By Sirshendu Panth
New Delhi, Oct 13 (IANS) As the curtains come down on it Thursday, the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi will be remembered as much for India's ability to pull off a world class mega event as about sporting glory - controversies notwithstanding.
They will leave behind a city with spanking new infrastructure that played host to 6,700 competitors from 71 nations and territories who were given top class security -- and glimpses of the country's rich cultural heritage and hospitality.
The closing ceremony Thursday promises to be a spectacular and youthful song and dance celebration, with a laser show as its highlight, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, which is where the grand opening ceremony was held Oct 3.
Involving 7,000 performers, the theme of the closing function will showcase martial arts and include segments like 'Tribute to the Motherland' and 'Music of Universal Love'. The Rs.400 million ($9 million) aerostat - the world's largest helium balloon - that was the star attraction at the opening ceremony - will again be put to use.
The Commonwealth Games - the second biggest multi-sports event after the Olympics - will remain a milestone in India's post-Independence history not only as a shining example of the country's organisational might but also as a proof of its sporting calibre.
As international players fought for 829 medals in 17 disciplines staged in 11 venues, even critics - who had earlier lambasted the organisers for an unclean Games Village, delays and lack of security - had to admit that it was one of the best Games ever.
Having finished the previous Games at Melbourne in the fourth place after Australia, England and Canada, the hosts were engaged in a see-saw battle with England for the second slot here. Australia, however, showed their overwhelming superiority to retain their position atop the leader board.
It was India's best showing at the Games as it surpassed its previous highest gold tally of 30 at the Manchester Games eight years ago and moved within a striking distance of the target of 100-plus medals set by the Organising Committee.
There was a windfall in athletics, where Indians earned an unprecedented double gold, both coming from women, to end a 52-year old drought since 'Flying Sikh' Milkha Singh's top podium finish at the 1958 Cardiff Games.
The shooters, as expected, rained gold medals from the ranges, wrestlers excelled, archers hit bulls' eye and there were also surprise medals from gymnastics, even though weightlifters and tennis stars failed to live up to expectations.
On the flip side, three athletes - two from Nigeria and one from India - flunked dope tests, three Ugandan officials sustained injuries when a security device malfunctioned at the Games Village and a rugby scoreboard came apart.
There were complaints about unclean water in the swimming pool - which proved to be incorrect.
Apart from sporting contests, seven years of hard labour by thousands of officials and workers paid off as the country got spanking new venues, and put in place world class facilities like the Main Press Centre and the International Broadcast Centre.
The infrastructure created, especially the expanded Metro, will be a permanent blessing for Delhiites to overcome glitches of traffic, and enjoy a better quality of life.
Initial complaints about the Games Village were quickly addressed, and security was tight with athletes getting adequate protection.
There has been criticism about the huge money spent - with estimates varying from Rs.300 billion to Rs.600 billion. But as the Games draw to a close Thursday, they leave behind a beautiful Delhi, with its magnificent flyovers, wide roads and beautifully landscaped parks and boulevards.