Delhi's poorest watch from afar as Games open in dazzling style

In the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the lights were so bright, the effect was literally dazzling. As the Commonwealth Games opened last night in Delhi, drummers drummed, huge puppets danced, and light sabres in the shape of sitars reached into the sky. "I declare the Games open," said Prince Charles. "Let the Games begin," followed India's President, Pratibha Patil. More than 65,000 spectators cheered.

Anthony Peter and his wife, Dolly, watched proceedings by the light of a single, uncovered bulb. In their tiny, two-room house in a slum colony in the south of the city, they had tuned their television to the opening ceremony but they watched without enthusiasm. Just days earlier, officials had come to their community and erected bright blue 8ft screens bearing the Commonwealth Games logo to hide the colony and its impoverished residents from passing traffic. The hoarding that had cut off their colony bore the words: "Come out and play."

"They have done this to hide the poverty so that people cannot see the poor," said Mr Peter, an electrician who works odd jobs to provide for his wife and three children. "We are not going to be able to see any of the Games' events," added his wife. "We have no money for that."

There were two Indias on display last night. In the stadium – where weeks of problems and embarrassment over the Games' shambolic preparations were swept aside by an inspirational opening ceremony directed by the veteran movie producer Shyam Benegal – was the India the establishment wished to display to athletes, spectators and millions of viewers.

It was the India of flair and imagination, of first-class technology and channeled energy, a "rising superpower", in the words of Suresh Kalmadi, the organising committee's chairman and the man widely blamed for the stumbles in preparation, who was booed during his welcoming speech.

This was the India proud of its past, proud of its culture, aware of the value of its people. It was the very best of a country bloated with potential and only the mean-spirited would have suggested that the ceremony was not world-class. Even the athletes from India's arch-rival, Pakistan, earned a rousing, big-hearted reception.

But outside the stadium was the India that did not find a place before the television cameras, whose residents were deemed too unsightly not to be hidden from view by special screens. People like Anthony Peter and his wife. The couple have lived in so-called Coolie Camp colony for more than 10 years. Life there is hard: mains electricity came a couple of years ago, but water still has to be pumped by hand from a shared tap or gathered in buckets from a tanker. Earlier this summer, the authorities used bulldozers to crush the cluster of shacks and simple shops from which many of the community's residents scrabbled a living. People feared the heavy machinery would soon come for their homes.

Perhaps the screens have saved them, some residents suggested, and given them another lease of life. Perhaps if the screens have not been erected, then their homes could have been razed, like those in many other poor communities in the city.

But Mr and Mrs Peter say the Games have done nothing for them. The $6bn (£3.8bn) spent on the event has seen no improvements for their colony. Indeed, such is the level of security that people are afraid to step out beyond the blue barriers while the Games are on for fear police will query their identification cards and force them from the city or lock them up.

"If my husband goes out and can only earn 100 rupees, then we cannot eat a second meal," said Mrs Peter, standing in the tiny cement-floored kitchen of her home, where a tangle of electric wires tumbled from the ceiling. "He can only go out once in the day. Then we have to try and beg some money. And as for the water, since the Games' preparations began, we have had no delivery."

The Games ceremony ended with fireworks and music, songs performed by AR Rahman, best known in the West for his tracks in the film Slumdog Millionaire. It somehow felt cruel to ask whether the people of Coolie Colony knew about film, their lives fixed and centred on their slum. It was their home but also a prison. Asked whether any young people from the community had ever excelled in sport, whether they might be inspired by the opening ceremony that was taking place, one of the Peters' neighbours, a man called Davinder, said: "I have a son who plays cricket. But there is nowhere here for them to play. They cannot even dream of it."

Figures from the games

£1.4bn Current official estimate of the cost of the games. But independent experts say the true outlay will be closer to £4.2bn – 100 times the original projected price tag.



£1.26 Sum that the World Bank estimates more than 800m Indians survive on each day.



40,000 Number of workers involved in preparing Delhi for the Games.



45 Number of workers believed to have died in accidents since construction work began on venues in Delhi.



100 cases of dengue fever reportedly recorded in the Athlete's Village area during the past two months.



100,000 families evicted to smarten Delhi's streets for the games, along with 300,000 vendors, beggars, and rickshaw drivers. There will also be 100,000 police working.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?