CW GAMES WATCH: Horror to hurrah: Guess who’s grinning after the Games opener – so India can get things done properly if it wills it, now for just the right ‘political catalyst’ towards 1st world status ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY SANKARSHAN THAKUR
Faces were beaming a day after the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony sent a wave of pride gushing among many citizens and won applause from the global media that used phrases such as “India has arrived”, “pitched-perfect” and “no Delhi dallying around”.
The torrid tide in the run-up seems to have turned and if the streak can be maintained till the closing ceremony is over, those at the receiving end a few days ago could end up lugging trophies home and consolidate their once-shaky positions.
The Congress and the UPA government, too, could reap dividends if the Games win the perception race.
Sankarshan Thakur hits the tracks in search of winners, losers and those who can still win if the opening ceremony does not prove a flash in the balloon-watched pan.
• The great helium aerostat: Surreal and spectacular, the closest anything may have come to futuristic Avatar-like special effects right there, in your face. The aerostat was haunted by a fair bit of debate surrounding its cost — Rs 80 crore in all to set it up — but the more it hung there and the more magical hues it emitted, the more it seemed worth the price tag. The mesmerising cosmic egg also served to keep attention off the many slips and glitches unfolding underneath. The balloon will be brought back to the earth over the next few days but will be hoisted aloft again for the closing ceremony.
• The fireworks: Anaemic to begin with, but once the evening had warmed up, they were a blast, churning off the upper-tiers of the open-air beehive rotunda of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, and making a starlit feast of the skies overhead.
• Tree of Knowledge and yoga display: An enthralling pageant of art mating with engineering under the luminous halo of the aerostat, suddenly muted from a guide to the athletes’ parade to a burnished treetop. Hydraulic wires rose from the stage pit to meet the aerostat and conjure the Bodhi Tree.
A three-dimensional laser representation of Buddha in padmasana, the fundamental yogic pose. Rippling around such phantasm, classical dance troupes choreographed by some of the masters of the arts — Birju Maharaj, Sonal Mansingh, Raja Reddy, Bharati Shivaji, Saroja Vaidyanathan, Singhajit Singh.
• The Manmohan-Sonia tandem: They must have arrived a whit nervous, the route to the opening ceremony paved with horror stories of mismanagement and delays. But as they sat down to watch — and the world looked on —they would have sensed confidence, and then pride, squeeze away their apprehensions. The evening spared them any embarrassments.
On the contrary, they could now draw new strength and assurance their team produced quite a humdinger and when critics — the media and the political Opposition included — were predicting they would deliver a dud. If the high stays intact till the event is over, the Congress will also be able to return to the “nation-builder” theme that once gave it the monopoly to govern.
• Sheila Dikshit: If you thought the skullduggery of the past couple of months over arrangements for the CWG had dented her image, you only had to hear the stadium applaud as her name came up for mention. Sheila Aunty, Delhi continues to love you, even in your 12th straight year in power, even despite the mess you’ve made the capital wade through all monsoon, even with all the criticism, just and unjust, that lies piled and yet unaddressed.
Doordarshan’s ‘live’ coverage: To begin with, it was really a delayed-live telecast, behind by nearly five minutes because DD was too busy raking in the ad bucks. No concept of streaming a live event such as this. No concept of syncing stadium lights with cameras, or on-site public address with commentary. Commentators knew little of sport, they introduced national contingents as they have been introducing Republic Day tableaux for decades. Outsourcing? Well, if it was on DD’s plans, the opening would have been a good time to begin. DD approached the event like a classical PSU — since we have exclusive rights we can afford to mess with it. They did, all evening.
• Pratibha Patil: Having scrapped with the British Crown over primacy in the absence of QE II, President Patil strained to carry out a rehearsed act she was never going to be able to. Desperate to put a clipped edge on her Ps and Qs, eager to imitate an accent that would not escape her lips with quite the right ring. She ended with a contrived, and rather unedifying, flourish of her hand as she exhorted the Games to begin. It was a gesture that belonged more to a stand-up magician’s repertoire, less to a head of state.
Jury out on
• Great Indian journey: You couldn’t tell whether this was about method in the madness or madness in the method. A chaotic cascade of kitsch innocent of choreography. An eyesore to the purists, but if the idea was to showcase the great and disorganised Indian melting pot — not to mention throbbing technology — it may have served its purpose. A large part of the arena, visiting delegations most of all, were in thrall, if only for the sheer excess of lights, sounds, colour and variety.
