Delhi Commonwealth Games' top 10 memorable moments

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From public relations calamities to the spectacular opening ceremony - not forgetting the actual sporting events, supposedly the point of the whole thing - there was never a dull moment at this year's Delhi Commonwealth Games. Here, the BBC takes a look back at 10 reasons why people are unlikely to forget the event soon.

Athletes' village fiasco

Days before competitors were due to arrive in Delhi, the BBC broadcast photos from the $240m athletes' village showing dirty bathrooms, paw prints on a bed and exposed wiring and flooding. For some reason, a few competitors didn't feel like staying there, and condemned it as "unfit for human habitation".

Organisers said the pictures had been doctored. And anyway, even if they were real, the photos showed servants' quarters, not athletes' rooms. Advance team officials, who had seen the accommodation with their own eyes, poured scorn on the claims. Local media were highly critical, saying shame had been brought on the country. Many Indians were embarrassed and disappointed.

A bridge too far

As media allegations flew of "cartoonish corruption" involving obscenely over-priced supplies, including an $89 toilet roll, it seemed things could not get any worse for organisers. They did. A spanking brand new footbridge near the main stadium collapsed, injuring 25 workers.

Delhi's chief minister assured everyone the walkway was, erm, meant for ordinary pedestrians, not athletes, so no big deal. As with many crises in India, the army was called in to save the day. As if by magic, they erected a makeshift bridge in time for the opening ceremony. It happened - only in India.

Dazzling opening ceremony

Image caption,
Despite the fears.... things went alright on the night

After the comedy of errors, organisers hushed naysayers by pulling off a truly spectacular curtain raiser at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Some 9,000 drummers and acrobats staged an eye-popping showcase of India's vibrant cultural heritage, cheered on by more than 60,000 spectators. The spectacular show lifted the national mood, resurrecting the Games in the eyes of many.

Prince Charles and Indian President Pratibha Patil even managed to agree to jointly open the tournament, following earlier reports of a wrangle over who would do the honours. The only sour note came when much-maligned organising committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi was loudly booed.

Boxing weigh-in farce

The teething troubles continued when Games organisers were forced to postpone the boxing weigh-in so that faulty scales could be fixed. Baffled teams had sent their fighters into saunas and for runs in the morning heat to try to shed some pounds after they were incorrectly weighed.

One incredulous pugilist who went to sweat off some flab came back to be told he was now actually several kilograms heavier. After furious complaints from coaches, officials were eventually persuaded to carry out a test using a 50kg weight. The defective scales measured it as weighing 51.4kg.

'Kalmadi welcomes 'Princess Diana'

Basking in the afterglow of the opening ceremony's triumph, Suresh Kalmadi committed a disastrous slip of the tongue at a news conference when he thanked "Princess Diana" for coming. It was in fact Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, who had attended. Mr Kalmadi appeared to have got confused with Charles' ex-wife, Lady Diana, who died in a car crash in 1997.

Curious case of the missing spectators

On your marks. Get set. Don't go! The strange case of the empty seats at sporting venues in a nation of 1.2 billion people might have proved a two-pipe mystery even for Sherlock Holmes. TV pictures beamed around the world showed stadiums with stalls as deserted as the Mary Celeste. But where was everyone?

It turned out that spectators hoping to get their hands on those gold-dust briefs faced a gauntlet as daunting as a 3,000-metre steeplechase, including stringent stadium security, long queues and scarce ticket booths. Prices also put tickets out of the reach of many Indians. Exasperated organisers announced a free ticket giveaway.

Empty seats were certainly not a problem at the men's hockey quarter-final between India and bitter rivals Pakistan. The fans' fervour overflowed as India thrashed their neighbours 7-4. Electrifying!

Snakes and monkeys

Visitors to Delhi had already been tickled by news that langur monkeys would be helping with security at the Games, drafted in to chase away smaller pesky primates.

But the animal angle didn't end there. The discovery days later of seven snakes around sports venues and another six at the athlete's village was greeted with livid-lipped horror in newsrooms around the world.

The scaly intruders who slithered their way into the competitors' village included five highly poisonous cobras, a krait and a non-venomous wolf snake. Games organisers were praised, for once, as "visionary" for having set up dedicated round-the-clock snake-rescue units, which promptly swung into action, spiriting away the hapless serpents to wildlife sanctuaries. Amazing.

'Contaminated' swimming pool

Games officials launched an urgent inquiry into whether contaminated water at a swimming pool was responsible for 15 Australian and English swimmers falling sick. Organisers tested water in both the main pool and the warm-up pool at the aquatic complex, with nothing untoward found. It turned out the competitors' stomach problems were caused by something they had eaten, or "Delhi Belly" - that notorious affliction of first-time visitors to India's capital.

Jinx of the women's 100-metre final

English sprinter Laura Turner was shown a red card for a false start. Then the declared winner, Australia's Sally Pearson, was left in tears after she was also disqualified for a false start - just before she was due to step on the podium. The gold medal initially went to runner-up Osayemi Oludamola, of Nigeria, who ungraciously complained of fellow athletes' inability to follow the rules. But then Oludamola tested positive for a banned stimulant and lost her medal. The gold eventually went to third runner-up, Natasha Mayers, of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

India's performance

Problems before the Games threatened to damage India's image so much that many felt it would have been better not to have staged them. A dengue fever outbreak did little to help amid all the missed deadlines and reports of corruption. In the end organisers somehow got things ready on time, albeit by the skin of their teeth.

The opening ceremony lifted the mood, while India's hockey triumph over Pakistan was arguably the moment that turned the Games. Crowds were galvanised, turning out to watch events such as boxing, wrestling and athletics, which have rarely attracted much support in India. The hosts went on to surpass expectations - only Australia won more gold medals - and there was a race to the last day with England for second place. Helped by the strong performance of the Indian athletes - and facilities and security arrangements which turned out to be fine - the Games ended up capturing many people's imagination.

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