Wednesday, July 28, 2010

All is well in Delhi, Chairman assures International Security Administrators

Assuring the security administrators attending the International Security Liaison Conference , the Organising Committee Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi (OC CWG Delhi 2010) Chairman Mr. Suresh kalmadi, MP, said that visiting security experts can assure the athletes and sports persons in their respective countries that “All is well in Delhi”.

The International Security Conference is being organised by the International Security Liaison Group (ISLG) and OC CWG Delhi 2010 from 28 to 29 July 2010 in New Delhi’s The Ashok Hotel.

The Chairman said, “Security is a critical component for the success of the Games. The Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi and the Delhi Police  will ensure that the Games are held in a safe and secure environment not only at all the competition and non-competition venues, but throughout the length and breadth of the city of Delhi”.

“The Delhi Police is planning a very strong security ring around the city and several layers of checks and filters with the help of the latest technology and trained and experienced security personnel at the games Village and at all the venues” he added.

OC chairman informed the delegates that a Games Operation Centre headed the the CEO would function at the Games headquarters round the clock to resolve all issues and that he himself would chair the Games Time Managing Committee to look into any critical issues which may arise.

During the interactive two-day conference which is for the security professionals from the member nations and territories of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Delhi Police will make a detailed presentation to update the members on the security processes in place.

CWG 2010: Squandering away Rs 35K cr common wealth

Reverberations of senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s remarks on the Commonwealth Games preparations was still being felt by the government. Though Congress managers rushed in to downplay the former Union minister’s remarks, there was a growing concern about the fate of the event.

Mr Aiyar’s caustic comments on the Games may have been frowned upon publicly by his party colleagues, but they have found traction with large sections. Several Congress leaders in private spoke of growing doubts about the Games passing off without any major mishap and the organiser’s ability to hold an event of such scale without a blemish.

While disapproving of the public spat between the two senior Congress leaders, party spokesman Manish Tewari said here on Wednesday that a post-mortem of the Games will be done, if necessary, after its conclusion.

Mr Aiyar had expressed his unhappiness with such a large amount of money being spent in the name of the Games and felt that India would have been much better off had this money been spent on the uplift of the poor.

Speaking with a remarkable candour on a day when the city received good showers, Mr Aiyar said: “I am delighted in a way because rains are causing difficulties for the Commonwealth Games. Basically, I will be very unhappy, if the Games are successful because then they will start rooting for Asian Games, Olympic Games.” “Those who are patronising the Games can only be evil. They cannot be God,” he said.

There are fears within the government about the fall-out of any slip-up during the fortnight-long event, and the impact it may have on the country’s image across the world.

Not only have preparations of the venues been schedule, questions are being raised at the manner in which large amounts of public money is spent. While speculation about large-scale corruption has been swirling around for quite some time, the decision by CVC to step into the frame have only lent credence to the allegations.

Delhi finance minister A K Walia, who’s also a member of the Commonwealth Co-ordination Committee stoked fears about the Games on Wednesday when he said that he was not sure if all stadia would be ready by the August 15 deadline.

Mr Walia visited the Yamuna Sports Complex in East Delhi on Wednesday morning. The venue will host archery and table tennis events. “The way the work is going on, I have doubts over some of the Games venues but I hope that they will be ready in time,” Mr Walia said. Waterlogging was reported from Yamuna Sports Complex last week after heavy rains lashed the capital.

The budget for holding the Games was initially pegged at `345 crore, but has now swelled to some `35,000 crore, forcing many people to question the decision to go for it.

Commonwealth Games: Finally, workers get some legal cover

Labourers working at Commonwealth Games project sites finally have some reason to smile.

A week since a drive was started by the Delhi Legal Services Authority (DLSA), along with with the labour department and Delhi government, to ensure the rights of workers under labour laws, around 2,000 workers have successfully been registered and verified.

DLSA, which appointed a three-lawyer panel to look into the condition of Games project labourers, is holding camps every day till August 5 at various sites. So far, the panel has visited Akhsardham complex, Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, Shastri park and Indira Gandhi International Airport site, Tughklak Road metro station and R K Khanna stadium.

DLSA project officer Gautam Manan, who is spearheading the drive, said all workers at different sites are being registered as per labour laws. The workers are also being insured against any kind of damage. "The camps sensitize the workers about their rights and insurance in case of any mishap. Most of these workers are daily wage earners and little do they realise that these things make a difference in their lives,'' he said.

The DLSA drive comes a week after the Delhi high court directed the government to verify the registration of all workers at Games sites across the capital. Despite the claims of the government that around 3,000 workers had been registered in the last two months, HC in its order on a PIL filed by Peoples' Union For Democratic Rights on the plight of the Games workers took a stern view of the situation. "It is worth noting that the figures that are stated in the affidavit do not refer to workers employed for the purpose of CWG...the learned counsel for the state could not clarify whether all the workers who are registered are employed in CWG or elsewhere,'' the court noted on the affidavit filed by the Delhi government saying "around 4,000 applications were being processed and over 31,000 workers had been registered till date''.

It directed the Delhi government to verify the "registrations that had been made'' and sought the "exact number of workers registered with the CWG". The HC also set up a three-member panel a third body apart from a workers' welfare board and a monitoring committee to sensitise them on their entitlements.

The HC was earlier told that around 48 workers had died at various Games site and due to the absence of any registration, the families of the deceased could not get any compensation.

31 nations to be briefed on 4-tier Games security

Security heads from 31 participating nations will review security arrangements for the Commonwealth Games on Thursday, taking stock of the four-layered cover that will be thrown around key venues during the mega sporting event.

Representatives from 31 countries, including Pakistan, are set to take a tour of the newly-constructed Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies will be held, as well as the Games village where participating teams will be put up.

Live security demonstrations will be given to security heads to help showcase preparedness of agencies to ensure foolproof protection to venues and players.

“They will be shown the four-layer security network, and things like how spectators will be frisked, vehicles checked and potential terror threats warded off. Rescue and evacuation drills will also be showcased,” a senior official overseeing the security arrangements said.

Eight heads of state have confirmed that they would be attending the Games, even as the government expects a dozen heads of state to grace the event. Only the heads of state will enjoy the privilege of being driven in cars to the games venue.

Remaining VIPs, including MPs and senior judges, will have to arrive in a bus. As per security plan, athletes and officials will be allowed into the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium only in bus. It is with this in mind that the parking of Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium has been designed to accommodate 150 buses.

Over 10,000 athletes from 71 countries and 500,000 spectators are expected to take part in the Games to be held from October 3.

Each of the 13 competition venues for the Games will have a tight security ring and special arrangements will be made to transport athletes to and from the Games village with helicopters carrying commando snipers keeping an eye on the convoys below.

A ‘village’ full of India’s traditional artists

An artist village is coming up at Delhi Cantonment to accommodate the 2,500 artists who are coming to perform at the opening and closing ceremonies of the 19th Commonwealth Games. The Organizing Committee (OC) is getting its act together to host the artists who will be mesmerising the spectators with their dance during the 12 day sporting extravaganza starting from October 3. The dress rehearsal for different cultural events would start from August 1.

“Artists would start arriving in another three to four days. The village would be ready by then,” said an OC official.

But those working on the ground are a bit sceptical about the OC's claims as far as preparations at the ‘village’ is concerned.

For the opening ceremony alone there will be around 15,000 participants, including the 2,500 professional artists.

Panel breaks catering tender into three

The Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, which is still finding catering for the event too hot to handle, has now decided to break the problem down to bite sizes to make it easy. Instead of one tender for all catering needs, from athletes to security staff, three tenders will now be floated.

Till now the Organising Committee has only signed a single catering contract, with Australian firm Delaware North, for the Games Village. The Committee still has no clue who will serve food at the competition and non-competition venues to athletes, games technical officials, VIPs, workforce, volunteers and security staff.

After a bit of a reshuffle in staff who are handling the catering, the Committee is trying to sort out the matter now. The catering has been divided into three parts with separate tenders for VIPs, which includes athletes, technical officials and games officials, another for the workforce, volunteers and security staff and the last for food stalls to cater to spectators.

For VIPs, the organising committee is discussing the possibility of hiring the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation. “The way talks are going on at present it is highly unlikely that the OC and IRCTC will be able to iron out a deal. We will have to float a tender,” said a senior Organising Committee official.

The catering budget has already gone haywire and the committee wants Rs 121 crore more. Even the Rs 106-crore Games Village contract was signed after the tender was floated twice. Delaware North’s first bid was rejected on the excuse that the firm had not paid the earnest money.

