Archive for Commonwealth Games 2010

Indian Media – The Sleeping Beauty at the Commonwealth Games

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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.

Judging from the coverage of the Indian media you would never relate empty stands, blocked lavatories, collapsing scoreboards, vomiting swimmers and striking officials to these Games.

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.

Empty stands, blocked lavatories, collapsing scoreboards, vomiting swimmers and striking officials


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Could the Indian media have averted the Commonwealth Games crisis?

It didn’t seem like a big deal when Delhi came under severe flak a couple of weeks before the start of the 2010 commonwealth games as every nation, lucky enough to get an opportunity to host a big sporting event, usually draws some criticism in the run-up to the event. One thought it would blow off soon enough. But as the media found new holes in the preparations and its frenzy turned to fury it was realised that the story became murkier by the day. The media seemed to have suddenly dug up a scam that had been conducted undetected for more than half a decade and there in hangs the tale. The sordid tale that is trumpeted as a triumph but is actually a story of miserable failure and callous relegation of duty on the part of the media.

As the Indian media went ballistic in highlighting all that  was wrong with the preparation of Commonwealth games, the smug officials claimed to have everything under control. Every hour new stories about the squalid conditions began to be broadcast and printed in papers. We learnt that the Athlete’s Village was unsuitable for human habitation. Media was ecstatic in flashing pictures of dogs and snakes straying into the village to highlight the state of unpreparedness as the Indians began to panic. The outbreak of dengue and other diseases in the Indian capital city seemed to be the favourite topic for the journos.

The officials characteristically brushed aside the concerns of  the tribe with mikes and TV cameras (journalists is what they usually refer to themselves as) who with furrowed heads shot the same questions at them ad-nauseam . My point is why did the media wake up to the problem so late?  What were they doing for the seven years that India got for the preparation of the games? Was there no journalist- investigative or straight- who was tracking the development story for all these years?

To their credit the hype and hysteria (so typical of Indian media) created by the journos shook the PMO from its slumber. As the world media chipped in, some athletes and countries threatened to pull-out of the event. It was a national crisis.  The organisers were bailed out by the Indian government who called in the Indian Army to  build a bridge that had collapsed in just three days. The government also requisitioned help from other  government  departments to get the venues and the village  ready to receive the athletes.

The TV guys with their cameras and mikes and the newspapers reporters collectively felt triumphant and all smug in their success of  revealing just what a pack of clowns the organisers were. They felt they had done their job by India. And you can’t deny they did. Only it was five years too late.  Certainly a case of too much too late, which is perhaps worse than too little too late.

What the organisers did (or didn’t do) was bad but what was worst and most unusual was the fact that the Indian media was quite unaware of the Commonwealth Games till about 10 days before their commencement.  Why didn’t they  highlight the lapses in organisation and planning;  reveal the massive underlying corruption and get the Indian people involved 7,6 or even 5 years ago?  From the way they felt about India’s image being tarnished and had debates and discussions a couple of days before the opening of the games, it sure felt like it was an important issue worthy of their attention and coverage every single day from the day India was awarded the Games.

India prides itself on being the biggest democracy and the media definitely has a vital role to play in any democratic country. The Commonwealth Games might end up being called a great success depending on something as arbitrary as the number of gold medals India win but what has come across as one of India’s biggest failures is not just the corruption in our political system (we can fight that), but also the failure of Indian media. Indian media needs to get its priorities right and learn to be more professional in its approach if it wants to play a constructive role in helping India become the world power it dreams of becoming.

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