One year from today, the Opening Ceremony for the 2010 Commonwealth Games will prelude the answer to a question that has been asked repeatedly since Delhi was chosen as venue in November 2003: is India up to it?
Doubts over the level of security, the progress of building work and the state of the roads and rail networks have yet to be definitively assuaged, despite assurances from the Games’ organising committee, and the Indian Prime Minister himself, that the competition will be delivered with flair and efficiency.
Last week the security issues in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai and the wounding of Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore were addressed in a two-day meeting set up by India’s Federal Home Ministry which was attended by 26 of the 71 participating nations, including Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
Among the measures being discussed was the sealing off of all venues up to a fortnight before the Games get underway.
It is widely forecast, too, that the Indian Government will flood Delhi with police and Army personnel to provide guarantees of safety.
The hosts’ immediate attention, however, is focused on the next week, when representatives from the 70 competing nations will converge on Delhi to attend the Commonwealth Games Federation’s (CGF) General Assembly (October 5-12) and to inspect the progress of building work on the sports venues.
A recent report by the Indian Government indicated that work on 14 of the 19 venues was running late, and that nine transport projects to improve key roads in Delhi were “at high risk” of not being completed in time.
The planned dedicated travel lane for athletes has not yet been put into effect.
"The visiting contingent will be visiting many of the venues, and our concern is to ensure that the ride from the airport to venues is smooth," one official source commented.
Mike Fennell, President of the CGF, has requested an urgent personal meeting with the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, during the Assembly to address the continuing concerns.
He released a statement earlier this week pointing up a wide range of "enormous challenges" that the organising committee and the Indian Government still needs to address – "on a fast-track basis".
The Prime Minister, meanwhile, has insisted: "The Government is fully aware that national prestige is at stake, and it will be providing complete support to the organising committee."
At a less important level, there is speculation over which competitors may be making the trip to Delhi, especially in the light of Australia’s unwillingness to play their recent Davis Cup tennis match in Chennai and England’s decision to withdraw its badminton team from the World Championships in Hyderabad.
In the circumstances, the statement by the organising committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi that "Usain Bolt and all the other top chaps from other nations are also coming" appear considerably optimistic.
That said, there remains genuine optimism that Delhi can deliver a memorable event – a Games which, in the words of Commonwealth Games England’s chairman Sir Andrew Foster, will be "not an Anglo-Saxon Games, but a wonderful Games."
Sir Andrew, and experienced observers such as the England Chef de Mission Ann Hogbin, who inspected the progress of the Delhi venues earlier in the summer, are also optimistic that the infrastructure will be on spec and completed on time for competition.
But doubts linger over whether the host nation is on top of the operational side of the Games – and whether, like the Chinese in Beijing last year, they will accept the offers of outside help from those with expertise.
In terms of the overall competition, England, which is now operating with a newly-constituted board and new branding, is hoping to edge closer to the dominant force of recent Games, Australia, with a view to challenging them at the top of the medal table in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
"Australia takes these Games absolutely seriously, but we are trying to challenge them in a variety of ways," said Sir Andrew.
"There’s a big attraction in taking Australia on four-square when the Games come back to this country.
"It’s not a commitment we have made, but it’s something that is very attractive."
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Article courtesy of Inside the Games.