The Committee had invited an expression of interest for providing catering services at competition and non-competition venues in 11 parts. Five firms had submitted their bids totaling around Rs 77.93 crore. After negotiations the amount came down to Rs 73.22 crore. The Committee, which had initially fixed the total catering budget at Rs 63.33 crore, found this too high. After trimming the menu and number of people the price came down to Rs 68.46 crore. But even this price was way too high, so all tenders were cancelled. No contracts, however, had been signed with any firm.

Delegates briefed about Games security

Delegates from 71 Commonwealth Games federations are in the Capital for a last-minute briefing to clear doubts related to security for the event. On Wednesday, the delegates were briefed about security arrangements by the Delhi Police and CISF. The CISF is in charge of the venues, while the Delhi Police are responsible for the overall security and traffic management. Off late several think-tanks across the globe have expressed security concerns about the Games. Many have even warned that Delhi would be attacked by Lashkar operatives. “We have briefed all delegates and cleared their doubts about any security threat to the Games. We have also told them in detail about the security arrangements in place,” said Delhi Police special commissioner Neeraj Kumar.

MCD refusing completion certificate for Karni Singh Stadium

With the Commonwealth Games just two months away, MCD is refusing approval to issue completion certificate for the shooting venue of the mega event due to a pending proposal for widening the road leading to it.

A proposal regarding layout plan of the Karni Singh Stadium in Tughlakabad was postponed by a meeting of the MCD Standing Committee today after the area councillor raised objections. The MCD has already completed dense-carpeting of the existing road leading to the venue.

Councillor Sarita Chaudhary had been demanding that the widening of the road also be done along with the improvement, but MCD officials argue that this will involve cutting of trees and a prolonged procedural delay.

"According to the master plan of Delhi, the road should be 60 m wide. They have now improved only the existing road which is 10 metres wide. Road widening is important as it will help ease the traffic congestion in the area. If they cannot widen now, they should at least demarcate the area so that the road can be expanded to 60 m later," she said.

The Standing Committee today refused to approve the layout plan. "We will not approve it till the issue of road widening is resolved," Chaudhary said.

MCD officials insist that the area where road widening is being proposed by the councillor is part of the southern ridge. "It will take a lot of time to get clearance related to the Indian Forest Act as the road widening will involve felling at least 1,000 trees," said a senior MCD official.

Chaudhary said, "It is not that trees were not cut for any Games projects in Delhi. If we cut some trees, we can plant double the number. But traffic situation is very bad on the stretch and widening of the road is quite important. I have been raising this issue for the last so many years but nothing is being done," she said.

Seeking quota, Jats threaten to disrupt CWG

Thousands of Jats on Wednesday attempted to storm the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee office here during their protest demanding quota in jobs but were prevented by police.

The Jat Mahasabha, which is spearheading the protest, threatened that they will try everything possible to disrupt the sporting extravaganza if their demand was not met with.

Carrying torches similar to that of the Games, the protesters marched towards the Games' headquarters from their protest site, a few hundred metres away at Jantar Mantar, but were prevented by police from marching ahead.

A large number of police personnel were deployed near the protest site to prevent the protesters and ensure that no untoward incident takes place.

"Some of the protesters tried to enter the Games office which is across Jantar Mantar. However, we managed to prevent them and stopped them from crossing the road towards the office," a senior police officer said.

The protest created traffic snarls in the city though police said there were no major problems.

"From petrol to vegetables, everything that reaches Delhi passes through our area. If our demands are not met, we would not only disrupt the supply of essential goods to the capital but also disrupt the Games," a Jat leader said addressing the protesters.

Pakistan won't recall Abbas for Commonwealth Games

Sohail Abbas, Pakistan's record-breaking hockey player, will not feature in October's Commonwealth Games (CWG) in New Delhi as the country's hockey bosses have decided against including the veteran player in the national team.

A top Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) official said Wednesday that Abbas will not be invited for the preparatory camp for the Oct 3-14 Games because Pakistan doesn't need the short corner expert, who holds the record of scoring the highest number of goals in international hockey, anymore.

"We will not be inviting Abbas for the Commonwealth Games camp, we don't need him anymore," said Asif Bajwa, PHF secretary, according to a newspaper.

Abbas skipped the team's training camp for the Europe tour last month and instead opted for the Bangladeshi League without informing the PHF, after he was disgruntled on his omission from the team for the Azlan Shah tournament.

Bajwa said the federation played its role by inviting the drag flick specialist repeatedly and will not ask him again to join the camp.

He also claimed that the team performed well in the Europe tour and did not miss the veteran player as Pakistan attempted to retain its lost status in hockey.

"The team showed improvement in Europe, where we achieved satisfactory results without Abbas," he said.

Pakistan will prepare for the CWG in two phases. The first phase will begin with a training camp in Abbottabad Aug 12-26. The team will then fly for a training camp to the Netherlands Sep 1-20. Bajwa said that chief selector Hanif Khan would announce the list of probables soon.

Meanwhile, Bajwa expressed satisfaction over the performance of Michel Van Den Heuvel, the team's new coach from the Netherlands, following the Europe tour which was the Dutchman's first assignment in the role.

Pakistan drew three matches against Spain, won the only battle against France and drew two matches against Holland during their two-week long sojourn.

Bajwa, who accompanied the team in Europe, said he saw positive changes in the team.

"There were some notable changes in the team. The coach has brought positive changes and we are happy with his performance. Heuvel is currently in Netherlands and will be returning before the Abbottabad camp to supervise the team's training. Heuvel will be back early next month to join the team and we are hoping for better results under him in the Commonwealth Games," he said.

We are with Govt in making CWG a success', says Vijender

Delhi BJP president Vijender Gupta today assured full support to the government in making the Commonwealth Games successful and said it should speed up the pace of Games-related projects to build a ''good image of the national capital''. ''We are with the government in making the Games successful. If the government needs our help, thousands of BJP workers are ready for that. But it should work honestly in completing the projects well in time,'' Mr Gupta told reporters on the sidelines of the launch of Delhi BJP unit's monthly magazine 'Bhajpa Sandesh'.

However, he lambasted the Delhi government for the delay in the Games-related projects.

''Games were announced in 2003. What was the government doing for so many years. Now even Congress Ministers, who visited the sites have expressed their displeasure over delay in several projects.'' He claimed that though the government has so far spent thousands of crores of rupees over the 12-day international sports event, several projects were lagging behind schedule.

Mr Gupta expressed hope that 'Bhajpa Sandesh' would create awareness among the workers on party activities.

The party would bring forth the government's failures before the people through the magazine, he added.

Senior BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu lauded Mr Gupta's efforts to strengthen the party and exposing the government's failure on all fronts.

''We must get back Delhi, which used to be our stronghold,'' said Mr Naidu, who was recently appointed Delhi in-charge of the party.

Mr Gupta presented him a memorandum of 600,000 signatures against steep price rise.

While speaking on the occasion, Vijay Kumar Malhotra, Leader of the Opposition in Delhi Assembly, said the magazine would also provide guidance to the BJP workers so that the party can further develop, especially in Delhi.

Game near, Delhi Police seeks to optimise manpower, resources

Many Delhi Police constables, cooks, drivers and cleaners often find themselves working in the homes of high-ranking officers. But they may soon be deployed on Commonwealth Games duty as the short-staffed force tries to optimise on its manpower and resources for the mega event.

It is also an open secret that cars for official purposes are frequently used for personal chores by officers and their families. These too are set to be put on Games duty.

Delhi Police Commissioner Y.S. Dadwal has directed special commissioners and joint commissioners to review the manpower and vehicles deployed in their respective zones. A detailed review report has to be submitted by Sep 15.

"During the games every officer has to perform and to take extra effort for the games," said Dadwal at the Delhi Police headquarters during a meeting in preparation for the Oct 3-14 event.

"Every district has to make a detailed review of vehicles and manpower so that each and every personnel on duty is accounted for on legitimate official duty," minutes of the meeting read.

Last year the ministry of home affairs also held a meeting with Delhi Police asking them to see whether their personnel and vehicles were being utilized properly.

It had also asked the Comptroller and Auditor General to conduct an audit. "All the districts conducted their internal manpower audit and submitted the report. During the exercise, a large number of personnel who were unauthorisedly employed with officers were withdrawn," the minutes of the meeting noted.

A senior police official told IANS on condition of anonymity: "Those police employees working as cooks, sweepers and drivers in the homes of retired police officers will also be utilised for Games."

The idea is to utilise during the Games such police employees who are otherwise deployed at the homes of retired as well as serving police officers. Vehicles will also not be allowed for personal purposes.

Not only this. Several officers may be left without their official cars, as these will be used to provide security to delegates and sportspersons during the October Games.

