There is no excuse for large-scale sporting events to fail.

Of course terrorism and other political disturbances, such as the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics, can tragically derail events mid-competition. Security threats though are beyond the scope of organising committees and aside from putting in place stringent security measures there is not much they can do. But there is no good reason why Indian organisers should fail in their fundamental duties.

Four-and-a-half years ago, I spent mornings, afternoons and evenings reporting on Melbourne’s Commonwealth Games. Yes, the games atmosphere was at times more like a school athletics carnival. Yes, many of the events were missing the world’s best teams and were barely world standard. Yes, the ceremonies and all the pomp – particularly the welcoming ceremonies in the athletes’ village presided over by “mayor” Steve Moneghetti – were a bit naff.

But the athletes and spectators for the most part had everything a large international sporting event needed.

When the Queen walked through Melbourne’s athletes’ village in a mint green suit and white gloves, she would have felt at home with the clipped lawns and paved streets of her surroundings. These were surroundings which, straight after the games, were turned into a new housing estate with minimal fuss. No slums were demolished and no athlete, as far as I know, was in danger of electrocution.

The sporting arenas were fit for gladiators, so much so that Melburnians could have been forgiven for thinking they were hosting a real sporting event — purpose-built lawn bowls arena anyone?

As somebody who nearly has a master’s degree in international relations, I am only too familiar with the massive problems facing India. More than 300 million Indians live in poverty today and the country is home to 17 per cent of the world’s slum dwellers. A third of all Indians have no access to basic sanitation, including toilets.

Admittedly, the millions of dollars spent on housing the Commonwealth’s top athletes could have been much better spent on India’s myriad development issues. But New Delhi bid for the games, so New Delhi must now deliver. Organisers had a model, it was Melbourne. There was experience to draw on.

More recently, Beijing did it and did it well. Even South Africa hosted Africa’s first World Cup with nary a problem. Why then, has New Delhi been allowed to fail?

Even if the Commonwealth Games go off without a hitch, the perception will be that India cannot handle being on a big stage.

At this point, just over a week out, there have been reports of labourers defecating on the floor of athletes’ rooms. A bridge to the main stadium has collapsed, fortunately without taking any lives, and the roof of the weightlifting stadium is in a crumple heap. Forget the terrorist threat, it is hardly surprising athletes are saying thanks, but no thanks.

New Delhi is a long way from the smiling, aqua-clad army of over eager volunteers in Melbourne. It is a long way from the manicured surrounds of Parkville’s athletes’ village. It is a long way from test events at the main sporting venues two months before the opening ceremony where every procedure was analysed and examined to ensure it went off without a hitch.

For the sake of the athletes who have been training and preparing for years for this, let’s hope New Delhi gets it right on the night.

*Naomi Levin is news editor of The Australian Jewish News and was a reporter/manager for the 2006 Commonwealth Games News Service in Melbourne.

**Back Page Lead is a sports opinion website that provides sports content to Crikey.