Delhi Games close with extravagant ceremony
Last Updated: Thursday, October 14, 2010 | 11:07 AM ET
The Associated Press
The most controversial Commonwealth Games in history — marked by oppressive security and low spectator turnout — came to a close Thursday without any major glitches as India celebrated the finale with an extravagant cultural show.
Indian administrators were roundly criticized by local and international media and foreign sports delegations before the Games for delays in getting the facilities ready. Some of the living quarters for the athletes were found to be filthy. At one point it had even appeared that the Games might be cancelled.
But once the Games started Oct. 3, all the venues were cleaned up and ready. Athletes praised the facilities at the venues and at the village, and only a handful of the more than 6,000 players and officials were reported sick during the Games, belying fears of contaminated water and "Delhi belly."
India was also successful in the sports arena, winning a record 101 medals, finishing second behind Australia with 38 golds, the last one coming in women's badminton singles by Saina Nehwal. Australia finished with 177 medals, including 74 golds. England was third with 37 golds.
Canada finished fourth with 26 gold and 75 medals total. It's the first time since 1958 Canada hasn't finished in the top three.
Scott Stevenson, director of sport for Commonwealth Games Canada, said the medal tally was about where Canadian officials had expected.
"We did anticipate that would put us into third place," he told a news conference earlier in the day. "We did not anticipate our counterparts in India to do as well as they did."
The closing ceremonies had a more relaxed and festive atmosphere than the opening. Instead of marching in by country, the athletes came into the stadium as one huge group, smiling and waving at the crowd.
Whitten carries Canadian flag
Cyclist Tara Whitten carried the Canadian flag. The Edmonton resident won four medals, including gold in Wednesday's individual time trial.
"I've watched my teammates succeed," Whitten said prior to the ceremony. "To have been chosen to represent them is a huge thrill and a great way to end the Games for me."
The Canadians wore white T-shirts and red pants. Some showed the maple leaf in their hats, others rode on their teammate's shoulders.
Many members of the Canadian team departed India once their competition ended. About 120 athletes and officials remained for the closing.
Field hockey team captain Ken Pereira had carried the flag during the opening ceremonies.
Indian authorities will also heave a sigh of relief that the Games passed off without any security incidents — no surprise given that tens of thousands of armed security forces had turned stadiums and streets leading to them into virtual fortresses.
This resulted in many spectators staying away. The low turnout was also the result of mismanagement in the ticketing authority, whose head was fired midway through the competition. Technical glitches prevented people from buying tickets online and those who showed up at the stadium were told that tickets had been sold out.
Local media have also reported alleged corruption, with millions of dollars being pocketed by officials and cronies from the money allocated for the construction of facilities. Estimates for the budget of the Games range from $3 billion US to $6 billion, making it the most expensive Games ever.
New Delhi was awarded the Games over a bid from Hamilton.
But all the controversies were forgotten Thursday, as India celebrated the successful completion of the Games with a cultural show at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
The closing ceremony began with a performance of the martial arts from several provinces of India, and showcased the culture of Scotland, which will host the next Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.
Unlike karate, kung-fu and jiu jitsu, traditional Indian martial arts are little known, even within India, and remain confined mostly to their regions. Among those displayed Thursday was "kalaripayattu," possibly one of the oldest fighting systems in existence, practised mostly in southern India. It features strikes, kicks, grappling, weaponry and healing methods.
The Scotland segment, which will feature pipers in tartan kilts and the Loch Ness Monster, will be followed by a 30-minute music show by some of India's top musicians and singers, ending with a pyrotechnics show.