In order to increase their strength, Delhi Police have also decided to rope in "physical training instructors" from police training colleges into the security services.

The strength of Delhi police is around 69,000 men. But, according to officials, around 13,700 men who are undergoing training at present would also be ready to take charge during the Games. This will take the total strength of the force to over 80,000.

Delhi Police had recruited 6,700 men in December last year and the batch is almost ready for deployment. A few months ago, another 7,000 constables were recruited and were imparted basic training for patrolling with an eye on the Games.

To meet the demands of the security force, police have also floated tenders for hiring cooks to be deployed at various barracks and police stations during the Games.

Delhi Police have been floating tenders for the past six months to hire cars as escort vehicles for the buses and other vehicles ferrying delegates and players.

Govt to lease out CommonWealth Games stadia!

In a major public-private partnership effort in sports infrastructure, the Centre has finalised a plan to offer five major sports complexes built for the Commonwealth Games on a 10-year agreement to companies after the games are over.

Companies will need a minimum of Rs 1,000 crore (Rs 10 billion) as their net worth to bid for the two big stadia -- JN Stadium and Indira Gandhi Sports Complex.

For the remaining three -- Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Swimming Pool Complex and Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range -- the net worth for bidding would be Rs 500 crore (Rs 5 billion).

The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has asked Feedback Ventures to advise it on the bidding process and has floated a request for qualification (RFQ) from interested companies, which will close on August 23.

The ministry, along with Sports Authority of India (SAI), held a meeting today under the aegis of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry with companies to discuss details.

Representatives from Reliance IMG, Wipro, Coca-Cola, GTL Teleservices, AISA, Australian Trade Commission, 21st Century Media and Golf Academy were among those who attended the meeting. Sources said several of these companies have shown interest in the bidding process.

Under the terms for bidding, the company which offers the highest annual fee and wins the bid will be allowed branding rights over the stadia, permission to sub-let built up space, use the venue for concerts and sports-related activities and running academies, among other things.

They will also have rights for ticket sales and parking in the area. Even sponsorship rights on events organised by sports federations will be given to them as part of the deal.

In return, it has to maintain, operate and manage the stadia and ensure a certain number of days are reserved for sports federations which want to use the premises for events, at subsidised rates.

The private party will not be allowed to lease the premises out for religious events, political rallies or anything that jeapardises security of the country. It will also not be allowed to bring any structural change to the stadia.

Gopal Krishna, secretary, SAI, told Business Standard, "We had an interactive session with the stakeholders to understand issues related to the concept. We intended to seek their suggestions to improve the plan and process in this regard. We are holding another round of meetings with the industry and stakeholders in Mumbai on 30th July."

The government has spent Rs 2,400 crore (Rs 24 billion) so far on renovating and refurbishing these stadiums for the Games.

Concerns have been raised that once the event is over, this large infrastructure might be left in disuse and, as was seen after the Asian Games in 1982 in Delhi, deteriorate due to lack of maintenance.

The move is expected to get the government a steady stream of revenue, which could be used for promoting sports as well as ensuring that the world-class infrastructure is maintained. It would also give opportunities to sport management companies, in collaboration with corporate groups, to develop new sports properties, as had happened with the Indian Premier League in cricket.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wanted: some ‘Islam’ in CWG ceremonies

Critical of the absence of any reference to “Islamic influence on Indian history,” in either the opening or closing ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games, the Group of Ministers has asked the Games organisers to provide a “true” representation of India’s inclusive culture by weaving this in.

It’s learnt that the issue was raised at a recent meeting of the GoM, where ministers previewed the ceremonies designed by international consultants under the guidance of filmmaker Shyam Benegal, lyricist Prasoon Joshi and Javed Akhtar.
The ministers argued that Islam was a very important aspect of Indian culture and must be showcased at a global platform like the Commonwealth Games.

Those present at the meeting were Urban Development Minister Jaipal Reddy, Tourism Minister Kumari Selja and Minister of State (Finance) Namo Narain Meena.

The government is spending about Rs 300 crore on the ceremonies. Sources said the organising committee is asking for another Rs 75 crore for room and board for artists who will perform at the ceremonies.

Sources said that there will be 5,771 performers at the opening ceremony and 5,371 for the closing ceremony and they will rehearse at the Army parade ground.

Rehearsals for the opening ceremony will begin on Aug 1 and from September 12 for the Closing ceremonies.

music composer A R Rahman has been engaged for the opening music segment — the Rhythm of India — and he’s going to use a confluence of different instruments to create the composition.

Diver hurt at Commonwealth Games swimming complex

In a freak accident, a diver was injured Tuesday at the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Swimming Complex during the National Federation Cup, a test event for the Commonwealth Games.

The accident took place when Priyanka Banejee from West Bengal was going to dive and a cover on the water drainage system around theswimming pool came loose. She received injuries in her leg.

The incident raised concerns about safety and security of participants at the venues.

The swimming complex was inaugurated on July 18 and Monday, on the eve of the swimming meet,the false ceiling of the warmup pool at the complex gave away.

It was a lucky escape for the organisers, as no swimmers were around. More than 250 swimmers and divers are taking part in this tournament.

Upside-down Commonwealth games

Swimming on the athletics track, water polo in the gymnasium, orgies on the hockey astroturf! It is perfectly understandable if these are some of the nightmares suffered by not just the Commonwealth Games organisers but by the Delhi chief minister and Union minister for sports and youth affairs (pun unintended). When not telecasting images of leaking roofs, mountains of debris and stadia half-built and still-incomplete with just 67 days to go for the inauguration of the Commonwealth Games, the media has been highlighting allegations of sexual harassment of India’s women hockey players by the male coach.

So much so that Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s standard response to media queries these days is ‘Please leave us alone’. The only reassurance is from the games organising committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi who maintains that everything is hunky-dory and from the country’s urban development minister Jaipal Reddy who tells us that Indians excel at leaving things till the last minute and then doing a good job. It is an optimism that is, alas, not shared by Delhi chief minister, going by reports that she has threatened to blacklist contractors who do not complete their work on time or do a shoddy job.

New Delhi overlays seven cities that have come up in the past. So is it time to seek some inspiration from the mythological past? In the good old days of Indraprastha, builders of cities could rely on the divine architect Vishwakarma to design and complete palaces, stadia, etc a jiffy.

If nothing else, such an intervention could spare us both the televised wailing of those Cassandras who tell us now that India should never have bid for the Commonwealth Games or the never-say-die optimism of those Caesars who maintain that mega sporting events are just what the masses want, in a debate that resonates from the days of gladiator-sports in the Colosseum of ancient Rome!

Rs 35,000 cr for Games waste, should’ve gone to poor kids: Mani Shankar Aiyar

UPA’s in-house critics appear determined to embarrass the government. Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, who routinely advertises that he is not on the same page with the government on policy issues, on Tuesday said that only evil minds can patronise the Commonwealth Games. He also said that he would be unhappy if the games were a success.

This drew sharp reaction from CWG Organising Committee chief Suresh Kalmadi, who lost no time in dismissing the former sports minister’s remarks as “irresponsible” and “anti-national.”

The verbal spat was initiated by Mr Aiyar when he was asked to comment on the rainy morning by some mediapersons outside Parliament House. “I am delighted in a way because rains are causing difficulties for the Commonwealth Games. Basically, I will be very unhappy if the games are successful because then they will start bringing Asian Games, Olympic Games and all those,” the former sports minister replied.

Explaining his opposition to the Games, Mr Aiyar said a whopping Rs 35,000 crore were being spent on the sporting event, when it should have been spent on children who did not have the basic facilities to play. “Those who are patronising the Games can only be evil. They cannot be God. Thousands of crores are being spent on circuses like these while the common children are being deprived of basic facilities to play,” Mr Aiyar said, adding that all “expectations” from the Games had been belied.

Mr Aiyar also alleged that India had bribed other Commonwealth nations for the Games. “To take the Games, the Olympic association of every Commonwealth country was given $1 was given to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Britain. Those countries did not need this money,” he said adding that “I would call it a bribe.”

Not the one to take Mr Aiyar’s acerbic attack lying down, Mr Suresh Kalmadi hit back soon after calling the senior Congress leader’s comments “ridiculous” and “irresponsible.” “No Indian national can speak like that,” he retorted. “No individual can spoil the Games. It is totally irresponsible and ridiculous statement from such a senior person, who has also headed the sports ministry earlier,” said Mr Kalmadi.

“With the Commonwealth Games fast approaching, he should know his responsibilities and think before making such a statement. He is an elected member of Rajya Sabha but it is totally an anti-national statement from him,” he added.

