Thursday, 30 September 2010

Whose Wealth, Whose Commons?

In recent weeks the Canadian media has been highlighting preparations for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India. Interest flared around the recent collapse of a pedestrian bridge, athlete safety and security, cleanliness, and the perceived 'covering up' of local social problems related to poverty and slums in preparation for the Games' opening. Throughout media have questioned: is it a good idea for Canadian athletes to participate? Is it safe? Is it appropriate if there are concerns over social justice?

Athletes from Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada and other countries have since withdrawn from the competition, citing concerns over health, security and the adequacy of facilities.

Stumbling around for information and answers I came across a report by the Housing and Land Rights Network - South Asia Regional Programme Habitat International Coalition titled The 2010 Commonwealth Games: Whose Wealth? Whose Commons? The publication is a revealing study and position paper into how critical human rights and corruption issues can be overlooked during planning for large events to the detriment of local populations. If nothing else it speaks volumes in support of the need for stakeholder inclusion in planning.

And despite the many breakdowns in process and issues raised in the paper, I find myself resistant to pass judgment about what went wrong, and how. The reason being I think it is very easy to judge, and decide to opt out, standing here with my limited and comfortable Canadian perspective. It is a lot harder to try to engage, and create solutions to the issues.

In the end, it makes me question the feasibility of producing large events that use a 'western' idea of development in areas that need more than 'here today, gone tomorrow' solutions to sustainable community development. Is the investment of money in the creation of facilities, servicing of visitors and international media profile that goes along with the Commonwealth Games too short-term for Delhi? It would seem so for a destination that could sorely benefit from early consideration of how this kind of event can be a catalyst for long term improvements in local quality of life.

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