The closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games brought an entertaining end to an otherwise lacklustre and poorly reported event, Anthony Tan writes.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

I've just seen the best part of this 19th Commonwealth
Games – the closing ceremony.

In this incredibly diverse nation
of 1.1 billion people, it was the only time I saw India's greatest
selling point – its kaleidoscope of culture and colour, and the people's
triumph over adversity – truly depicted for the world to see, as an
almost packed stadium of 65,000 wiggled and jiggled to the tunes belted
out by Bollywood stars busting their moves and grooves on stage.

If
sport is to transcend the game itself, then prior to the closing
ceremony and apart from an intriguing seven-minute segment on the
history of Indian wrestlers on the ABC's 7.30 Report this week, I
saw or heard nothing about its transcendental qualities during the past
fortnight.

Why?

Well, for one, virtually every single
commentator, well versed in sport they might be, didn't bother to do
much research (beyond their Wikipedia-infused guidebook) about Delhi or
the Indian subcontinent; an aspect so richly and poetically told in
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, a self-told tale of a convicted
Australian bank robber who in July 1980, escaped the maximum security
Pentridge prison in broad daylight and fled to India, where he spent the
next 10 years.

Speaking of security, fear mongering played no
small part in numerous athlete withdrawals before the event, as the
aforementioned uninformed banged on about potential bomb threats from
militant Islamist group Al-Qaeda and dengue fever usurping the Athletes'
Village, which was deemed by ignoramuses as unfit to house such
world-class, finely-tuned bods.

Populous and booming it may be,
but India, for the most part, is still a Third World nation. And unlike
many parts of Australia, diversity, adaptability and a multilingual
subconscious are taken for granted.

Let's face it: if Al-Qaeda or
whoever wanted to, they could bomb the living daylights out of the
Sydney Harbour Bridge during rush hour. As Mark Cavendish, who love or
loathe him, almost always speaks his mind, simply said: "We're in
India."

"It's not a Western country. I think it's quite ignorant
to assume we were going to be in a Western-style country. I've been to
India before on holiday – I knew what it was going to be like,"
Cavendish said.

"I think it's ignorant not to respect the way
those countries are; it's how it is. The reason India's got the
Commonwealth Games is because it's a developing country, so you can't
expect it to be like going to Hong Kong or something."

Cav' and I
don't always agree, but on this, we're like twin brothers.

And
I'm not alone in my sentiments, it appears.

This from a Sydney
Morning Herald reader (where in last Saturday's weekend edition, not one
had a good word to say): "The Australian media reporting of the Delhi
Games is by and large immature and shallow. The typical daily feed is
focused on Australia's medal tally. The other 70 countries and 6,000
competitors are virtually ignored. I wonder what lesson is sent by us
not promptly sending home the unsportsmanlike athletes who gave the
judges the finger?

"As one who has seen poor competitors training
barefoot in Kenya, on schoolyards in Papua New Guinea and swimming in
Third World harbours, I believe there are many human-interest stories
about such teams and their struggles. But not a word to replace the
daily gloating over our medal tally made possible by hundreds of
millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded training."

From another:
"The Commonwealth Games is a third-rate contest behind the Olympic Games
and world championships. It's a relic from the days of the British
Empire and when God was an Englishman.

"Today it's basically an
opportunity for some big fish and assorted hangers-on to flap around in a
small pond – provided the food and accommodation are five-star, there
are no sneaky bugs lurking in the bidets to lay waste to their super-fit
bodies, and there are no terrorists about – all at taxpayer's expense."

Australia's
near clean-sweep of 14 out of the 16 cycling gold medals on offer was
not a surprise. The performances and times were world-class.

The
competition, however, for the most part, was not, and as Mike Tomalaris
already said, in a number of cases we saw Australians compete against
Australians for medals.

Which leaves me questioning the worth of
the Delhi Games as a preparatory event before London 2012 (on the track,
aren't World Cups and world championships enough and better served?),
pondering just where are we in terms of our preparation – and
importantly, where our cyclists' performances would rate when, two years
from now and in the pressure cooker that is the Olympic Games, how
would we fare.