Not stopping at that, Mr Kalmadi made it a point to raise Mr Aiyar’s earlier stint as a sports minister when he had spoken against the CWG. “It was because of his openness that he was removed from the sport minister’s post. If he would have been the minister, the Commonwealth Games would never have come to India,” the CWG organising committee chief said.

The Congress too distanced itself from Mr Aiyar’s remarks. “I do not take him seriously,” party MP Sandeep Dikshit said.

BJP, which has also raised questions about the preparations and the manner in which funds were being used, said irresponsible statements should not be made on the issue. SP, though not agreeing with Mr Aiyar’s observations which it said were made for “sadistic pleasure,” sought an inquiry into the huge funds that had been blown up for the Games.

Commonwealth Games: Now, DD paints hazy picture on telecast

The high definition telecast of the Commonwealth Games is in jeopardy. There are major glitches with the lighting at three major sporting arenas that are likely to adversely impact conditions required for the promised high quality television.

At a review meeting on Monday, the DD team drew attention to certain features of stadia that affected light quality and said it needed to better control luminosity even during day time sporting events. This was needed for the telecast promised to viewers as well as advertisers as DD will be the major TV platform.

At the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium's wrestling and weightlifting arenas, the light streaming in from high windows that are like skylights is a problem for the telecast. The windows need to be blocked out so that light conditions can be monitored to the satisfaction of the DD team.

Similarly, at the newly recast Talkatora swimming stadium, light reflects off the water in a manner that affects TV operations. And at the shooting range, a large ledge is obstructing the view in a such a way so as to prevent a clear line of sight to the target. In all three venues, DD needs an even and consistent quality of light necessary for HD telecast.

The DD team explained that it cannot use a combination of light sources and it has to have a stable and largely unchanging intensity of illumination.

The problems need to be resolved soon so that DD can do the trial runs but the Sports Authority of India, which run the stadia, has said there is very little it can do. While some feel DD was being too exacting, the broadcaster has said that HD requirements are fairly demanding. It points out that even in the 1982 Asian Games, the atrium at JLN was blocked out.

The SAI view is that structural aspects of the venues cannot now be changed and while technical additions can be considered to enhance the telecast, these would have to take into account the existing physical infrastructure. DD crews have pointed out that in such a case, they cannot guarantee the telecast.

Much of the projected advertising is dependent on DD which will anchor the show with international partners. As it is, the organising committee is being closely questioned about revenues it will be raising by way of sponsors with the Games now just a couple of months away.

The telecast issues only serve to underline how preparation for the Games have been a piecemeal business with one wing not cognisant of another's needs. Telecast is so intrinsic to any mega sporting event that it is surprising how DD was not part of the loop for so long.

Reports of how the Games are rolling out are conveyed regularly to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who is understood to be keen that the event be held in a smooth and well-planned manner. Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar has held more than 60 meetings, including one last Friday, and is also keeping the PM informed about how the Games are coming along.

Neetu Chandra carried the flame

What Akshay Kumar did for the Winter Olympics in Canada, our Bollywood siren Neetu Chandra has donet for the Commonwealth Games. She ran with the Queen’s torch in her hometown Patna last week.

“Neetu became one of the few privileged Bollywood celebrities to have the honour of running with the Commonwealth Games’ torch in her hometown Patna. Neetu was selected for the relay, popularly known as Queen’s Baton relay, owing to her active association with sports,” says a source. The news was also confirmed by Neetu’s spokesperson.

“Apart from being a regular basketball player, the actress is a Black Belt and has participated in various martial arts tournaments at the national and international level,” the source adds.

The actor is excited that she got an opportunity that very few Bollywood celebs have got so far.

“The Commonwealth Games promote international integration, so it was a huge honour for me to sprint with the torch. I got goose bumps in excitement,” she says.

Neetu says that she feels that the Queen’s baton is a symbol of power. “The Queen’s Baton felt like a power baton and gave me a different kind of high. It was a mix of pride and responsibility,” she adds.

The baton will arrive at the 2010 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony on October 3, 2010, in New Delhi after visiting the other 70 nations of the Commonwealth and travelling throughout India, reaching millions of people to join in the celebrations for the Games.

CWG-related contracts, construction work under CVC scanner

The Central Vigilance Commission is examining all construction work related to Commonwealth Games being undertaken by civic agencies following complaints of alleged large-scale corruption. The anti-corruption watchdog has also decided to formulate vigilance guidelines to check Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects.

"Apart from expeditiously attending to complaints relating to the Games, the Commission, through its Chief Technical Examiner's Wing, is keeping a close watch on all the contracts and works undertaken for the Commonwealth Games," Chief Vigilance Commissioner Pratyush Sinha said in an interview.

The decision comes following complaints alleging discrepancies in the work being undertaken by civic agencies like Municipal Corporation of Delhi, New Delhi Municipal Council, Delhi Development Authority and Central Public Works Department among others.

"Since PPP scheme is at a nascent stage and involves numerous complexities, the Commission has constituted a committee to formulate a strategy for vigilance response. Vigilance guidelines for PPP projects would be finalised soon", said Sinha.

The CVC said the Commission is facing a shortage of senior officers. "There is shortage of Deputy Secretaries or Directors who are at the cutting edge of the Commission's work. All examination in the Commission is initiated and conducted by them and as a result, the existing staff is overburdened," he said.

"The Commission does not normally face any difficulty except delays. The Commission has placed special emphasis on capacity-building of vigilance administration to train the staff in investigation," Sinha said.

According to official data, the strength of probity watchdog is about 290 and faces a shortage of about 25 senior officials.

Asked about steps being taken by it to check corruption, the official said "the Central Vigilance Commission is only a recommendatory body which advises suitable disciplinary action against government officials.

"It is for the administrative authority to impose the punishment effectively and promptly.... What is of concern, from an impressionistic view, is that deviations are noticed in the case of higher level officials and occur in some organisation," the CVC said.

Textiles, crafts of India on show during Commonwealth Games

A confluence of 'bazaars' displaying the best of textiles and artistic wares from across the country will provide a glimpse of India's traditional art and culture to visitors during the Commonwealth Games.

Although Ministry of Textiles through the Development Commissioners (DC) Handicraft and Handlooms regularly sets up such fairs throughout India, for the upcoming Games artisans and weavers are set to converge at the 'golden triangle' of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, according to official sources.

Kanjeevaram silk from Tamil Nadu, Patachitra from Orissa, Chikankari from Lucknow and Mojiris from Rajasthan are a sample of textiles that would be exhibited at the outlets.

During the first two weeks in October, a total of 150 national awardees along with masters specialising in crafting handmade goods and weaving cloth would come together at a special master creation programme in the capital.

The bazaars, typical of centuries-old markets in India are expected to be set up along the 'Golden Triangle' route in Delhi, Agra and Jaipur especially to attract visitors from countries participating at the Games.

"Special Master creation programme held every year during December will be now take place in October. Gandhi Shilp Bazaars will also be set up each in Jaipur and Agra keeping in mind the tourists visitingalong with Delhi," Alka Arora, Additional Development Commissioner (Handicraft) said.

The Textiles Ministry organises annually the Special Master Creation Programme with an investment of Rs 17-20 lakhs at the Dilli Haat under administration of the Delhi Tourism and Transport Development Corporation.

Also the Ministry in collaboration with different handicraft corporations and NGOs regularly sets up "Gandhi Shilp Bazaars" across various cities in the country.

Both the Shilp Bazaars and the master creation programme would be held jointly during the Games with 100 of the 150 stalls reserved for the award winning craftsmen and the remaining to be shared by award winning weavers.

"The special Master Creation programme is something people in and around Delhi wait eagerly for as one gets the best of the products from the best of the artisans and weavers," says a senior official from DC Handloom.

"We have already posted letters to the National awardees to exhibit their wares during October 1-15th in Dilli Haat," says a senior official.

Lajwanti (55) from Punjab a national award winner who specialises in Phulkari embroidery is quite upbeat about exhibiting during the Games.

"I have been invited to exhibit in Delhi from October 1 and am expecting a lot of visitors," says Lajwanti. "If we sell good stuff then obviously our country will get a good name," she adds.

Besides DilliHaat in Delhi, artisans in clusters from particular locations specialising in specific products would set up stalls at the Rajiv Gandhi Handicraft Bhawan here and the different state emporiums in the heart of Delhi.

"The open space outside the state emporiums will also be used for exhibits from their respective states," says a senior Textile Ministry official

"State emporiums have a beautiful collection of handlooms and they have been asked to keep enough stocks during the Games," the official adds.

Cotton, silk, wool, linen, yarn products, various apparels, daily wear and accessories in wood, metal, bamboo glass, stone and other tribal materials are a range of the materials expected to be showcased at the stalls.

