Experience of Girish Patel
Former British International Athlete and Akshardham Volunteer
Athlete, 1978 Commonwealth Games, Montreal, Canada
This Commonwealth Games has been a triumph for India. It is now part of an elite group of nations that can deliver an international sporting event. There were many early hesitations about the facilities, but practically all of them were either unfounded or were sorted out before the Games began. I have spoken to over 100 athletes and officials at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi – most have expressed that it has been their best Games village experience.
International Dining Area
This was a favorite venue for all athletes. There were counters for Asian, Indian, African and Western food as well as a vegetarian counter, pasta and pizza, salads, fruits, cakes, hot and cold drinks and so many other items. Officials, mostly foreign nationals, monitored food hygiene and quality. The praise for the food was universal amongst the athletes, officials and managers. Such a variety of food being offered was new to all veteran athletes.
The Multi-purpose Training Centre
Having visited many Games villages, this is the first where training facilities were within walking distance of the athletes’ residences and, more importantly, within the actual village complex. The facilities were beyond expectation. The international standard training facilities included an all-weather running track, high jump, pole vault, triple jump and throwing areas. Within the complex, there were wrestling and weightlifting halls, supplemented with a fully fitted fitness center. The whole training center was fully air conditioned. There were also innovations: ice buckets where athletes can jump in and cool down, hydrotherapy tubs and daily yoga sessions in a large carpeted air-conditioned hall.
The Residential Quarters
The residential area was so large that athletes had to use golf carts to reach the main dining area. All the apartments were fully air conditioned and of excellent standard. Of course, finishing touches were still continuing when athletes arrived – though these were mostly outside, such as the paving stones, gardens, etc. All athletes I met expressed an overwhelming satisfaction of the accommodation facilities.
The Opening Ceremony
The opening ceremony was unique in its content and presentation.
However, I will never forget the standing ovation by the whole stadium – even all the foreign visitors, friends and relations of athletes who stood up in appreciation – when the Indian team walked into the stadium. The opening ceremony removed all the doubts and concerns of all team officials and visitors about whether the Organizing Committee would be able to conduct the Games successfully.
This was a group of dedicated, polite and humble boys and girls who won the hearts and minds of all athletes, officials and managers. I know of this first hand. No matter how irate and demanding the visitors, the volunteers responded with ‘Sir’/ ‘Madame’, apologized for the inconvenience and determined to resolve all issues at hand.
The greatest tribute for India was carried out by these smart groups of volunteers who have done the nation proud.
As a former British international athlete, this has been the most memorable games I have ever attended. It has also been the proudest moment in my life as an Indian to see India excel in the track and field athletics events.
The effect of the Swaminarayan Akshardham Mandir on athletes and officials has been one of great wonder. Every evening all residents of the CWG village could see the Mandir glowing in the evening skyline – a wonderful beacon representing the very best of Indian architecture, culture, spiritual values and traditions.
Akshardham had an office in the Games Village in the International Zone, which facilitated athletes’ and officials’ visits to the mandir. As athletes from different countries began to visit Akshardham, they related their enjoyable and inspiring experience to other athletes, encouraging them to visit the Mandir.
Over 1,200 athletes and officials visited Akshardham. Many medallists visited and were traditionally honored with a garland and gifted a photograph of their visit.