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The opening ceremony of the Commonwealth games on October 3, seems to have been the game changer. From finding nothing right with the preparation for the Games the media now can find nothing wrong. The front pages of Indian newspapers and all the reporters and anchors of all the news channels are awash with happy, positive news about the Games. The broadcast media is ecstatic as each Indian win is reported by beaming TV anchors grinning from ear to ear. They just can’t resist asking anyone who is willing to comment just how many medals they think India will win and whether they will end up hitting a new record in Gold medals.
The chaos, scandals and panic which formed the theme of the Commonwealth Games coverage till before the opening ceremony has been long forgotten. The opening ceremony which in my opinion was just about ordinary, has been built up as something of a super spectacular success. So focused were they on the dazzling lights of the opening ceremony, that they forgot to report (thank God for the BBC!) on the damage to the field that was caused by the performers. True to form, the Indian media has once again decided to go back to sleep after a 10-day burst of activity in the run-up to the Games.
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It once again was left to the world media, to show the Indian media that there were problems that needed to addressed and reported. The Telegraph and then the BBC and the Guardian let the world know how a very high percentage of the English squad had been suffering from Delhi belly. That the Australian swimming team was also under the weather and that probably the practice swimming pool was contaminated. It probably needed to be checked. Mike Fennel finally intervened and that is around the time the Indian TV channels decided to run a sorry little ticker story. It was only after everyone read somewhere else that the Indian print media actually ran a story.
Another news story that was doing the rounds all over the world and was mentioned in India only after it became impossible to ignore was about an accident involving Ugandan officials and how they were treated in the most inhuman manner. No Indian official offered to help them. They just stood there and looked at the poor Ugandans disdainfully. It needed intervention and some arm twisting from the External Affairs Minister Krishna Kumar to get the Sports minister Gill to regret the ‘inconvenience’ caused to the Officials from Uganda. The Indian media chose to ignore the issue as they had better things like the India Medal’s Tally to report.
Yet another story that was deemed unimportant since our athletes were winning Gold medals was about the athletics fiasco about false starts and uneven running tracks at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and the officials threatening to go on strike.
The sad affair about a Welsh woman athlete being harassed in the Games Village was covered a little bit but then it is the kind of sensationalist story that the Indian media tends to enjoy covering. They have been very proactive in telling us exactly how many condoms are being used in the Athletes village on a day to day basis and how the numbers don’t match up to the the record set in Beijing!
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The Indian media needs to realise that by not covering these stories, these terrible lapses in organization, they are in no way helping the country. They need to keep reminding people of how chaotic and miserable the games have been. Irrespective of how many medals India wins the Games have been a failure on many counts. Their responsible reporting will help bring the culprits to book. It is still possible to learn precious lessons from this fiasco if nothing else.