"The whole feel of an Indian bazaar would be recreated with bandwalahas and puppeteers and mehendi wallahs who are everywhere in an typical fair being brought in to pep up the atmosphere," says the official.

"Cultural programmes are also being planned with Delhi administration at various venues," he adds.

Will be happy if Commonwealth Games are spoilt: Aiyar

As the Congress-led governments in Delhi and the centre  pray for a successful Commonwealth Games, Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar Tuesday said he would be "unhappy" if the Games were a success.

"Personally, I will be unhappy if the Commonwealth Games are successful," Aiyar, a nominated Rajya Sabha member, told reporters outside parliament.

"I am very happy with the rains, firstly because it will ensure a good agriculture for the country and secondly because it will ensure that the Commonwealth Games are spoilt," Aiyar said.

"If the Commonwealth Games are successful, they will further organise Asian Games and other events... I will be happy if the Games are spoilt," he said.

Aiyar said the funds spent for the Oct 3-14 Games could have been utilised for ensuring a better sporting future for Indian children by providing them sports training.

"Just imagine if we would have spent the Rs.35,000 crore in providing training to the children, we would have won medals in every internationalsporting event," Aiyar added.

Sex, corruption scandals tarnish India’s sport image

Allegations of sexual misconduct involving two national coaches exacerbated the problems engulfing Indian sport and had the head of the Olympic association running for cover this week at the launch of the Commonwealth Games tennis centre.

IOA president Suresh Kalmadi literally had to plead with Delhi’s chief minister for safe passage on Monday to avoid a hoard of reporters demanding answers to questions of impropriety in national sports, including the sexual misconduct allegations against national field hockey and weightlifting coaches.

The New Delhi Commonwealth Games have been plagued by delays in the construction of infrastructure and venues, which should have been finished months ago for test events but instead, are just starting to come on line now, cutting it fine with competition set to commence on October 3.

The problems within hockey and weightlifting ranks in the last week have only sharpened the focus on trouble in Indian sports.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India, the financial powerhouse in the international game, was already under investigation from federal tax authorities over perceived irregularities in the running of the immensely popular, multibillion dollar Indian Premier League.

The head of the IPL is under suspension and investigation by the BCCI and the tax regulators, but denies any wrongdoing.

As have the field hockey and weightlifting coaches, at the centre of controversies involving allegations relating to young, female athletes.

India’s Sports Minister M.S. Gill said his ministry would investigate the allegations against the hockey and weightlifting coaches in a “professional and impartial way.”

The ministry confirmed it was investigating allegations against M.K. Kaushik, who resigned as India’s women’s coach after player Ranjita Devi complained to Hockey India that he’d sexually harassed her during the recent Canada and China tours.

Hockey India had already referred the case to Delhi Police. Kaushik has threatened legal action against the national federation for holding the complaints against him as credible without verifying them.

The Sports Ministry also announced it was withdrawing weightlifting coach Ramesh Malhotra from a national training camp after Olympic bronze medallist Karnam Malleswari alleged that Malhotra had been sexually harassing athletes for a decade.

The weightlifting federation suspended Malhotra on the weekend pending an investigation led by IWF vice president Kumbasi Subramanya.

Malhotra denied he’d ever “misbehaved” with women weightlifters, telling the Press Trust of India that Malleswari’s allegations were “false” and aimed at tarnishing his reputation.

The problems involving the coaches haven’t kept Kalmadi out of the spotlight. The leading figure in the fight against a recent government move to impose age and term limits on national sports administrators, Kalmadi has reportedly been described as the “dirty face of Indian sports” by a candidate running for the Hockey India presidency.

Former India captain Pargat Singh, who will be contesting the hockey vote on Wednesday, accused Kalmadi of meddling in the running of national sports federations by promoting candidates who would follow his instructions or getting administrators bogged down in court.

Kalmadi has spent the last year defending New Delhi’s preparations for the Commonwealth Games – the first major multi-sport event to be staged in India since the Asian Games in 1982 – insisting that the event will be a major success. Some of the leading athletes, including Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, have already indicated they won’t be competing in Delhi, taking some gloss off the event.

Kalmadi’s image took another hit at the R.K. Khanna Tennis Complex on Monday, when he found himself alone and confronted by a media pack trying to get his reaction to the comments from Pargat and news that the sports ministry had announced it was opening investigations into the hockey and weightlifting cases.

After offering no comment – “Nothing to say, please ... please ...” PTI reported that Kalmadi had to approach Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and ask for an escort out of the venue, explaining that the media was hounding him over Pargat’s comments.

She made space in the official vehicle, and Kalmadi reportedly smiled at journalists and photographers as he left the stadium.

Pargat’s allegations that Kalmadi was trying to manipulate the administration of hockey by endorsing an 83-year-old candidate as president came 48 hours before the election.

“He is a destroyer,” Pargat was quoted as saying by PTI. “He talks of the Olympic movement but he has destroyed the Olympic institution. Such dirty people should be thrown out of sports.”

Delhi 2010 names six Indian champions Brand Ambassadors

Organising Committee Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi today named a group of six ace sportspersons as Brand Ambassadors for the Games to be held here from October 3 to 14.

Olympic and world 10m air rifle champion Abhinav Bindra, world no. 2 badminton player Saina Nehwal, the athlete of the 2006 Commonwealth Games Samaresh Jung, Olympic bronze medallist boxer Vijender Kumar, Olympic bronze medallist wrestler Sushil Kumar and four-time world boxing champion MC Mary Kom are the Brand Ambassadors for Delhi 2010.

“These champions have done India proud with their achievements and will serve as remarkable Brand Ambassadors for the Games,” said Organising Committee Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi Chairman Mr, Suresh Kalmadi, MP. “Their passion, personality, and presence as well as their amazing pursuit of excellence truly reflect the vision of the Organising Committee.

“Their focus, mental strength and resilience make them role models, inspiring generations of Indians not just with their achievements but also with their work ethic, discipline and determination,” Mr. Kalmadi said. “It ties up with the ideals of the Organising Committee and I am sure these champions will inspire Indians to back the Commonwealth Games and take to Olympic sport.

“We are poised at the cusp of staging the biggest sporting celebrations ever in India and I am confident that this squad of six Brand Ambassadors will find universal appeal across the nation. I believe that they will lend their charisma to ensure that the Games are a huge draw with the people,” Mr. Kalmadi said.

About the Brand Ambassadors:

The 27-year-old Abhinav Bindra won top honours in the 10m air rifle event at the ISSF World Shooting Championship in Zagreb in 2006 and the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008. He has also won two gold, a silver and a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and Melbourne.

Barely 20, Saina Nehwal has endeared herself to the hearts of millions of Indian sports fans with her consistent performances in the past two years. Beginning with a quarterfinal appearance at the Olympic Games, she has won three Super Series crowns in the past 12 months

The air pistol expert Samaresh Jung, 40, has won seven gold medals, three silver and a bronze in the last two editions of the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and Melbourne. His haul of five gold, a silver and a bronze in 2006 saw him being named for the David Dixon Award for the best athlete of the Games.

Besides his Olympic Games middleweight boxing bronze medal in Beijing, the 24-year-old Vijender Singh has won a silver medal in the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne as well as bronze medals in the Asian Games at Doha in 2006 and the World Amateur Boxing Championship at Milan in 2009.

Sushil Kumar, 27, won the bronze medal at the Olympic Games in 2008 and is a two-time bronze medal winner at the Asian Wrestling Championships in 2003 and 2008. He also has three gold medals at the Commonwealth Wrestling Championship in 2003, 2005 and 2007.

Besides winning the World Championship crowns in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2008, Mary Kom, 27, has claimed the Asian Championship prize as many as three times. Having coming back to boxing as mother of twins, she is an inspiration across the country and widely respected as one of the finest women champions in India.

Monday, July 26, 2010

MCD finally gets money from Delhi govt

The cash-strapped Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has finally managed to secure a sum of Rs 1,490 crore from Delhi government as the first instalment of its initial demand of Rs 4,500 crore.

This money will, however, not be used to fast-track Commonwealth Games projects, according to mayor P R Sawhney. The civic agency said it will wait for the second instalment to fund its various Games projects.

According to Delhi mayor P R Sawhney, Delhi government will release the amount on Tuesday. "MCD will receive Rs 390 crore to fund its non-plan expenditure, another Rs 500 crore to fund its plan expenditure and it will receive Rs 100 crore as grant. MCD will further be given a sum of Rs 500 crore in the form of a sanctioned loan," said Sawhney.

MCD claims that it will use the amount to immediately pay the 3,000 contractors who are currently on strike demanding pending salaries. Besides this, it will use the funds to pay pension amount due to the elderly, widows and the physically handicapped for a period of three months.

