India has been in the media spotlight these last few weeks in the build up the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, scheduled to open on 3 October. Whereas hosting the event should have signaled India’s emergence on the international stage and an opportunity for important infrastructure investment, preparations have been dogged by allegations of corruption and incompetence. Conflicts of interest have come to light between Games organisers and private companies in the way contracts were awarded. Athletes’ accommodation described as filthy, facilities collapsing and the increasing concern over security has been a public relations nightmare for India.
Emerging countries are increasingly eager to host major sports events. In doing so, they have the opportunity to invest in infrastructure and to demonstrate a new and improved image. In recent years, both the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and, to a lesser extent, the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, have enjoyed relative success. Looking ahead, Brazil will play host to the 2014 FIFA World Cup as well as the Olympic Games in Rio two years later. Not to be outdone by the other BRIC countries, Russia will host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.
India’s experience will no doubt throw into question the confidence of emerging countries to stage major sports events. Hosting such events remains a significant challenge and there is huge downside to getting it wrong. How much should we read into successes and failures at hosting such global events?