China's efforts for the 2010 World Expo make it a clear winner compared to India’s for the Commonwealth Games.
Two recent accidents at a metro railway construction site in New Delhi make me revisit the subject of India and China for the second time in a fortnight. The accidents have a bearing on India’s preparation for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. How does it compare with the other 2010 event the world’s looking forward to — the World Expo in Shanghai?
At one point, the two events will overlap. While the Games are to be held from October 3 to October 14, the Expo will run from May 1 to October 31. A comparison, therefore, is all the more compelling.
As of now, the Indian story is that of delays, delays, and delays. Because of the accidents and the safety scare following them, Delhi Metro’s Phase II expansion — meant to connect the airport with some of the Games’ venues — is now likely to miss its September 2010 deadline. The Games Village on the Yamuna riverbed is caught in a court battle over environmental issues. Sports Minister M S Gill admitted in Parliament early this month that 12 of the 17 training and competition venues weren’t even half complete. There is an acute shortage of electricity, and Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde only hopes there will be enough power for the Games by 2010. Billions of rupees are are being spent to dress Delhi up, but the public has no idea as to what’s to be achieved and when.
As of now, tickets for Shanghai Expo are already on sale. A travelling exhibition on the Expo has opened in Beijing. The three-level Expo Boulevard, the main gateway to the theme pavilions, is ready — featuring unique ‘Sun Valleys’ to harvest sunlight and light up its lower levels. Volunteers are being booked for Expo-duty. Most pavilions would be completed by this October and fitted out by January 2010. A special substation is ready to monitor Expo-wide electricity consumption. A 3-Mw solar unit is in place to supply the theme pavilions.
One tube of the South Xizang Road tunnel, serving the Expo site on both sides of the Huangpu River, is open. A second tube will open in December. The old Dapu Road tunnel, to reopen in March after renovation, will be joined by a second tunnel next to it. Metro Line 8 expansion, touching the Expo site, was completed on July 5, bang on schedule. Digging for an under-water tunnel to take Metro Line 13 to the Expo is completed and the 5-km extension will come into operation in March. The 35-km Metro Line 7, also serving the Expo site, will be ready the end of this year.
I know what the Indian argument is going to be: We’ll manage somehow. That’s what Sports Minister Gill said and that’s also what both Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit and Delhi Metro Railway Corporation head E Sreedharan said after the accidents. But they have failed to realise that last-minute solutions only betray a planning myopia. When tying up loose ends becomes the only goal, mistakes are bound to be made and there won’t be many chances to correct them.
Yes, China has had a longer time to prepare. But time is only one of the many factors. What’s more important is the ability to think in totality, to be able to conjure the big picture, and work towards it in a coordinated manner. For some reason, our administrators don’t seem to have that. The left arm doesn’t know what the right is going to do. I suppose it’s the same old ‘we’ll manage’, clever-by-half, last-minute-miracle attitude that accepts makeshift arrangements, finds nothing wrong with patchwork, and believes that, as long as things can be made to work, the public won’t mind.
It’s also a mindset that doesn’t believe in the need for public awareness. In the Indian scheme of things, the public is kept waiting without being given the true picture. That’s why the Commonwealth Games, coming to India for the first time and almost knocking at the door, evoke no special feeling.
On the contrary, the Expo drum is already beating loudly all over China. Its theme, ‘Better City, Better Life’ has drawn over 200 nations to participate. The mind-blowing architecture of the pavilions, sprawled on a 5.28 hectare site, is the talk of the world’s press. And a revolutionary innovation called Expo Shanghai Online, offering a remote, interactive Expo experience, is being hailed as ‘great, really great!’.
An Indian defence analyst recently wrote that China could attack India in 2012 to divert attention from its ethnic troubles. Another cocooned Indian missing the big picture. China doesn’t need to send over its soldiers. It has been killing us softly for years with its efficiency, determination, and performance. Only we fail to realise it. When the Commonwealth Games get over in New Delhi, the blame games will begin. When the Expo ends in Shanghai, the world will still be singing China’s praise. That’s the difference.