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Sept. 30 Chat: What does the Commonwealth Games fiasco say about India?

Date and Time: 
Thursday, September 30, 2010 - 12:00 - 12:30

A dengue fever outbreak. A collapsed footbridge. Filthy athlete accommodations. India's hopes for a world-class Commonwealth Games are being dashed by a farce of corruption, cronyism and incompetence.


On Sept. 30 at noon Eastern time, New Delhi correspondent Jason Overdorf will take questions from GP members on the Commonwealth Games fiasco and what it says about India's quest to land a spot aside China on the global stage. 

11:55GlobalPostHi Jason

11:57GlobalPostGreetings folks!

11:58GlobalPostWelcome to GlobalPost's chat with our very own Jason Overdorf

11:58GlobalPostLive from New Delhi

11:58GlobalPostJason is a senior correspondent with GlobalPost

11:58GlobalPosta little bit about him:

11:59GlobalPostJason has been has spent most of the past 15 years living and working in Asia

11:59GlobalPostHis work has appeared in Newsweek, Far Eastern Economic Review, Atlantic Monthly and the Asian Wall Street Journal

11:59GlobalPosthe first arrived in New Delhi in 2002

11:59GlobalPostand today

11:59GlobalPosthe is with us to discuss the controversial Commonwealth Games

11:59GlobalPostwhich are due to open Oct 3


12:00GlobalPostHi Jason

12:00Jason_OverdorfHi Emily, hi guys


12:00GlobalPostso, for those of us new to the world of the commonwealth games

12:00GlobalPostcan you tell us basically what they are?

12:01Jason_OverdorfWell, the Commonwealth Games are, depending on your pov, a the Olympics lite or a relic of the defunct British empire...

12:01Jason_OverdorfBut seriously, they happen every 4 years and include most of the Olympic sports, as well as some funny ones like net ball

12:01GlobalPostand how did New Delhi wind up hosting them?

12:02GP-ChatHostJust a reminder to the audience, if you have a question to ask Jason, send a private message to me, GP-ChatHost by entering " /MSG GP-ChatHost FOLLOWED BY YOUR MESSAGE "

12:02GP-ChatHostwithout the quotes

12:02Jason_OverdorfDelhi won a bid for the CWG back in 2003, against Hamilton, Ontario, in Canada.

12:02Jason_OverdorfI think the fact that it was Delhi, and India was the next big thing, was a major factor in the win.

12:03GlobalPostthat makes sense

12:03GlobalPosta rising BRIC power

12:03GlobalPostand, so far, it has been a disaster

12:03GlobalPostis that accurate to say?

12:03Jason_OverdorfWell.... Human excrement in the Games Village...

12:03GlobalPostneed you say more

12:03Jason_OverdorfSnakes in the apartments, etc...

12:04GlobalPosttruly the debacles in New Delhi have been all over the press

12:04GlobalPosthave you found the press coverage to be accurate/fair?

12:04Jason_OverdorfWell, as far as I know they mostly stuck to the facts...

12:04Jason_OverdorfBut the tone of the commentary had a somewhat Colonial hangover to it...

12:05GlobalPostwhat do you make of that?

12:05Jason_OverdorfWell, when a games official talks about the "filthy" village with such disdain, it's not very diplomatic

12:05Jason_OverdorfI thought there might have been a bit of puttng India in its place, after so much press about its rise, it's new supremacy in cricket, etc

12:06GlobalPostdo you think all the negative press will deal India's image a significant blow?

12:06Jason_OverdorfI think it's a blow to the ego, more than the image. India's image was already pretty dismal when it comes to infrastructure and cleanliness.

12:06GlobalPostthat is true

12:07GlobalPostyou mentioned in your last piece for us

12:07GlobalPostthat there could actually be a silver lining to all this negative press, however

12:07Jason_Overdorfyeah, I think it could serve as a wakeup call, that "India's rise" is not a foregone conclusion.

12:07Jason_OverdorfIt took China quite a lot of work to make it happen.

12:08Jason_OverdorfRecently, the fact of India's large population and a few years running of strong growth...

12:08Jason_Overdorfmay have made people overconfident that the China path was inevitable.

12:08GlobalPostdo you think they shouldn't even have tried?

12:09Jason_OverdorfMany people have argued that, most of them foreigners. But also a prominent govt minister.

12:09Jason_OverdorfWho incidentally was placed in charge of the Games originally.

12:09Jason_OverdorfThe simple fact of having 700 million people living on less than a dollar a day...

