Monday, June 21, 2010

India's Commonwealth Games Face Monsoon Test

New Delhi residents can't wait for the onset of the monsoon to bring relief from the summer heat, but the impending rains could spell further trouble for Commonwealth Games organisers.With a June 30 deadline for completion of the Games venues fast approaching, the debris around unfinished stadiums, dug-up roads and on-going Metro construction work presents a gloomy picture in the Indian capital.The 12-day sporting extravaganza involving 71 nations mostly from the former British empire is already the most expensive Commonwealth Games in history, with an infrastructure and organising budget of two billion dollars.Monsoon rains are expected to hit the city on schedule around July 1, causing major problems for organisers as they race against time to be ready to host the event, which begins on October 3.

The Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, which hosts the opening and closing ceremonies and the track and field events, the swimming complex and the cycle velodrome, is causing most concern.

The Commonwealth Games Federation has repeatedly said that more delays would mean the venues have not been tested properly before the real competition begins.

"It does not take rocket science to know that monsoon hits Delhi sometime in late June or early July, and it has a major slowdown effect on construction," a Delhi government official told the Times of India last week.

Local organisers remain confident that their plans will not be washed away by the annual torrential rains, which reduce much of the city to a quagmire for weeks at a stretch.

"There is no doubt everything will be ready on time, whatever anyone may say," organising committee secretary-general Lalit Bhanot told AFP.Jaipal Reddy, the senior government minister overseeing the work, last week repeated pledges that the June 30 deadline would be met.

Not everyone shares that optimism, least of all Delhi's harried residents, who negotiate their way every day through a rubble-filled city that often resembles a huge building site.

"They must be six months behind schedule, if not more," said bank executive Sanjaya Gupta. "Perhaps they could get the Games postponed till next year."

The latest indication of trouble came from city officials who leaked information to the media that a four-kilometre (2.5 mile) elevated road between the main stadium and the athletes' village would not be finished before mid-August.

The rush to complete Games-related work is also proving hazardous. On May 29, a public transport bus full of passengers sank into a large crater that appeared in a newly constructed road.Municipal officials said the road had caved in because its foundation layers were washed away when sewer pipes underneath began to leak.

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