Friday, June 25, 2010

Govt game for austerity to trim CWG ceremony costs

Despite a show of strength by the government and the Commonwealth Games Committee at the Wagah border to welcome the Queen’s Baton, there appear to be severe reservations over what all of this is going to cost the exchequer.

At the last GoM meeting on the Games, the finance ministry had made clear that the inaugural and closing ceremonies of the Games were costing way too much money. In a strict edict, the finance ministry informed the urban development ministry that the cost for both these ceremonies should “not to exceed Rs 300 crores.”

According to sources in the government, the figure quoted by the Commonwealth Games committee was close to Rs 450 crores. “The committee has been asked to re-work its budget following this stipulation,” said a government source. A major component of the cost was an expensive laser show in the inaugural ceremony, which again became controversial as the ceremony was scheduled to start at 5.30 in the evening—broad daylight makes laser lights redundant. The revised timing of the ceremony is now 7pm.

In fact, even the expenditure of the passage of the Queen’s Baton through the country was considered profligate by the finance ministry, especially the cost of moving the Queen’s Baton by air. It was said that organising committee would ask defence ministry to provide this escort free of charge. However, when the Financial Express enquired whether any such request was pending with the defence ministry, the answer was in the negative.

Even in the matter of lighting up prominent monuments in the city during the two week course of the Games, government has advised austerity. In fact, Delhi chief minister Sheila Diskhit has advised the committee that lighting of monuments “not be overdone” and that only monuments where cultural events are to take place be lit up.

Apart from profligacy, the the Games committee has also been lagging behind in the award of contracts for supplying sports equipment and even catering contracts. With just 100 days to go for the games to begin, the games within the committee refuse to end.

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