Commonwealth Games Off to a Shaky Start

Fireworks light up the sky as performers dance underneath the aerostat during the XIX Commonwealth Games opening ceremony at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi on October 3, 2010. (William West/AFP/Getty Images)

It's slowly becoming evident why the Indian-hosted Commonwealth Games (CWG) are, to date, the most expensive Games to be held in any country. Despite cheap labor in India, the 2010 CWG have costed a whopping $1 billion, giving rise to accusations of corruption and mismanagement in the planning of the games.

However, despite a shaky start and skepticism of hygienic facilities built for athletes in New Delhi, and defying predictions of chaos and mismanagement, the CWG in Delhi got off to a glittering start on Sunday. A packed stadium watched dancers and singers from across the country showcase their talents while a giant balloon suspended above (called an aerostat) reflected images from the performances around the stadium. Millions more watched on television. But has India recovered from the series of recent bad publicity?

Not really. Wire news services reported earlier today that organizers of the games have been handing out free tickets to make up for the empty arenas as spectators were outnumbered by competitors on the first day. Also unrelated but equally disastrous, Suresh Kalmadi, organizing committee chairman of the Games, accidentally called Prince Charles "Prince Diana" when he mentioned his presence at the opening ceremony on Monday. Lady Diana, ex-wife of the Prince, died in a car crash in 1997. Big oops! 

Asia Society's Associate Fellow Sadanand Dhume said, "The opening ceremony comes in the wake of serious charges of corruption and mismanagement that have plagued the Games. Whether India can pull them off has become a litmus test of its ability to organize big ticket events similar -- albeit smaller in scale - to the Beijing Olympics of 2008. All eyes will now turn to the scheduled sporting events to see whether the Games (and India) will recover from the recent rash of bad publicity."