been wonderful to receive all the comments here on the site and on twitter. Thank you very much.

If you haven't had enough of these blogs yet (I'm being optimistic since you've reached this far in my post), you can check back here early next week. I'll have a bonus track about kabaddi - the traditional Indian sport that is growing most around the world.

Did you know that the International Kabaddi Federation has 31 members - including Canada?

Well I came across kabaddi in several places during my travels and got my game on. Pictures, videos and blog to come.

As always, you can keep following me on Twitter. Next week I'm off to Japan!