HORRIBLE toilets. Stagnant puddles buzzing with dengue-spreading mosquitoes. Collapsing masonry. Lax security. A terrorist attack. India’s preparations for the 72-nation Commonwealth games, which are scheduled to open in Delhi on October 3rd, have not won favourable reviews. “Commonfilth”, was one of the kinder British tabloid headlines. At best—assuming that the organisers make a last-minute dash to spruce things up—the Delhi games will be remembered as a shambles. The contrast with China’s practically flawless hosting of the Olympic games in 2008 could hardly be starker. Many people will draw the wrong lesson from this.
A big sporting event, some people believe, tells you something important about the nation that hosts it. Efficient countries build tip-top stadiums and make the shuttle buses run on time. That India cannot seem to do any of these things suggests that it will always be a second-rate power.
Or does it? Despite the headlines, India is doing rather well. Its economy is expected to expand by 8.5% this year. It has a long way to go before it is as rich as China—the Chinese economy is four times bigger—but its growth rate could overtake China’s by 2013, if not before (see article). Some economists think India will grow faster than any other large country over the next 25 years. Rapid growth in a country of 1.2 billion people is exciting, to put it mildly.
Another reason India will succeed.