Addicted to Delhi | SASCOC - SASCOC

Addicted to Delhi

Team South Africa media spokesperson and South African journalist Mark Keohane writes he feels safer in Delhi than he does in South Africa.

First up, I don’t ever feel threatened in South Africa, my home country. But as South Africans we are accustomed to prejudice and to perception presented as fact by the overseas media. In Delhi I’ve felt even more comfortable than in my Cape Town home.

Organisers of Delhi’s XIX Commonwealth Games have suffered as much from the local media as the overseas masses who feast as happily on the delights of Delhi as they do on any mishap, and the games in the local media have been dubbed the ‘Games of Shame.’

But the visuals shown so liberally locally and internationally don’t tell the full story of an event in which the security of the 7000-plus athletes and team officials is a priority, as is the issue of hygiene.

On both counts there could be no complaints from within the Team South Africa contingent, with every security measure in place to give the team comfort and the apartments are as clean as the athletes would be accustomed to in South Africa.

The workmanship is shoddy and the finishing leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to the Athletes Village apartments, but that was always to be expected with the last minute rush to complete the Village.

However, the rooms are as good as any you’d find at a Varsity residence. All that’s missing is the beer and the noise, but once the competition starts the noise will be there, as will the beer. South Africa, in Tower 22, have Australia as neighbours, so even if medals aren’t flowing for the South Africans it is a given there will be daily celebrations next door from the competition medal favourites.

The Team SA leadership ÔÇô in Delhi and back in South Africa – has been non negotiable on cleanliness and athletes have also embraced their short-term homes as if they were their own, which means they do their own cleaning up.

The odd geyser doesn’t work; there are a few plugs that are more aesthetic than functional and you’ll find more than one crack in the wall. But there is a calm and serenity about the village and while there is a huge security presence, it is not one that evokes a feeling of discomfort.

Staff and security are helpful, friendly and the athletes have settled into daily routines without any hassle.

The Village caters for every athlete’s need, from banks, to hair salons, to gift shopping, and the press conference areas are within a five minute walk from the apartments.

Outside the Village, Delhi is  well Delhi  a mixture of horns going all day, near crashes and intense traffic. But the dedicated Commonwealth Games Lane, which only allowed accredited Commonwealth vehicles in it, functions.

There were reports, again as much on Indian television as there has been on the international channels, that the lanes were a disaster, but all I’ve experienced is a free flow to and from the village.

The local authorities are also taking a zero-tolerance approach towards the lanes and any unauthorized driver of a vehicle in the lane will be prosecuted under a law that will be enforced for the duration of the games.

Delhi people I have engaged with have been apologetic about the local organizing committee, saying they have disgraced and embarrassed the name and people of India, but those locals seem to be doing everything to redress the tainted image foreigners may have had of Delhi and the Delhi Games.

The heat in Delhi is unrelenting, but then so too is the friendliness of the locals.