The controversy over the readiness of Delhi to host this year’s Commonwealth Games has dominated Australian headlines over past weeks, and whether this signals the end for the games is a growing concern.
In fact, the Delhi Games was to be the first that would not be attended by The Queen since Kingston, Jamaica in 1966 – even the monarchy seems bored with the concept of its old colonial legacy.
Selling India on the global stage
Yet without the current dramas over unstable structures and unsanitary accommodation, let’s be honest: who would really give a stuff about a tournament that’s perceived to be as marginal and obsolete as Britain’s decaying Commonwealth itself?
The Commonwealth Games brand has been in terminal decline for a number of years with viewers and media outlets alike preferring the bi-annual World Championships or the glam and glitz of the Diamond League events.
In all truth, not many modern audiences care a jot for what’s seen as a third-tier sporting event, and that has significantly undermined the Commonwealth Games’ attraction as a brand.
But this doom and gloom fails to make an important distinction, and that is of the games as a sporting spectacle versus the role of the games as a global marketing campaign for the host country.
The reason India wanted the games in the first place – and invested several billion dollars to make it happen – was to announce their arrival on the world stage as a solid, maturing economic power. Instead they risk looking like a disorganised, corrupt nation with quality, labour and planning issues.
The soap opera of the year
But this is an issue with India, not with the Games. Instead, what the Games got was an almost unparalleled amount of pre-event publicity that almost begs viewers to tune in to see what happens next.
As media watchers, we all love a cliffhanger, and Delhi 2010 has turned into the soap opera of the year. I wonder how many people will now be tuning in just to see for themselves if the springboard breaks, or if the weightlifter falls through the temporary floor? I know I will be.
But the fact is that now, people will watch, and when they watch it’s down to the athletes. If they perform and turn this Games into an intriguing battle, then audiences will enjoy the experience and they will come back, providing a much needed opportunity to reinvigorate a struggling brand.
What a great opportunity to have people fall back in love with the Commonwealth Games.
Although a potential catastrophe for India’s commercial and logistical reputation, the high amount of pre-event publicity could be exactly what is needed to pull the Commonwealth Games back from the brink of irrelevance and obsolescence.
Chris Dobson is Strategy Director at Imagination (Australia). Imagination is a global, integrated, brand communications agency whose clients include Commonwealth Bank, Ford, BlackBerry and Panasonic.