Hyderabad: Ever played word association? Say the first thing that comes to mind when you read Hyderabad.
Biryani.Pearls.Charminar. Cyber city.
When this coming week is out, Afro-Asian Games, will find a place somewhere on that list.
This is not about how great the Games are. It is not just a pat on the back for a city that has put its heart, soul and a lot of money into these Games. It is definitely not tautological praise for the men who made this happen.
Far from it.
Sunday Mid Day decided to take an objective look at how smoothly the spirit of two continents are coming together. At the dazzling opening ceremony on Friday night, Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu expressed his desire to hold the Commonwealth Games in Hyderabad.
These Games have given him the perfect platform to prove that the city is capable. An opportunity to project the city as a giant where conducting sporting events are concerned.
Has Hyderabad succeeded? Are the Games a hit?
We take a close look at five aspects of the inaugural Afro-Asian Games things that can make or break any event. While things look rosy in certain areas, theres a lot that couldve been done better
Quality of competition
This has been one of the biggest disappointments at the Games. Forget the high-profile football event, which is eventually being played with one three-team pool after Ghanas late withdrawal, most other sports have drawn a poor response.
The mens tennis team event has become a four-team battle after four others failed to turn up.
We just have to win two matches for gold! an excited member of the Indian team, Rohan Boppana, quipped.
Our own weight-lifting squad looks terribly thin what with the top lifters saving themselves for the World Championships.
The argument in favour of the organisers though is that since the inaugural Games were planned in such a hurry, and after so many hiccups, the cream of talent across the two continents had already made prior commitments.
Another reason for a poor turn out, they say, is the packed international sporting calendars. As All India Football Federation secretary Alberto Colaco pointed out: (The international body) FIFA prepares a calendar for five years. It is tough for them to recognise an event like this at the last minute.
Truly top class. A walk through any of the five venues being used for the Games puts a smile on the face. The training facilities are top class, change rooms spacious, toilets clean and importantly, they are all aesthetically pleasing.
The Gacchibowli Sports Complex, situated 15 km from the main city, is a sight to behold. Built in one-and-a-half years for the 2002 National Games, the complex has seen the addition of a twin-turf hockey stadium in the last two months.
Then there is the SAAP Tennis Centre which can hold up to 5,000 spectators and can get fantastically noisy if a Hyderabadi is making a meal out of an opponent.
I want to provide the best infrastructure in Andhra Pradesh for children who want to take up sports seriously, the chief minister has said time and again.
The only thing Hyderabad needs to be wary of is the risk of letting the stadia rot, as has happened with several multi-purpose complexes in the country.
This is another area that needs brushing up. No doubt, the organisers have learnt from mistakes they made when they hosted the National Games here last year.
The website, which used to be updated only at the end of the day, now provides fresh information every five to 10 minutes apart from live coverage of important games.
But as far as the real deal goes events running smoothly, media, officials and athletes getting their passes on time, inter-venue transport facilities, etc the officials seem to cover their deficiencies with excellent hospitality.
The setting-up of committees and sub-committees has only ended up confusing one as opposed to ironing out the problems.
Another important miss is the lack of any information at the venues for spectators. If only there were a large board at various places saying Anju George is jumping in an hour, or that India is playing Iran at the football stadium, it would save the public a lot of energy spent walking aimlessly around the complex.
This is a tricky one. The Games have put up all the athletes in excellent hotels all dotted around the city. The players are comfortable no doubt. In fact, the organisers have also managed to put up most sportsmen in hotels close to where their event venues. Each team has been provided with transport facilities to travel around the city.
Whats disappointing is the absence of a Games Village an integral part of any mega event.
How often do sportsmen from one field get to interact with their counterparts from another area of expertise? How many times has football captain Baichung Bhutia had breakfast with hockey captain Dilip Tirkey?
Thats what the Games Village is all about.
Thats what the Olympic spirit is all about.
There were a dozen or so buildings freshly-built for the National Games which have now been sold. Even though they were quite shabby, even a player of Dhanraj Pillays stature lived in the Village then. The whole point is to meet and enjoy some time with other sportsmen, he had said.
Thats definitely a miss.
It is obvious that the organisers have learnt their lessons from the National Games.
Each of the venues has a different media centre with 12-15 high-end computers, internet, phone/fax facilities and a transport desk.
Apart from this, there is the main media centre in Gacchibowli that provides top class hospitality any time you walk in.
One of the huge advantages is how easily updates, results and other information is available now. A few volunteers sit and update the website even as the match is on. As soon as an event is over, results are faxed and emailed to the main media centre from where it is distributed to all the others.
Where it misses out is the inability to provide proper media boxes at the venues. Most stadiums have makeshift arrangements with a couple of dozen chairs strewn around the stands. The lack of plug-points and tables can be quite irritating, especially for journalists carrying laptops.
But overall, even the normally bitchy media has mostly been a pacified lot.