Delhi 2010, was a Commonwealth Games like no other. And team Chef de Mission Steve Moneghetti and General Manager Perry Crosswhite can look back on the XIXth Commonwealth Games and be proud of a team that rolled their sleeves up and got the job done, a job under extreme pressures never experienced before.
When stories emerged that Delhi’s Games preparations, lack of security, terrorism threats and anything that could go wrong would go wrong, the team leaders had to manage the initial fears of the athletes and their families with some good old-fashioned up front communication.
Then they had to keep the “nay-sayers” at bay, say no to a proposed boycott, continue to take as much pressure off the athletes as possible and adhere to some words of wisdom from well-travelled men’s hockey coach and former Olympic great Ric Charlesworth – a man experienced in the issues that only India can throw at you.
“Perry, I’ve come to India many times and the best advice I can give you is to ‘go with the flow,” Charlesworth said.
“And that’s what we did. I appreciated those comments from Ric who had been there and dealt with the Indian system before,” Crosswhite said, who was full of praise for Charlesworth and what he described as a strong and supportive group of coaches and managers in all the sports.
“The toughest part of these Games was actually getting there,” Crosswhite said.
“There was a lot of pressure from our Federal Government who wanted to ensure that we were serious about our security given the terrorism talk in the lead up to the Games.
“We spent a lot of time with them (Government officials) and they were fully supportive.
“There was all this talk about all the concerns leading into the Games and I have to admit it was getting to the athletes.
“Our message to the teams was ‘tell them to go and if there are any concerns we are more than happy to put them on the next flight home after their competition’.
“We knew once we got them there and the Games began we would be right to go.
“There were a lot of medical issues and I have to give praise to our chief medical officer Peter Harcourt and his medical team who did an outstanding job.
“There were things in the Village that just didn’t work; you would turn on the power and the water would come on; it was the weirdest place.
“But we just went with the flow; we didn’t criticise them (the CGF and the local organisers) and we needed to and continued to get a lot of support to make things work.
“I actually felt for the Indian people who really wanted to make the Games happen; I had a lot of sympathy for them and so we did everything we could.”
But other teams and nations were not so obliging.
“A number of the western teams, including some of the home nations and New Zealand all wanted Australia to join a boycott before the athletes arrived,” Crosswhite said.
“They wanted an edict to boycott unless everything is fixed and I was (quite frank) and said there is no way we will ever be in that.
“I went to Moscow (as a member of the basketball team) and I know all sorts of thing about boycotts; you never win anything with that.
“I said we’ll do things our way and the Games will go ahead… and they did and I wasn’t popular; they didn’t like me after that.
“But at the end of the day the Games are about the athletes… If you never go past that and if you do then you’re in trouble… and so we stuck to that and we got through it…”
But on the eve of the Games competition beginning Crosswhite and Moneghetti and their team had to get through an Opening Ceremony that would be the biggest test of them all.
“Steve and I had scars from that Opening Ceremony; we were let down by the organisers; they put us in that tunnel and they had no idea just how hot it was,” said Crosswhite, as athletes scrambled for water, many close to collapse through heat exhaustion.
“We were let down and we won’t ever forget that; but at the end of the day we could have jumped up and down and done all kinds of things but we thought what’s the point?
“At least our athletes got to go out there first and they got through it and saw the rest of the ceremony and then the Games started and we could run with it.
“Once the Games began, the sport kicked in and the other stuff goes away anyway.
“At the end of the day we did the best we could getting towards the exits; it wasn’t pleasant at all; and the athletes were being used for a show.
“It was all about that show but Steve and I were so proud of the way they came through it.
“And proud of the way our athletes rolled their sleeves up and showed the resilience that Australian athletes are noted for.”
Crosswhite was the man who had put Moneghetti into the role as the team Chef, following Don Stockins (1998 and 2002) and John Devitt (2006).
Moneghetti was a member of the teams between 1986 and 1998 with a decorated career over 10,000 and the marathon and in 2002 was the appointed Athlete Advisor on the Manchester Team before his role as the Village Mayor for his home town Melbourne Games of ’06.
‘Mona’ was synonymous now with the Games but it was his role with the boxing team in Manchester that Crosswhite knew would keep him in good stead as a future Chef.
“Steve spent a lot of time with the boxing team in the lead up to and during those Games. They had some boys that needed some TLC and a little guidance and Steve was just the man for that job,” recalled Crosswhite.
“He got them to understand and brought them around, winning them over and it was a real success story.
“Steve stepped up to the plate in Delhi and did a great job. He’s an athlete’s Chef de Mission, who is always around his athletes, where he speaks to them in their language.
“He did a fantastic job in the Chef’s role and that was his first shot at it; that first one, which was the hardest one, he was ready for it.
“Being an athlete, he knew what the athletes were going through; so for that situation he was able to make all the right calls.”
Crosswhite’s role required him to stay in the Village while Moneghetti attended the sports and being front and centre with his team.
But Moneghetti would return nightly with news of another gold medal success story but asking the question:” “What’s gone wrong now Perry????”
And when it was all said and done when the dust in Delhi had settled and there was a celebratory drink or two, Moneghetti again sidled up to the General Manager, saying: ”Well Perry I hope that was the toughest Games we’re ever going to have….”
With which Crosswhite replied: “I’m sure they won’t come any tougher than that Steve…!”