The remaining amount will be used to pay discretionary funds to its councillors. In January this year, MCD had passed a resolution to pay discretionary funds ranging between Rs 1 crore and Rs 3 crore to each member of its deliberative wing for funding various projects at their respective levels.

"Our Games projects are mainly on-track. Whatever little is required will be looked into soon after the state government releases the second instalment. The state government has released a part of our requirement and will release the rest later as it also has the burden of completing its own Games projects," Sawhney said.

On July 23, in a four-page letter written to Delhi chief secretary Rakesh Mehta on Thursday, MCD commissioner K S Mehra had said that while the MCD was making every effort to augment its internal revenue resources and to curtail expenditures without hampering development work, it required a grant of Rs 3,539 crore in grant and another Rs 1,000 crore in loan for paying salaries, funding various Commonwealth Games-related projects and for compensating its poor property tax collections among other things.

Coke, Hero Honda warm up for Games

Concerns about whether the infrastructure set up for the Commonwealth Games is adequate and the event has been adequately marketed as a national spectacle still remain and this has resulted in lacklustre sponsorship. However, a few sponsors see the Games as a huge opportunity to market their brands, thanks to the expected influx of people from around the world and the scale of operation of the Games. While Coca-Cola India is the official beverage partner, the organising committee has also roped in other private players like Hero Honda, Adidas and Reebok.

The Games, to be held over two weeks, brings together 54 nations, mostly former British colonies, every four years.

Coca-Cola India, as the official beverage partner, will have its products like carbonated soft drinks and juices sold to spectators and served to all the athletes, team officials and volunteers during the Games. For Coca-Cola, sporting events like the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games are the best way to connect with consumers. “We have always been associated with sporting events around the world because we feel that it fits well into the brand strategy to drive engagement with our consumers. We are soon going to roll out a 360-degree campaign to market the brand in association with the Games,” said a Coca-Cola India spokesperson.

The organising committee has two lead partners, 10 partners and 12 sponsors. It has categorised those sponsors who would get a sponsorship worth Rs 100 crore each as lead partners, those who would get Rs 50 crore worth of sponsorships each as partners, and those who would get Rs 25 crore as sponsors, the organising committee had said in March, 2010. The lead partner for the games is Indian Railways while National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), Central Bank of India, Hero Honda, Reebok and Adidas, among others, will serve as partners and sponsors. On being asked whether the organising committee is scouting for another lead sponsor, a Games spokesperson said that it is not.

The sponsorship target for the Games is reportedly almost three times that of Melbourne 2006, which was the most successful Games in terms of revenue generation so far.

Interestingly, Hero Honda has been associated with all major sporting events that have taken place in the past few months like the Indian Premier League and the Hockey World Cup. A spokesperson from Hero Honda, in an email statement, said, “These events are aimed.

False ceiling at CWG pool gives away

Less than three weeks after its inauguration and on eve of the the Federation Cup swimming meet, the false ceiling of the warm-up pool at the Dr SP Mukherjee Aquatics Complex gave away on Monday.

Luckily for the organisers, no swimmers were around when the mishap took place. However, there was panic among the 250 swimmers and divers who were taking part the meet that happens to be a test event for the Commonwealth Games.

There have been scores of construction workers at the venue as the changing room were being given finishing touches. A Swimming Federation of India (SFI) official hoped things will be place just before the start of the event. “They have assured that everything will be ready by Tuesday,” he said without committing himself on the subject.

Meanwhile, the SFI officials confirmed that they will not be in a position to hold the high-board diving since the infrastructure was not ready. The official refused to talk on the technical deficiencies of the pool’s draining system but said that the matter would be taken up with the Games Technical Conduct Committee (GTCC) people.

The first day of the Federation Cup will see 10 events, including two relays. The meet is important for all the swimmers as it will form basis for selection of the team to participate in the Commonwealth Games.

Tennis stadium handed to Games panel, work at other venues crawls

R K Khanna stadium, the venue for the tennis events, has been handed over to the Organising Committee of Commonwealth Games on Monday. The Organising Committee can heave a breath of relief as at least one stadium has been handed over to them for putting the overlays in place before the August 1 deadline.

At present, a BSES line is being laid close to the stadium connecting it to two grids to ensure power back-up.

This is the first time that tennis has been made part of Commonwealth Games. The central court of the stadium has a seating capacity of 5,000 besides six practice courts. It also has many environment friendly features, including solar lighting, Intelligent Building Management System, rainwater harvesting and dual flushing systems, among others.

Work on the other nine competition venues, however, is far from over. For instance, even though Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium will inaugurated by the Sports minister on Tuesday, horticulture and other landscaping work are still going on at the venue. Inside the stadium, “finishing touches” are being given.

The status of work at SP Mukherjee Stadium is probably the worst, where red tents hide the ongoing work behind it. The street-scaping work is lagging behind and so is the horticulture and landscaping work.

All the stadiums have to be handed over to the Commonwealth Organising Committee by August 1 so that all the necessary overlays like — timing and scoring machines, cabling, setting up tents, etc, can be fitted in the stadiums.

What’s the future of stadiums?’
What will happen to the stadiums once the Games is over? The question left even Union Urban Development minister Jaipal Reddy wondering on Monday. “I do not know what we will be doing with the stadiums post the Games. I think all the agencies involved need to sit together to solve this problem,” he said during the handing over ceremony of RK Khanna Tennis Stadium. Incidentally, Reddy heads the Group of Ministers on Commonwealth Games. Reddy was later overheard discussing the issue with All India Tennis Academy officials. “If the stadium is not put in regular use, it cannot be maintained I believe,” he said. Reddy also mentioned the last-minute rush to complete the work. “We have a habit of doing everything nicely but at the last minute,” he said.

Fail deadline, get blacklisted: CM Sheila Dikshit

With several Commonwealth Games still struggling to meet the deadline, a nervous CM issued a warning to contractors constructing roads and pavements for Delhi. Any delay beyond the August 31, the deadline for completion of all Games-related projects, will lead to a blacklisting. In a meeting with contractors, CM Sheila Dikshit said the firms that don’t meet the deadline would be penalized and blacklisted.

Any compromise with the quality of work will not be tolerated, she said.

“Do not put us to shame. Your little carelessness will bring bad name to the entire nation,” she reportedly told the contractors.

Senior Delhi government officials said the CM was concerned about reports of stadiums, pavements and roads being washed away in just one spell of rain. Dikshit’s cabinet colleagues and senior bureaucrats had also found tardy work and poor construction quality during their inspections of under-construction venues and roads.

Dikshit also asked the contractors to bring any kind of obstacle to the notice of the government to ensure the the matter was resolved quickly.

With little more than two months to the Games, the city government is under tremendous pressure to complete all Games-related projects in time. Early last week, Dikshit announced a month’s salary to the entire team of engineers as reward if the Games get over successfully. She also exhorted the engineers and workers to work round the clock.

Senior government officials said two important arterial roads, a couple of flyovers, and several streetscaping and streetlighting projects are yet to be completed. Some of them, accept officials, may take more than a month to complete.

On complaints of delay in payment raised by the contractors, Dikshit said money would not be a problem.

Thanks to Games, Tughlaq-era monument gets new life

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was supposed to protect it, but after issuing a preliminary notification, the central agency all but forgot it. Now, thanks to the Commonwealth Games and more importantly, its location, a small Tughlaq era monument, called Phoota Gumbad, is getting a facelift.

Delhi’s State Archaeological Department has recently started work on the monument, situated to the south west of the Jawaharlal Nehru (JLN) Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies for the Games, among other events.

Earlier, a team of the Delhi Urban Arts Commission (DUAC) had given approval for the stadium’s renovation work. Sources said the DUAC observations were very clear, “It (the tomb) must be retained and integrated with the stadium design. There should be no damage to the monument.”

Fortunately, there has been no damage to the structure of the monument but it presents a very odd site, ensconced as it is between the strong iron girders of the renovated Stadium.

The ASI had issued the preliminary notification for the monument in March 2004, along with two other structures within the JLN Stadium premises, one on the north west side called Kala Gumbad and the other, on the south west side, without a name.

The agency brought out the final notification for a 16 faced unknown tomb in December 2004 but the same was not done for the remaining two tombs.

“Till the time a final notification is issued, it is understood that the monument is under the state archaeology department,” said ASI spokesperson Dr B R Mani. He, however, did not give any reasons for not issuing the final notification.

The State Archaeology Department’s Jaspal Singh said, “The conservation work could not have been taken up before the civil work for the stadium was completed. Now that it is complete, we have started the conservation work and we are confident of completing it in a month’s time.”

