It was to be a display of a young country’s high reaching ambitions, an opportunity to show the world that India can dine at the same table as the big boys.
The Government of India pledged its complete support to the mammoth project and it was seen as a prelude to a future Olympic bid. With China preparing to host the Olympic around the same time, India was not going to be left far behind.
Seven years later, it all literally came crashing down. A crucial bridge linking the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Delhi to the athletes’ car park collapsed just days before the event, injuring 23 labourers in the process.
Multiple venues including the athletes’ village were not even ready by the time the international athletes arrived in the city. Various infrastructure delays, corruption scandals, budget overshoots and shoddy constructions had marred the build up to the event.
Various teams and individual athletes threatened to pull out at the last-minute and only some last ditch overtures by the organizers somehow managed to see the games through to its end.
While there were some encouraging words said towards the end of the Games by the participants, there was no doubt that the ability of the country to pull off such global events had taken a massive hit.
The ability to host the Olympic Games seemed like an overture too far for the country as China rightly showed what India lacked in 2008.
The infrastructure put together by the Communist state put to shame the shoddy work done in Delhi.
In December 2013, the FIFA Executive Committee announced India as the hosts for the 2017 U-17 World Cup, beating bids from South Africa and Uzbekistan.
It was the first time ever that a FIFA event was going to be held in the country and while the U-17 World Cup might not be as huge as the senior version on scale, it most definitely demands the same high standards as the latter.
A FIFA event, no matter what the age-group, has eyes from all over the world watching it. For India, the U-17 World Cup provides the perfect stage once again which it had so craved in 2010, to show the world that it can deliver after all when it comes to massive events.
Six venues were chosen across the country to host 24 of the finest youth teams in world football – Delhi, Kochi, Guwahati, Margao, Kolkata and Mumbai. Heavy infrastructure upgrades were sanctioned for the venues to be fit to host the future Lionel Messis and Cristiano Ronaldo’s of football.
A botched up infrastructure for the World Cup could have set back India’s ability to host major events a good few years but in a pleasant surprise, the infrastructure work at all the six stadiums has passed off smoothly on time without any controversy.
A week back, All India Football Federation (AIFF) President Praful Patel announced proudly to the media that India was a hundred percent ready as a nation to host the event. The Local Organising Committee (LOC) tournament director Javier Ceppi echoed the sentiments of Patel reiterating that five of the six venues had been handed over to FIFA with another to follow a day later.
On Tuesday, Ceppi had even more praises to shower on India’s excellent job in the preparation of the event.
"Infrastructure is going to be the biggest legacy of the World Cup, you have seen how things have been," Ceppi said three days before the first-match kicks off.
This is no official just sugar coating the praises of the local organizers, this is the representative of FIFA on whose charge the responsibility of a seamless experience rests on.
All the stadiums for the World Cup look in pristine condition and tip-top shape as the day of reckoning draws nearer.
It is fair to say right now that India have put together quite a package when it comes to the infrastructure and construction.
A job well done and maybe, just maybe, a precursor to the world that India can dream of organizing massive events after all.