The foreign newspapers that I track, the New York Times and the Asian edition of the Wall Street Journal had been panning, so far, the Indian bureaucracy and lack of management skills for conducting an event of this scale.
However, after the ceremony was over, the mood changed from panning to swooning!
The New York Times had a full photo feature on the opening ceremony. The paper also wrote: "In sharp contrast to the run-up to the Games, the opening ceremony started on time, and appeared to be meticulously planned."
As if this were not enough, there were two other features on the ceremony. One article examined the economic impact the Games could potentially have on India. The article quoted John Lee of the Center for Independent Studies in Sydney saying “Nothing will progress without the cooperation of China, India and Brazil ...... events and parades can be overrated as a measure of economic prowess .... North Korea has great military parades with 200,000 people, but no one looks to them to predict the future”.
I agree, but India cannot be compared with North Korea for sure!
The third article in the New York Times spoke of the "sharp contrast to the run-up to the Commonwealth Games, the opening ceremony started on time Sunday night and appeared to be meticulously planned, with a throbbing musical number that included hundreds of intricately costumed drummers, the world’s largest helium balloon and enormous dancing puppets...... The exuberant ceremony was a welcome change from preparations for the games, which were notable for missed deadlines, accusations of corruption, filthy living quarters for athletes and the collapse of a footbridge "
The Wall Street Journal ran a feature "Colors of India Come Alive in a Dazzling CWG Opening Ceremony" which had a round up of stories on the spectacular opening ceremony.
The Times of India also ran a sidebar, "World Goes Ga-Ga" featuring headlines from international publications. The Guardian from the United Kingdom is reported to have said "India Has Arrived: Spectacular Ceremony Opens Commonwealth Games".
The Daily Telegraph said "After weeks dominated by reports of corruption and chaos, the new ‘Incredible India’ of diversity and cultural pride showed its face. It even managed to start on time, to the very second, proving there are some deadlines that Games organisers are capable of meeting....... India put on its best face on Sunday and pulled off a brilliant opening ceremony that was extraordinary in its ambition and execution. It was everything the organisers had promised and more — an energetic celebration of all India has been and intends to be."
The Sydney Morning Herald said "An ancient land opens its heart to the world!" I cannot believe that this came from Australia!
The comments of The Australian " The XIX Commonwealth Games crawled up off the canvas last night with a display of pageantry and technical wizardry that, finally, projected the image India craved on to two billion television sets around the world" were a bit(?) appreciative.
The gushing news reports were followed by India's grand performance on the medals tally on the first day. Given that India has not had much of a sporting history to talk of, this level of performance was something to be proud of.
The successful hosting of the games does prove a couple of things.
One, India succeeds inspite of a corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy. As we become a bigger economy, can we afford to let that happen anymore?
Two, we as a country have a distinct management style. We thrive in chaos, or what my friend on Facebook, Aditya Kiran called the "Big Fat Indian Wedding Style of Management", which is hard for Westerners to fathom. Work will go on till the guests arrive, and yes, we have no "wedding rehearsals".
Three, we in India need to be proud of our heritage and appreciate the worth of its diversity and richness. For some of my close friends and colleagues, the ceremony was too much of heritage, just stopping short of being a cultural programme or somewhat of a Republic Day parade. But people abroad thought otherwise. Unless we take pride in our culture and value it, no one will appreciate us and respect our country. Look at the Japanese. They are proud of their culture and traditions, yet at the same time are very, very modern, and are respected.
I would love to be optimistic on all this. The Games are perhaps just a beginning, of bigger achievements to come our way, of grander successes that we would earn, rightfully. Perhaps for most of us, it may be hard to fathom how and when this would happen.
But the history of India has shown a lot. We lose hope, but we turn the hopeless situation into a grand stepping stone. The economic crisis of 1990-91 was one such epochal event.
I think the XIX Commonwealth Games is another such event.
But for now, the redemption that the initial successes have shown is sweeter than anything I could have imagined.
I am not alone in thinking that way.
The New Zealand flag bearer, Irene Van Dyk's comment that "The most colourful, beautiful and well-organised games I have ever been part of!" proves that the redemption is true and sweet indeed!!!!