Closing and impressions.
Another ultra-lavish Ceremony, reminiscent of some Bollywood sound stages, brought the 3rd. Commonwealth Youth Games to a close last evening. With a performing cast of more than 5000, helicopters, lasers, police dogs, postage stamps, Indian pop stars, American stunt bikers, speeches lasting for ever, high-volume sound, distinguished guests (e.g. Lamine Diack, Sergei Bubka, and Kip Keino from Athletics), the CYG "quake" was handed over to Isle of Man who will stage the next Games in September 2011. (The "quake" is like a silver bowl, presented to the CGF by Edinburgh after the first CYG in 2000, which is a symbol passed on from Games to Games, to indicate continuity.)
It is probably fortunate that the hosts do not understand the significance of the slow handclap and the Mexican wave !
Much time and effort had been put in by the instructors and the thousands of dancers who, by the end, filled the grass area of the stadium. Their energetic performance, plus the excited continuity announcing, plus sound systems which made the ground shake, combined to stressfully overwhelm the audience. It amounted to sensory drowning ! The entrance of the national flags TOGETHER helped to give the feeling of "bonding". There was a theme of love and friendship but the ATHLETES were the ones who wanted to dance and celebrate, not watch others. In a number of places round the outside of the track, this was manifested in groups spontaneously standing and moving to the music. Surely this should have been allowed in a general way, instead of the happy people being ushered back to their seats. Following the example of the flags, a "lap of honour" by the 2000 visitors would have been more appropriate.
In contrast with the Opening Ceremony which took six hours, this was shorter, but maybe it was all done in competition with Beijing, with the hosts seeking to stage the Olympic Games maybe as soon as 2020. The visit of Jacques Rogge (IOC) during the week emphasised this point.
The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), which provides funding for this Games and for the full (Open) Commonwealth Games, circulated anonymous Questionnaires to competitors and to management staff. The fact that it seemed that the athletes were generally happy with what had been provided might prove two things:- (a) that as competitors they were only concerned with the basics of sleeping, eating, preparing, and competing, and in these respects the provision was adequate to excellent; (b) that the Delegation staff managed to absorb most of the effects of any traumas - thus explaining why the management might have a different attitude from that of the athletes, and consequently be more critical !
Great efforts had been made to provide adequate and varied diets and all seemed to accept that rice, pasta, and potatoes were the staples ! Tasty courses, some with no spices, plenty of fresh fruit, and a constant supply of ice cream made sure that most people could fill their stomachs with something acceptable. The service in the dining halls and the general standard of cleanliness were as excellent as the food. The hours were sufficiently broad and flexible that, except late at night, you could get at least snacks and drinks.
Problems which occurred were partly about incomplete facilities and systems. The base Orchid Hotel is unfinished and so are other buildings on the Complex site. The main access road outside the Complex is incomplete. Some plumbing, as in any new building, is faulty. Transport is a problem at any big Games and the demand was bigger than the availability.: but the arrangements which were fulfilled were the best in the circumstances. Over-zealous Security personnel caused some anxious moments, but the recent history of India dictates that vehicle and bag searches are necessary.
The benefit of having all the sports venues on one site meant that everything was within walking distance. The weather was generally kind, except the unfortunate disruption of the Cultural Welcome by rain. The venues themselves, e.g the main Stadium and warm-up track, Badminton Hall, Table-Tennis Hall, Tennis courts, and Weight-Lifting venue all seemed excellently appointed and mostly the results systems were effective. Problems which arose were more down to protracted organising "Technical" meetings, last-minute changes to the programme, and a limited communication of such amendments to ALL the competing nations.
Thinking ahead, when the accommodation is split, each part of it needs to have a local information centre, e.g. with pigeon-holes, to which ALL circulating information is sent. This did not happen in Pune. Even when the Residents' Centres were established and functioning, not all the sports seemed to be aware of their existence and purpose. Thus information would go to the base Hotel but nowhere else !
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT ?
In 2010, the next Commonwealth Games will be in New Delhi. We were assured here that, whereas in Pune the hosts struggled to cope with something bigger than has happened at this level before, in Delhi "it will be different". With three times the Pune numbers, the logistics will be multiplied. If they do not take lessons from the Pune experience, so will the problems.
Free mobile phones in Pune should have improved communications, but key people are always busy. This happened to us earlier in Samoa at the South Pacific Games. It helps if several organisers know what is happening ("the big picture") and can advise, rather than relying on one or two major decision makers. The good liaison volunteers here were invaluable in knowing answers, finding out answers, and generally reducing the need for problem-solving.
Reflecting the theme of the Closing, and the "Bond Forever" programme of which we took advantage, one of the outcomes of such an event is establishing new contacts, e.g. with such far-flung regions as Tanzania, Jamaica, Pakistan, and Guernsey ! Sharing joys and difficulties reinforces these new relationships. Also meeting old friends - for us from the Pacific Islands - in a new context strengthens the bonds which pre-existed. So Fiji, Niue, Solomons, Tonga, Samoa, Nauru, PNG, Cook Islands and Vanuatu all stopped by at meal times to have a chat. Such is friendship !