CAG report on Commonwealth Games be made public: Delhi BJP

Delhi BJP today demanded that a CAG report on Commonwealth Games be made public as it would expose the "false" claims of the organising committee regarding the preparedness for the mega sporting event.

"The party demands that the fresh report of the CAG be made public," a press release quoting Delhi BJP President Vijender Gupta said. "This will expose the false claims of the Games Organising Committee," it said.

It also claimed the prime minister was "unsatisfied" with the preparations for the Games and had asked the auditing body to prepare a detailed report.

CAG, in a report in 2009, had expressed concerns over the slow pace of progress of all the projects connected with the Games, the release said.

The Prime Minister's office should make the report public, it added.

All pending work of CWG 2010 will be completed on time: Sheila

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on Monday claimed that all pending work would be completed on time before Commonwealth Games 2010 to be held in the month of October.

Of late, the pending work related to CWG 2010 has drawn wide public attention.

Dikshit, however, looked confident after presiding over the Cabinet meeting of Delhi Government on Monday and reiterated there would be no deviation in deadlines fixed for completion of work.

“No, 31st August is the deadline, that all the work will done. In September, the finishing touches will be given. All the contractors related to electricity, street-scaping… we called for a briefing. We also told them that if they face any problem from any other agency including the police they would be helped; we even requested the police and they have even agreed to it that they will not arrest anybody who is working at nights,” said Sheila Dikshit.

She issued directives to the Public Working Department (PWD) to concentrate on completing works on roads close to the Games Village and to ensure proper street lighting.

“It is absolutely not like that…all those who are involved are getting money on time. This kind of complains must be done by the big contactors only. But, nowhere, we, Raj Kumar Chauhan, Minister in-charge for the PWD (Public Working Department) or our Transport Minister (Arvinder Singh Lovely) or our Welfare Minister (Kiran Walia)…or even our Finance Minister (A K Walia)…all of them have said that shortage of money should not be reason to stop the work. The payment is given to everybody, somebody is saying this thing,” Dikshit added.

She sternly warned the contractors who do not meet the deadline or execute a sub-standard job that they would be blacklisted.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Games effect: Faridabad tightens security measures

In view of the upcoming Commonwealth Games, Delhi’s neighbouring towns too have started strengthening their security measures. The Faridabad administration has tightened its noose around cyber-café, PCO and taxi owners who do not keep records of their customers. “The police commissioner of
Faridabad informed me that  most of the cyber-café and PCO owners  in Faridabad were not keeping records of  their customers,” Deputy Commissioner, Faridabad,  Praveen Kumar told Hindustan Times.

“I took the matter seriously and ordered that owners of cyber-cafes and PCOs have to keep records of the customers with every possible details such as name, address, contact numbers, signatures etc,” he added.

Kumar said under Section 144, keeping such information has been made mandatory for owners of cyber-cafes and PCOs in the entire district.

“Action will be initiated if the order is not complied with immediate effect.  The order has come into force since July 21,” he added.

In another order, the administration has made it mandatory for house owners to get the antecedents of their tenants verified.

Police are also identifying  the localities close to the venue for shooting events during the Games. “I have directed the police  to identify the localities close to the venue for  proper sanitisation,” Anil Kumar Rao, Joint Commissioner of Police, Faridabad said.

25 Metro stations to have information kiosks

Are you new to Delhi and don't know how to get around without seeking help from strangers? Your virtual guide may soon be a touch away, thanks to the Delhi Metro. All necessary information about Delhi, including its culture, history, places of tourist interest, movies and details related to the
Commonwealth Games are going to be available in select underground metro stations within a couple of months.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) will install interactive digital information pods (DIPs) in 25 underground metro stations ahead of the Commonwealth Games in October.

The stations where touch screen information kiosks will be installed include Rajiv Chowk, Kashmere Gate, Central Secretariat, Barakhamba Road, INA, AIIMS, JLN Stadium, Vidhan Sabha, Viswavidyalaya, Chandni Chowk, Model Town, Khan Market, Race Course, Jor Bagh, New Delhi, GTB Road, Civil Lines, Chawri Bazar, Malviya Nagar, Hauz Khas, Saket, Udyog Bhawan among others.

“This initiative has been taken keeping in mind the convenience of international tourists who will visit Delhi during the forthcoming Games. However, this value-added service will continue even after the Games,” said Anuj Dayal, DMRC spokesperson.

Games a stumbling block in Metro’s Phase-III project

The Commonwealth Games is most likely to come as a stumbling block for the approval of Delhi Metro’s Phase-III project. As the Transport Department and the Delhi government have their hands full with projects for the Games, sanctions for Delhi Metro’s Phase-III will take a while, maybe only after the Games are over.

The Rail India Technical and Economic Services (RITES) was commissioned by the Delhi Transport Department to conduct a study on the expected increase in transport demand and development of public transport network.

It suggested an additional 149 km of Metro, 40 km of Light Metro to be constructed in the Capital by 2021. Meanwhile, the Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMTS) is working out the routes to be proposed for Phase-III.

“The suggestions made in RITES and DIMTS studies are now being incorporated in the final proposal that we will send to the Delhi government for approval. The Delhi Metro had sent us a proposal, which is being worked upon,” said R K Verma, Secretary-cum-Transport Commissioner.

According to sources in the Transport department, the proposal should be ready in another two weeks, following which it will be sent to the Delhi Cabinet for approval.

RITES and DIMTS are working on transport-related studies in the Capital, and the development of the Metro network is being looked into vis-a-vis the possibility of supplementing it with the BRT corridor and Light Metro rail.

Officials in the Transport department maintained that constructing a Metro corridor is far more expensive than building a BRT corridor and hence wherever BRT can be supplemented the possibility will be explored.

“Around 60 per cent of the Phase-III lines proposed by DMRC are underground, which is far more expensive as compared to the elevated line. Every kilometre of the underground line costs close to Rs 300 crore while the elevated line costs Rs 180 crore per km,” said a senior official.

The Delhi government has been mulling over finances for the Phase-III project since April this year and is yet to take a decision. Reportedly, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit recently wrote to the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), seeking funds for the project.

Transport Minister Arvinder Singh Lovely told Newsline: “We are tied up with several Commonwealth Games projects and it is most likely that the sanctions for Delhi Metro’s Phase-III project might be looked into only once the Games are over. Finances for the project are a major issue that need to be worked out.”

The Delhi Metro had proposed six lines spanning 85 km, but the Delhi government, following independent surveys, had brought it down to 69.57 km.

According to the Masterplan the tentative deadline for completion of Metro Phase-III is 2015.

INA station will be one of the busiest

AS THE Central Secretariat-Qutab Minar-HUDA City Centre Metro corridor is gearing up for a public opening by mid-August, INA is expected to be one of the busiest stations in the corridor as it is a doorway to the INA, Sarojini Nagar markets and Dilli Haat.

“The work at this underground station is almost complete. The trial run for the entire 12.53-km underground Central Secretariat-Qutab Minar stretch is on in full swing and the entire stretch is expected to be opened for the public in August,” said Anuj Dayal, DMRC spokesperson.

The INA Metro station will have three entry and exit structures with separate gates catering to Aurobindo Marg, Dilli Haat and the INA market. The DMRC has also constructed subways for commuters at these entry and exits points below the Aurobindo Marg.

Dayal said that a major engineering feat was achieved between the INA and Jor Bagh Metro stations with the construction of two tunnels below the Indian Railways track and the Safdarjung flyover without hampering railway and vehicular traffic even for a day.

Mobile jammers likely at Games venues

Parliament-level security is likely to be provided for Commonwealth Games venues in the face of terror threats. The Centre is now looking at installing mobile phone jammers at Games venues to ensure high-level security. The move comes following an advisory by Punjab police that Babbar Khalsa militants may try and target the Games.

Sources said the step was being considered in view of threats to the fortnight-long sporting extravaganza from terrorist groups which may try to use mobile phones to trigger explosives as they have done on several occasions in the past.

Even as sources within the government said there were no credible threats so far, US thinktank STRATFOR earlier this month warned that Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba might be planning attacks during the Commonwealth Games.

Home secretary G K Pillai had visited Jawaharlal Nehru stadium last week and follow-up visits are on the anvil to ensure that security is foolproof for the event.

Each of the 13 competition venues will have a three-tier security ring and special arrangements will be made to transport athletes to and from the Games Village with helicopters carrying commando snipers keeping an eye on the convoys below.

This is to prevent a repeat of the Lahore attack of March 2009 in which militants shot at and injured Sri Lankan cricketers touring Pakistan.

To ensure fleet security, each of the 574 vehicles used for ferrying athletes across the city will have to undergo a mandatory anti-sabotage clearance every morning before athletes board it.

