From Commonwealth Games to G20 Summit: How Delhi has transformed into a modern city worthy of hosting a global event

From Commonwealth Games to G20 Summit: How Delhi has transformed into a modern city worthy of hosting a global event


India is hosting the G20 conference this year in which top leaders, diplomats and businessmen of 20 major economies of the world are scheduled to stay in Delhi during the period. The face of the entire national capital has been modified. It took several months to prepare for the momentous occasion.

Since India assumed the presidency of the G20 in December 2022, significant events related to the highly reputed conference have been organised in parts of the country from Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir to Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and from Guwahati in Assam to Kutch in Gujarat. Multiple cities hosted important international events.

Any country that is given the honour to host a global event is provided with the golden opportunity to exhibit its capabilities, promote its culture and impart knowledge about its public welfare programmes to the rest of the world.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made it crystal clear from the very beginning that India’s G20 presidency would be employed to advance the idea of ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future.’ India counted green development and women-led progress among the priorities of its G20 presidency.

Now, let us travel back in time to 2020 when there was a different government in the country. Dr Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister and the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, known as UPA (which has now abandoned the name and formed a new alliance called I.N.D.I.A.) was in power at that time.

Former Congress president and Rae Bareli MP Sonia Gandhi was at the helm of affairs. India had the chance to demonstrate its power to the world even then. With six years in office, the Congress government had ample time to accomplish a lot of things. Commonwealth Games were held in India in 2010 in which 4352 players from 71 countries participated.

However, what did the previous government do with the chance? Not only was it lost, but the country’s image was also tarnished due to scams that people believed India was incapable of hosting even the most basic international event, let alone promotion of the culture.

Although India had already hosted the Asian Games in 1951 and 1982, the 2010 Commonwealth Games were the biggest sporting event to take place in Delhi up until that point. The fraud in the Commonwealth Games cost the nation the most money in the chain of severe corruption scandals witnessed during the UPA period.

The event didn’t deliver any good news for India in terms of safety or sanitation, labourers’ allowances and conditions, delayed work, claims of racism, allegations of a rise in prostitution, or in any other area.

Whenever India showcases its strength to the world through G20 and makes the world aware of its culture, the time has come to assess how the country missed the opportunity in 2010 whereas the chance received in 2023 was used in the best possible way and that too without any controversy.

However, as opposed to the Commonwealth Games, which was a sporting event, the G20 is a diplomatic gathering, but there is a connection between the two because both are global events. The former could have been utilised to enhance India’s position on the international stage if the government of the day had displayed the right intentions.

A major reason for this was that during the UPA era, the administration had nothing to show in the name of achievements and on the other hand the Modi government is active in the implementation of the schemes.

2010 Commonwealth Games: Corruption, negativity and blot at nation’s image

Crores of rupees were spent for the Commonwealth Games, but the conditions in Delhi did not improve at all. It was promised that the national capital would be transformed into a city of international stature, but nothing of the sort occurred. Furthermore, the accommodation for the players and foreign nationals wasn’t completely prepared.

Imagine the impression that those who came to India from outside would have had of the country. The stadiums were not functioning properly, including one ‘Shivaji Stadium’ which was not even ready to host any game.

Even the ticket sales did not begin on schedule. Many roads were dug out and several had potholes in various places. Demolition was carried out in the name of the Commonwealth Games, but no repair and beautification work was undertaken. The planning for the event had a fixed deadline of March 2010, but it had to be extended to June, then to July, and eventually to August.

The crucial point is that it was established in 2003 that Delhi would host the Commonwealth Games in 2010. An estimate of Rs 19,500 crore was proposed for organising the Commonwealth Games, and as the budget grew, it became three times more, however, the result was underwhelming.

The proposed budget for the Commonwealth Games was Rs 19,500 crore, but the outcome was underwhelming even though the budget went up three times. The expense of restoring the stadiums was in the millions. The budget for the event was hiked numerous times and money was wasted, despite the fact that India was experiencing grave problems at the time, including poverty and malnutrition.

Today, while work is in full coordination for the G20, Mani Shankar Aiyar, who was a prominent Congress leader at that time had wished for the failure of the Commonwealth Games. Mani Shankar Aiyar served as the UPA’s Sports Minister at one point in spite of his opinion.

He stated that he would be very sad if the event became successful because then there would be more sporting events in the future. He opined, “I am delighted in a way because rains are causing difficulties for the Commonwealth Games. Basically, I will be very unhappy, if the Games are successful because then they will start bringing Asian Games, Olympic Games and all these.”

The state of education, infrastructure and health facilities was in such a poor condition that even Wipro founder Azim Premji criticized the expenditure. However, now, India not only provided 200 crore doses of indigenous vaccine during the Corona period but also sent them to more than 100 countries.

Let us have a look at how the underprivileged were treated during the Commonwealth Games. Two lakh people were ejected forcibly from 19 regions of Delhi under the pretext of work. This was discovered as a result of a study conducted by a non-governmental organisation (NGO) named the Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN).

