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India Wins Praise for Smooth Conduct of Commonwealth Games

India's Jwala Gutta, right, and Ashwini Ponnappa Machimanda show the gold medals they won in the women's badminton doubles event during the Commonwealth Games at Siri Fort Sports Complex in New Delhi, India, 14Oct. 2010.

India has won praise for the smooth conduct of the Commonwealth Games. That is helping salvage the country's pride, which had suffered international embarrassment for poor planning of the largest sporting event it has hosted in three decades.

A day after the Commonwealth Games drew to a close, New Delhi woke up to congratulatory headlines in the domestic media.

No major glitches

It was high praise for an event that was threatening to unravel days before it began. An unfinished and dirty athletes' village, a bridge collapse near one of the main stadiums, and security fears led to a barrage of bad publicity. This had prompted several high profile athletes to withdraw, and other countries to delay their arrival for the Games.

But after a last-minute, frenzied race to get ready, organizers conducted the 11-day event without any major glitches. Stadiums which were empty in the first few days due to mismanagement in the sale of tickets, later filled up with spectators. A heavy security presence in the city ensured that there were no incidents.

The head of the Commonwealth Game Federation, Michael Fennell, who had been critical of the late preparations two weeks ago, was lavish in his praise during a colorful closing ceremony on Thursday.

"The organizing committee led by Mr. Suresh Kalmadi, and the people of Delhi have successfully overcome those obstacles and delivered a truly outstanding event," Fennell said.

Respectable performance

India, which came second in the gold medal tally after Australia, was also satisfied with its sporting performance. It won 101 medals overall, including 38 gold - the most so far in any Commonwealth Games. That has raised some hopes that the country, which has lagged behind in international sports, will improve its performance in the years to come.

But many in the country are demanding accountability for the problems that surfaced in the lead up to the Games, and which dealt a blow to India's image as an emerging power. On top of the list is inadequate preparation for the event. India had seven years to get ready. The government has also promised to investigate charges of corruption in contracts awarded for the Commonwealth Games.

Columnist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta poses the questions which are still being heard.

"Why is it that everything is left till the last moment?" Thakurta asked, "Why is that those in positions of power and authority act in such a non transparent manner?"

But for the time being, India is happy that its pride has been somewhat restored with the smooth conduct of the Games.