Delhi to change Commonwealth Games future: expert


Sydney : The problems that marred the Commonwealth Games in India will act as a catalyst for major changes in the format of the Games, says one of Australia’s foremost Games experts.

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This is vital to allow the event to re-emerge as a stronger competition, Craig McLatchey wrote in The Australian Saturday.

The Oct 3-14 Delhi Games were plagued by organisational glitches, poor attendances at venues, security fears and the withdrawal of many of the marquee athletes.

McLatchey said the Delhi event provided the “shock” to the system that the Commonwealth Games needed to reshape itself as a unique event in the 21st century.

The most important task for the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and the next host was finding a way to lure back the big-name athletes who skipped Delhi.

“I think Delhi brings into focus more clearly the things that need to be changed… That’s one of the biggest contributions this Games has made. It has brought those things into focus.

“When there’s a very successful Games, as there was in Melbourne four years ago, it disguises the weaknesses in the broader edifice. The challenge for the CGF and Glasgow is to redefine the Games.”

But McLatchey underlined that the Commonwealth Games were needed.

“It’s excellent competition, it’s not as big as the Olympics so it’s more intimate, and there’s more camaraderie in a more relaxed environment. It’s also more than a regional Games.

But he said “there is a need for fiscal restraint given that the economy isn’t as robust as it was when the Games was awarded.

“We may need to make the Games a bit more elastic. Do we really need a 50,000-seat track and field stadium? We do not. And does it need to host the opening and closing ceremonies? No.”

McLatchey said the problems in Delhi showed that the CGF also needed to reform its processes for the oversight of future Games hosts through its coordination committee.

“The government played a greater role than the organising committee in the successes and failures of these Games. So it’s not enough for the CGF to deal with the organising committee. It has to develop better relationships with all the stakeholders.

“We could have done more to help, but the recipient should also be ready to accept the help.”

McLatchey, who acted as a consultant to the Delhi organisers, admitted there were substantial frustrations in dealing with the Indian committee, which he said repeatedly ignored the advice of the foreign consultants it employed, most of whom had vast Games organisational experience.

“We had 24 people working here every day and of course there were problems but they came down to three main factors,” he said.

“The first was the late delivery of venues, and that cascaded into the second thing, putting enormous stress on the delivery system to respond. And thirdly, some of the planning wasn’t as well-developed as it should have been. That led to late contracting and deployment of staff and late training.

“The poor attendance at some venues wasn’t about lack of interest, it was about the ticketing. Where there has been availability, the attendance has been good.

“Some of the core systems have worked well, like the athletes’ transport, which we were very concerned about, and the Games lanes, but everything we could see going wrong, we could trace back to those three factors.

“It’s not been easy here, but we have learned a tremendous amount. The big lesson is don’t run late.”