12:09Jason_Overdorfcalls in question such a big spending on essentially an ego trip.


12:10GlobalPostyou say that govt official was originally put in charge

12:10GlobalPostbut ultimately it was another, more minor official, who took the games on

12:10GlobalPostis it that person's fault everything went wrong?

12:11Jason_OverdorfIn a nutshell....

12:11Jason_OverdorfFor the Asian Games in 1982, which was successful, Rajiv Gandhi himself took charge...

12:11Jason_OverdorfBut for the CWG, it was handed off to a relatively unknown sports-only politician...

12:11Jason_Overdorfnamed Suresh Kalmadi.

12:12Jason_OverdorfHe's pretty much been blamed for the whole fiasco.

12:12GlobalPostdo you think that's fair?

12:12GlobalPostisn't more of a result of India's messy democracy?

12:12Jason_OverdorfThe Games was actually fairly effective at cutting through "democractic opposition"

12:12Jason_OverdorfThat was its main benefit for Delhi.

12:13Jason_OverdorfIt gave deadlines for stuff like the Metro and new roads that theoretically couldn't be ignored

12:13Jason_OverdorfOf course, they missed some of them.

12:13GlobalPostquite a few it turned out

12:13GlobalPostOK Jason, we have a question from one of our audience members

12:13GP-ChatHostHi, Jason. We have some great, colorful, questions from a member of our audience--


12:14GP-ChatHostmilesahead: poo. monkeys. corruption. collapsed bridges. how can India recover from this PR debacle? and all for something that most of us had never heard of.

12:14GP-ChatHostmilesahead: how are locals -- real Indians, I mean -- reacting to the news of these games? are they angry? upset? embarrassed?

12:14Jason_OverdorfThe locals are pretty angry.

12:14Jason_OverdorfMost people talk a lot about the "shame" of it all.

12:14Jason_OverdorfBut that was a lot driven by the media.

12:14Jason_OverdorfNow that some actual sports are starting, it's queiting a bit

12:15Jason_OverdorfI think that the way forward for India is to soldier on,

12:15Jason_Overdorfand then stay away from big public vows of success.

12:15GlobalPostbe more realistic?

12:15Jason_OverdorfJust get in there and actually build the roads and bridges and whatnot

12:16Jason_OverdorfThat and win some medals!

12:16GlobalPosthere's to hoping

12:16GlobalPostlet's take another question

12:16GP-ChatHostHere is another great question from a member of the audience: GlobalA: Are there any sports that will feature positively in the Commonwealth Games?

12:16Jason_OverdorfI'm not sure what you mean by feature positively. India should do well in boxing, for instance...

12:17GlobalPostare there any good sporting events to look out for?

12:17Jason_OverdorfWell, from India's perspective, hockey is a big one.

12:17Jason_OverdorfIndia has won the world cup in hockey (field hockey, that is) in the past.

12:17Jason_OverdorfBoxing is the next big thing in India, in some sense. having won

12:17Jason_Overdorfsome medals in Beijing

12:18GlobalPostsounds good

12:18GlobalPosti'm curious

12:18GlobalPostafter the games

12:18GlobalPostdo you think that all of this will hurt investment?

12:18Jason_OverdorfI don't think so.

12:18Jason_OverdorfIndia already had a terrible reputation for infrastructure

12:18Jason_OverdorfSo companies would have been aware of these problems

12:18Jason_OverdorfBut India is also very good at workarounds, or what they call jugaad.

12:19Jason_OverdorfBasically, breaking the rules, in order to get things done when the govt fails

12:19Jason_OverdorfThe troubles faced by Tata over land acquisition, or Posco with the delays of their big investment or

12:20Jason_OverdorfVedanta and its environmental / tribal woes are probably more scary to investors.

12:20GlobalPostlet's take some more questions

12:20GP-ChatHostJust another reminder to the audience, if you have a question for Jason, send it to me, GP-ChatHost, by entering " /MSG GP-ChatHost FOLLOWED BY YOUR MESSAGE"

12:21GP-ChatHostRumsfeld: Were there any other contest or games that Indai might have wanted in the future that they will now be unlikely to get

12:21Jason_OverdorfWell, there was talk about the Olympics

12:21Jason_OverdorfBut I think this would hurt their chances

12:21GlobalPostanother question

12:22GP-ChatHostGlobalA: Besides India are there any other international teams that are expected to well in the competition?

12:22Jason_OverdorfThat's a good question....