The majority of these individuals were not even relocated, whereas in the present, Prime Minister Narendra Modi refers to workers as “Shramjivi” and honours them during special occasions like project inspections and inaugurations as well as interacts with them.

Now, understand what happened during the Commonwealth Games. The working conditions were extremely poor. The employees were forced to work the entire day for less than 100 rupees and when many of them were hurt in accidents, they weren’t even allowed time off for treatment.

The Commonwealth Games saw widespread instances of child labour, notwithstanding the fact that it is forbidden in India. There were dozens of cases of both child labour and forced labour. The event registered a considerable upsurge in prostitution as well. The members of the escort service earned a lot of money. Just consider how a programme that could have helped India’s tourism industry was reduced to.

Women from other states were being brought as sex workers. One NGO even charged that more than 40,000 women were transported from the northeastern states alone. A ‘toilet paper scandal,’ which was a fraud in toilets also surfaced during the time. One toilet paper was bought by the organisers for $80. Similarly, liquid soap was purchased for $61 and first aid kits were purchased for $125. A tissue paper was purchased for 1500, in terms of rupees.

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) discussed these frauds in-depth as well. About half of the volunteers quit their positions right before the Commonwealth Games. They weren’t offered any money and a certificate was used to tempt them.

Half of the 22,000 refused to work after training because of the poor system. These games were not even attended by spectators. There were complaints that the players were treated like animals in the opening ceremony. Australian athletes alleged that they were mistreated.

Racist incidents that targeted African sportsmen came to light. The highest honours are now bestowed upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi by nations like Papua New Guinea. African nations received Corona vaccines from India.

The situation in the newly constructed sports village was likewise dismal. Thousands of used condoms clogged the drainage system there. A number of countries also threatened to boycott the Commonwealth.

Suresh Kalmadi was given the task of planning the event and afterwards, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) designated him as the primary accused in its charge sheet. It was revealed how he handed over several contacts to businesses in contravention of the law. He was released on bail after serving an 11-month sentence in Tihar Jail.

Now, think about the effect all of this would have had on the country’s image. There was time to use the occasion to improve our reputation, but instead, India’s standing fell so much that the nation had to deal with disgrace.

G20: India made good use of the opportunity and promoted its culture

The G20 is being successfully organised in India and no scam-related news has come to the fore. India is heavily promoting tourism under the umbrella as well. The Delhi Metro offers special passes so that visitors from other countries can visit significant locations in the city.

There was a separate meeting of the culture ministers of these nations and they ranged from tourism working groups to finance working groups. India has used the grand platform to regularly update the world about its accomplishments in the digital industry.

India’s most hi-tech convention centre was built in Delhi on 123 acres, free from any controversy. Not only was it named ‘Bharat Mandapam’ inspired by Lord Basaveshwara of Karnataka, but it also housed an idol of Nataraja, the presiding deity of the Chidambaram temple in Tamil Nadu.

There were no accusations of any corruption in the construction of the complex built at a cost of Rs 2700 crore. Prime Minister honoured the labourers and they did not face any issues here.

Numerous G20-related events were held in more than 50 Indian cities and boosted tourism. The important fact is that Delhi and the centre had the same party government during the Commonwealth Games. However, currently, there is Arvind Kejriwal’s government in Delhi, which remains in the headlines due to its conflicts with the Lieutenant Governor (LG) and the centre administration.

Despite this, there was no negligence in the development of infrastructure. The Lieutenant Governor has assured that these development works are set to continue in this manner. The Dhaulakuan-Airport route in Delhi was illuminated in addition to the roadways near Pragati Maidan. Numerous metro stations were renovated.

Up to Rs 100 crore in funding has been given, according to the New Delhi Municipal Council’s (NDMC) announcement from December 2022, to upgrade Delhi’s infrastructure. There are now new parks. The key aspect is that it is evident where the funds are being allocated. Additionally, it is visible how the Indian government is advancing our culture.

Today, when more than a billion transactions were made through the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) in the month of August 2023, the success of “Digital India” reflects the new story of India. Overall, more than Rs 15 lakh crore was transferred through UPI this month. The German minister used it to buy vegetables on the roadside and praised the system.

Where the opportunity was missed during the Commonwealth Games, this time it was capitalised on. A new Parliament building is built as part of the Rs 13,00 crore Central Vista Project. Moreover, money was not a topic of contention here either.

It is not that only one party can make such events successful. It is possible if the objective is right and the leadership is strong. Take Odisha as a case in point. It benefited immensely from the impressive organisation of the Hockey World Cup and its image uplifted to a level where the state raised an investment of Rs 10.3 lakh crore through ‘Make in Odisha Conclave.’ The event took place in January 2023 and a grand stadium was built in Rourkela in just 15 months.

Notably, during the Commonwealth Games in which the country’s image was tarnished, today the secretary of the same Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland has lauded India during the G20 Summit.

According to her, doing so would render it easier to address global concerns. Furthermore, she applauded the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) “Aditya L1” and “Chandrayaan 3” missions. She also supported India’s digital transformation. India, based on her, is achieving extraordinary success.


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