C’weath Games set to open after shambolic run-up

India’s big day finally arrived Sunday with theCommonwealth Games due to begin in a fortress-like New Delhi after a shambolic run-up that threatened to derail the event.

Britain’s Prince Charles was due to get the troubled showpiece underway at 1330 GMT during a Bollywood-inspired opening ceremony at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium as the last-minute scramble to get set went to the wire. Amid fears militants might attack the quadrennial competition, nearly 100,000 police and paramilitary forces have been drafted in to lockdown the Indian capital with all bazaars and malls ordered to shut for the day.Major traffic restrictions were also in place with security forces lining roads leading to high-walled stadiums encircled by barbed wire fences and armed guards posted behind sandbag positions, with helicopters thundering overhead.

Since 2008, when Pakistan-based Islamist militants killed 166 people in a 60-hour assault in Mumbai, India has been fearful the Games, which feature 71 nations and territories formerly belonging to the British Empire, could be hit. Western governments have persistently warned of the threat of a militant attack during the event, which runs until October 14.

But Delhi police commissioner Y.S. Dadwal has promised “foolproof security”, adding that every officer “is on the job 24/7. So far the event has been a public relations disaster.

Many of the sports venues have only been completed in recent weeks, the athletes’ village was slammed for being “filthy” and equipment has been installed hastily as the clock ticks down. Highlighting the last-minute rush, a new metro line linking central Delhi with the main Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to ferry people to the opening ceremony was only inaugurated Sunday morning.

Instead of showcasing emerging India, the Games have been a national embarrassment, highlighting the corruption and inefficiency in its bureaucracy. Compounding the problems, the Games was hit by an unconfirmed case of dengue fever on Sunday, with Indian lawn balls manager Ruptu Gogoi taken to hospital.