• Suresh Kalmadi: Roundly jeered as he rose to speak, he put a brave face and forged on to finish his unendurably listless text he had brought along. Perhaps its only highlight was that he confused A.P.J. Abdul Kalam for Abul Kalam Azad.
But Kalmadi had proved himself a man of durable hide, unbothered by scam or scandal or stench. “I don’t know. I didn’t hear all that (the boos). I think we should move on and the let the Games happen as the best ever,” Kalmadi told CNN-IBN on Monday.
Many in Kalmadi’s party believe that if he follows up the opening show with a smooth Games, it may be difficult to wield the axe on him. He’s already arguing he is being made into a scapegoat when many more are responsible for the mess that prefaced the opening.
• A.R. Rahman: Jiyo, heyo, let’s go didn’t get off the ground and got nobody anywhere. Worked over after criticism of the first version, Rahman’s special rendering for the Games didn’t do the maker justice, or his audience proud. What did was his Oscar-winning Jai Ho! Rahman was probably himself aware he hadn’t quite got his new act together.
No wonder he fell back to his tried and tested tune. Thank God for it. Rahman kept his reputation and gave the opening ceremony a rousing closure.
Pawar skips, jokes apart – not wanting to be in the corruption limelight ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
New Delhi, Oct. 4: When Team Manmohan lined up for the Commonwealth Games opener yesterday, one heavy hitter was missing: Sharad Pawar.
International cricket boss Pawar, whose contributions to the country include fellow sports-politician Suresh Kalmadi, preferred to be in Mohali where India is playing a Test against Australia.
Pawar’s absence from the Games ceremony was particularly noticed as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi had wanted all the ministers to be present at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Sunday evening.
Sources said Pawar had to stay back in Chandigarh in the evening as the Punjab Cricket Association had organised an event to felicitate him on becoming the International Cricket Council chief. Sources in Pawar’s party, the NCP, denied allegations that the food minister skipped the Games because it was a Kalmadi show.
But other sources could not resist pointing out that Pawar had said barely a week ago that the “CWG had become a joke” and had never planned to attend the opening ceremony because of his antipathy towards Kalmadi. The one-time disciple and mentor had drifted apart over a turf tussle in Maharashtra.
These sources said Pawar had referred to some CWG jokes — plenty were flying as text messages — at a public rally in Pune last week.
Kalmadi got a chance to settle scores today. In the first issue of the Village News, a community newspaper brought out by the Games Organising Committee, Kalmadi said in his message: “In a cricket-crazy nation, we need such celebrations of sport to make everyone sit up and take note of rich variety of champions from other sport.”
If that did not send the message across, a big report on the back page screamed: “CWG pushes cricket down under — The Delhi Games have put even a high-voltage Australia series in shade”. A few other ministers, like Pawar’s friend Sushil Kumar Shinde, were not present at the stadium. Shinde has gone abroad.
Pranab Mukherjee was a silent spectator as there were no vexed political problems to solve. Mamata Banerjee, too, attended the ceremony to abide by the Prime Minister’s wish.
Singh had personally telephoned L.K. Advani and the BJP veteran attended with his daughter. BJP president Nitin Gadkari was also present. Buta Singh, who played a vital role in the Delhi Asian Games, cut a lonely figure in the galleries this time.
Although most ministers enjoyed the cultural extravaganza, many complained of poor mobile network inside, probably because of jamming by the SPG. Ministers like Mamata are known for constantly sending text messages.
One minister said: “Many of us were trying to make important calls but that portion of the stadium was worst in terms of network facilities, probably because the SPG had jammed the lines. Although some SMSes came and went out, we could not make any calls.”
Another said he could not recall a day when ministers were unable to use their cellphones freely for three hours.
Anonymous bomb threat call at CWG Village – those that burn with jealousy ?!!
NEW DELHI, 5 OCT, 2010, 04.13PM IST, PTI: An anonymous call claiming that a bomb has been placed inside the Commonwealth Games Village today prompted a thorough security check at the residential complex which hosts around 7,000 athletes and officials.
The call was received by police at around 2:30 pm and extensive checks were conducted.
Dog squads and bomb disposal teams surveyed the 63.5 hectare area, which has 14 blocks, 34 towers and 1,168 air- conditioned apartments.
A senior police official said checks were on but indicated that it could be a hoax call .
Following the call, bomb disposal squad also conducted searches at the Main Press Centre located in Pragati Maidan.