12:22Jason_OverdorfI think Australia is always strong

12:22Jason_Overdorfand some of the UK teams are strong

12:22Jason_Overdorfin certain sports....


12:23GlobalPostwhat are the three major areas of India's development

12:23GlobalPostthat you think

12:23GlobalPostthis debacle highlights

12:23Jason_Overdorf1. Infrastructure..

12:23GlobalPostwhat should they be prioritizing moving forward?

12:23Jason_OverdorfInfrastructure, but that has to do with

12:23Jason_Overdorfexecution of projects, generally

12:24Jason_Overdorfand another big problem area, which is


12:24Jason_OverdorfIn the Games, there was a lot of suspicion regarding

12:24Jason_Overdorfcost overruns.

12:24GlobalPosti heard about 4,000-rupee toilet paper

12:24Jason_OverdorfAnd the staff included a lot of relatives...

12:24Jason_OverdorfI heard that, then I heard a denial... yada yada

12:25Jason_Overdorf3rd thing...

12:25Jason_OverdorfI think the games highlighted India's weakness

12:25Jason_Overdorfin Labor.


12:25Jason_OverdorfThe demographic dividend everybody talks about

12:25Jason_Overdorfdepends on those millions

12:25Jason_Overdorfbecoming competent workers

12:25Jason_Overdorfand that means they need

12:25Jason_Overdorfeducation and respect and decent wages

12:26Jason_OverdorfNone of which these games workers


12:26GlobalPostwhose fault is that?

12:26Jason_OverdorfHard to say.

12:26Jason_OverdorfBut India has been focusing

12:26Jason_Overdorfon higher education for a long time

12:26Jason_Overdorfand the primary system is rogered

12:27GlobalPostlet's take one more question from our loyal audience members

12:27GP-ChatHostralph: The problems facing India raise the big question: With its population expected to boom, are there any overarching (or regional) plans to modernize the infrastructure. If there is no plan, what kind of economic future does India face given that its infrastructure can't handle its current population. Will India lose global investment?

12:27Jason_OverdorfUnfortunately, India suffers from

12:27Jason_Overdorfa surfeit of plans.

12:27Jason_OverdorfThey are excellent planners, but implemenation is weak.

12:27Jason_OverdorfYou're right that if the infrastructure doesn't improve

12:28Jason_Overdorfthey will start to face bottlenecks in growth

12:28Jason_Overdorfespecially in manufacturing,

12:28Jason_Overdorfwhich is where you can expect to employ

12:28Jason_Overdorfthose masses.

12:28Jason_OverdorfRE global investment - I think we can expect a good deal

12:29Jason_Overdorffor now. And part of that will hopefully speed infrastructure


12:29Jason_OverdorfFor example, today I was at a Wal-mart meeting

12:29Jason_Overdorfand there was lots of talk about investing in farmers to

12:29Jason_Overdorfbuild supply chain infrastructure.

12:29Jason_OverdorfMaybe roads will be part of that package form the govt side.


12:29GlobalPostand a last question, Jason

12:30GlobalPostis the story of these commonwealth games

12:30GlobalPostalready written?


12:30GlobalPostis it possible they could turn it all around at this stage?

12:30Jason_OverdorfI think everybody winds up being amazed by India

12:30Jason_Overdorfwhen they visit.

12:30Jason_OverdorfI'm already seeing some of that, from the athletes, who look

12:30Jason_Overdorfto be having a good time.

12:31Jason_OverdorfI wouldn't be too surprised

12:31GlobalPostexcept for the British athletes who are all down with a stomach bug


12:31Jason_Overdorfif afterward, lots of people have good things to say.

12:31Jason_OverdorfWell, how bad can that hurt your image,

12:31Jason_Overdorfwhen you're most well-known for Delhibelly.

12:31GlobalPostand that's good note to end on

12:31GlobalPostthank you everyone

12:31GlobalPostfor joining us

12:31GlobalPostand thanks to Jason

12:31GlobalPostfor sharing of his expertise

12:32GlobalPostI have learned a lot

12:32GlobalPostand I hope you have too

12:32GlobalPostlet's all stay tuned as the Commonwealth Games unfold

12:32GlobalPostthey are, by the way, over the 14th

12:32GlobalPostOK, folks

12:32GlobalPostjoin us next time

12:32GlobalPoststay tuned to our website for news of the next chat

12:33GlobalPostand tell your friends!

12:33GlobalPostByebye everybody

12:33Jason_OverdorfBye everybody. Keep reading!