Delhi ‘better by the minute’

2010-10-22 00:00

CHATTING to Stu Berry about his trip to the Commonwealth Games, it’s clear that the experience blew him away.

And it’s not an easy feat for any city to have such an impact on South Africa’s sixth-ranked rugby referee, who in between Currie Cup duties officiates on the World Sevens Circuit and spends much of his time flying between Las Vegas, London, Wellington, Dubai and Edinburgh.

”I left for the Games with high expectations of being part of one of the greatest sporting events in the world and the experience was incredible,” says Berry (28), a former Maritzburg Varsity student and hydrologist who combines his sporting passion with running a top events company in KZN.

”As the aircraft doors open in Mumbai en route to Delhi your senses are immediately awakened to the sights and sounds of Asia and the unique energy that almost defines India itself. And the heat. We arrived in Mumbai at midnight; it was 35 degrees and exceptionally humid.”

Berry has nothing but praise for the organisers, officials and local people in Delhi.

“On arrival, we were whisked off the plane and taken to a separate customs and verification desk, staff were friendly and well organised and inside 10 minutes I had my accreditation and was ready to roll.”

A police escort sped the athletes to their accommodation, “which was very comfortable and certainly not what press reports had suggested”.

“In fact, my impressions of India got better by the minute. The media impression and my own personal experience were total opposites. Being in the events industry I am generally quite critical of these kinds of sporting events, but I have to say that my overall experience was most enjoyable.

“Yes, we had the odd bus transport delay, but the organisation was generally good. Most of all the people, police and officials in Delhi went out of their way to be friendly and hospitable, which is not easy considering their first language isn’t English, while the majority of participants and visiting supporters are English speaking.”

Berry said the rugby sevens stadium and field at Delhi University was superb, probably better than some world sevens venues in terms of facilities.

Down time meant a chance to watch the other sports, including witnessing South Africa win gold and bronze in the women’s javelin, men’s hockey, more athletics, rhythmic gymnastics “and the men’s marathon, where our fellow Africans from Kenya took gold and bronze”.

Berry refereed the New Zealand-Canada, Australia-Sri Lanka and England-Australia matches on day one.

“Sevens rugby was billed as one of the Games’ major sports and with the tickets sold out, the action didn’t disappoint,” says Berry.

”My big game of day two was the semi-final between New Zealand and England. New Zealand were just too strong with their big players that included four All Blacks, and they eventually took the gold, beating Australia in the final.

”I must say well done to [SA coach] Paul Treu and his team. Having travelled the world circuit this year with them, I have seen how hard Paul and his crew have worked and South Africa’s bronze is a great achievement considering the number of youngsters and injuries.”

Berry said that one of his Games highlights was when he boarded the Taj-Commonwealth Express, a dedicated train service from Delhi to Agra, site of the fabled Taj Mahal.

“Over 1 200 athletes boarded the train the day I went, and it was an awesome day out. A two-hour trip on the train, then 46 buses waiting on the other side to transport us to the Taj.

”It’s an amazing structure, dubbed the ‘Temple of Love’, yet there were 1 200 athletes with me and I couldn’t find any love anywhere!” said a disappointed Berry.

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