And this is what I wrote at the time …
Well, it all seems to be working out just fine so far. Nobody has died of dysentery, been eaten by a tiger or shot in the head by Naxalite rebels. Sati has been put on the back-burner and all those charming mutilated urchins are off the streets. New Delhi could be mistaken for New York, were it not for 15 million Indians all going potty in the street at the same time.
Having said that, I do think it damnably unfair that just a few days ago everyone was ganging up on the Indians for not being altogether ready for the Commonwealth Games. So a bridge collapsed. Big deal. Was anyone killed? No, they weren’t. Maybe twenty people were injured. Were any of them athletes? No, they weren’t. They were labourers. India has an estimated 280 million labourers hanging about on street corners. I expect their places were filled fairly quickly.
Besides, India was given just seven years to ensure that everything would be ready for the Games. In a country where people resign themselves to a cycle of rebirth lasting thousands of years, seven is nothing. I grew up in Durban. I know Indian time. It’s like African time but goes half the speed for double the price.
I find it ironic that third world countries like Rwanda and Scotland were complaining that facilities were not up to standard. What a nerve. The living conditions in these two countries alone are shocking. But never mind that. Listen to this. Rwanda, the country that was outraged to find a bit of poo lying around the Athlete’s Village, went on bended knee to the Queen last year and begged to become a member of the Commonwealth. She clearly felt sorry for them because it was only the second time that the rules had ever been bent. I suppose if I were Rwanda, I would also want to hide my Germanic roots.
How embarrassing that our very own high commissioner to India complained that a snake had been found in one of our athlete’s rooms. This is India, for heaven’s sake. It would be rude of the hosts not to leave a snake in the room. Complain if the snake charmer and his family move into the room, by all means, but a snake on its own? Please. Harris Majeke should consider the team fortunate not to have herds of holy cows roaming the corridors.
These people are athletes, not pop stars. What gives them the idea that they should be treated as if they were genuine deities like Lady Gaga? Those who take part in this sort of competition make their living from running in circles, jumping over stuff, shooting at things that aren’t people, punching each other, picking up heavy stuff and batting or throwing balls around. Not exactly endoscopic brain surgery, is it? They are lucky to even be given hot meals and a chance to sleep inside. In my day, they would have been beaten with hot metal rods and made to compete naked.
Never mind that today’s athletes expect to be pampered like hyperglycemic ballerinas, I find the entire notion of the Commonwealth being associated with such frivolity to be a most distasteful one. Imagine if, every four years, Germany staged the Invasion Games, perhaps on a rotational basis, kicking off in Poland and ending (badly) in the Soviet Union.
There are 54 members of the British Commonwealth. That’s at least 40 more countries than Hitler invaded. The Queen ought to be ashamed of herself. Instead of prancing about on horseback shooting foxes and dishing out royal favours on condition we all behave like civilised white folk, she should be down on her hands and knees begging our forgiveness.
When all this unseemly colonial malarkey began, it was known as the British Empire Games. They had sports like pig-sticking and wench-molesting and most of the time they got the servants to run for them.
At the 1930 games, women were allowed to compete in the swimming events only. Then they were banned altogether. Probably for weeing in the pool. Then, in 1950, everything began going to hell in a handbasket. Women were invited to compete in almost every event and today they are allowed to do pretty much as they please. It’s all rather appalling.
While India’s president wallah, Pratibha Patil, will be given his own chair at the opening ceremony, it will be Prince Charles who has the honour of declaring the Games open. That’s fine. Let him have his fun. But then arrest him. Britain has never been punished for cocking up the whole of South Asia in the days of the Raj. Well, perhaps they have in a way.
London looks more and more like Lahore by the day.