The government has already sanctioned Rs 330 crore for procurement of high-tech weapons and gadgets, armoured vehicles, close-circuit television cameras, metal detectors, bomb disposal equipment and protective gear for chemical and biological attacks.

Over 10,000 athletes from 71 countries, and 500,000 spectators are expected in Delhi for the Commonwealth Games between October 3 and 14.

LeT may target Commonwealth Games: Report

India fears that Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba, blamed for the Mumbai carnage, may attempt to strike during the October Commonwealth Games in New Delhi and has voiced its concerns to the US, according to a media report.

The fears were conveyed by the Indian Army leadership to Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was in New Delhi on Friday and Saturday, The Sunday Times said in a dispatch from Islamabad.

LeT carried out the Mumbai attacks in November 2008 that killed 166 people and India fears that the group might target the country again.

After his arrival in Pakistan, Mullen had yesterday said that the LeT has expanded its operations to Afghanistan and the West and has become more active throughout the region.

The paper said the LeT has joined forces with the Taliban in a new alliance to kill western soldiers in Afghanistan.

In the past few weeks NATO commanders are convinced that LeT are behind a string of attacks and influx of fighters into eastern Afghanistan, the newspaper said.

The issue was raised yesterday by Admiral Mullen after he arrived in Islamabad for meetings with Pakistan's powerful army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, the report said.

Outlawed under US pressure in 2002, the group has continued to operate under different names. The LeT's camps have long been used by al-Qaeda for training.

American officials are concerned that LeT has expanded its focus to Afghanistan and now has a more global agenda.

"Since 2008 I've watched them grow... to a terrorist organisation with global aspirations," Mullen said. "It's an organisation which is becoming more lethal, it's in Afghanistan and it's in other countries."

While the Pakistani military has taken action against terrorist groups such as the Pakistani Taliban, it has refused repeated requests from Washington to move against the Afghan Taliban or LeT, the report said.

Flower shops may come up near Delhi foot overbridges

Flower shops and bookstalls may be set up near foot overbridges to check their misuse in Delhi, a minister said Sunday.

"There are complaints that people misuse such structures. But after the Commonwealth Games in October we are planning to set up small shops near the foot overbridges so that there remains some sort of check on such people," Public Works Department Minister Raj Kumar Chauhan told IANS.

He said flower shops and bookstalls are the best options that the government can go for. "Besides, we can work out on some other options after the Games. But, there will be no shops with eatables," Chauhan said.

The public works department has received complaints that people use the spaces near foot overbridges for sleeping, while children play on them and they even become dens of hooligans and beggars.

The department, which is coming up with nearly 80 swanky foot overbridges in the city, has already completed 31 of them. The construction of 26 others is in progress.

The remaining nine foot overbridges are in the planning stage, a government official said.

The public works department deals only with infrastructure, Chauhan said, adding that the department can look at setting up shops or may ask the Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (DSIIDC) to execute the plan.

The government official said managing those costly and swanky structures remains a daunting task for the department.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Games or no Games, why Delhi won't change

Like the ambitious overreacher who falls flat, Delhi talks big. The more things change, the more they remain the same, writes Sunil Sethi.

Delhi, the national capital, was always a double-faced place but in the run up to the Commonwealth Games, it is acquiring a schizophrenic persona.

Poised to scale new heights as a world-class metropolis, it also appears to be falling apart. Soaring stadia with lights ablaze, swank villages for 8,000 athletes with private ice cream parlours, a metro burrowing its way to far corners and the T3, touted as the eighth largest terminal in the world. Ok, we got the message.

Why is it then that every time I enter the city, leave the house, try to catch an appointment in the suburbs or accomplish a day's jobs, I am beset with nightmarish traffic jams, long painful power cuts, waterlogged roads, (and) dangerously incomplete pavements, literally strewn with stumbling blocks?

An accurate indicator of the city's brand-new but instantly collapsing infrastructure was in the newspapers this week -- the opening of the municipality's Rs 650-crore new headquarters (grandly called a civic centre) with leaking roofs, walls soaked from seepage and a basement car park swimming in ankle-high water.

Opposition councillors caused a ruckus, brought in the press and an inquiry has been ordered.

If that's the state of the new HQ, it's no wonder that the vast municipality refuse dump at the end of my street is exactly as I have always known it -- a stinking mountain of garbage that takes days to clear.

The only new aspect to this putrefying mass is that it has now assumed the proportions of a minor Himalayan peak.

Delhi is savvy, sexy and smart -- that's if you listen to adherents such as Commonwealth Games organisers, the city's well-insulated ruling elite and its motherly chief minister Sheila Dikshit (who, every time I turn on the car radio, is exhorting children to study harder and parents to keep calm during stressful school exams or elaborating on some tree-planting drive in adverts).

Delhi is also progressive and rich -- highest per capita income amongst small states and well-above-average social and quality-of-life indicators. Day-to-day life here, however, is not what it's cracked up to be.

espite massive investment and higher levies (rates for power, water and property tax are all up) and the 70-day race to complete preparations for the Commonwealth Games, there is no evidence that Delhi's roads are less congested, electricity or water supply better managed or the Yamuna river less of a sewer than before.

Is it that Delhi can't cope with its embarrassment of riches? Sheila Dikshit has actually announced prizes -- by way of an extra month's salary -- for officials if building works are finished on time.

The city's coffers may run deep but its management is stuck in a quagmire of mismanagement and sloth.

A burgeoning metro and a fleet of low-slung, air-conditioned buses have made no appreciable difference to its clogged arteries.

Long the motor vehicle Capital of India, the city continues to add 1,000 cars a day to its streets. Privatisation of power has not reduced shortages -- outages were long and frequent through the summer months with markets covered in a miasma of generator fumes. Prices of diesel on the black market rocketed as supplies ran out.

And come the first monsoon showers, sections of the city routinely grind to a halt as roads begin to resemble rivers in spate.

Where do the funds go in one of the richest places in the country? Mostly into the pockets of the Hydra-headed government, the multiplicity of agencies assigned to the same job.

A case in point is the decades-old project to clean up the Jamuna, Delhi's main waterway. The Commonwealth Games should have been the perfect moment to restore it as the city's central showpiece, a sign of the Capital's overall prosperity and health.

Despite crores of rupees spent, noisy public campaigns, endless committees and judicial interventions, it remains a parched eyesore and repository of much of Delhi's filth.

Reason: there are 13 central and state bodies involved in its proposed transformation.
Like the ambitious overreacher who falls flat, Delhi talks big. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Government's lapses behind hike in Games' cost: BJP

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Saturday accused the Delhi government of mismanagement which has led to an increase in expenditure on Commonwealth Games projects.

The party also slammed the Congress-led central government for not taking all parties on board for the preparations of the Games.

Addressing reporters here Saturday, BJP national general secretary Vijay Goel said that expenditure on Games projects has been escalating ever since the first bid was made.

At the time of the first bid, the budget was Rs.1,899 crore; when it was passed by the cabinet in 2007, the budget was Rs.3,566 crore," he said.

"In March 2010, Commonwealth Games Director General V.K. Verma said the expenditure is Rs.10,000 crore, according to the sports minister it is Rs.27,000 crore and a tourism ministry report says it is Rs.87,000 crore, Goel said.

The BJP leader accused the state government of mismanagement leading to increase in expenditure on the Games.

The Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002 cost around $14.63 million, the Melbourne Games cost around $1 billion. The 2010 Delhi Games, which are the most expensive so far, will cost around $17.5 billion, Goel said.

He blamed the Congress-led central government for not taking other parties on board for the preparation of the mega-sporting event.

The government has not discussed anything with other political parties. We want the prime Minister to take all political parties in confidence and tell us what is the status of the Games, about the preparation, he said.

He said the Delhi government is fooling people by inaugurating stadia but the construction quality of Games projects is poor.

Goel also indicated that the internal conflict within the organising committee of the Games is also the reason for the increased expenses on the projects.

Commonwealth Games Organising Committee Chairman Suresh Kalmadi and his associates were responsible for the delay, Goel added.

Over 100,000 foreign visitors are expected to throng the capital during the mega-sporting event which is to be held Oct 3-14.

Queen's Baton arrives in Nagaland

The Queen's Baton Relay for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi today arrived in Nagaland for a three-day function to be held in different parts of the state.

The baton arrived this morning at Dimapur, where a relay was held, officials said in Kohima.

Later in the afternoon, the baton relay arrived at this capital town before stopping for a photo session at Kohima Orphanage on the outskirts of the town.

The main official function will be held in Kohima tomorrow at the local ground which will be attended by chief minister Neiphiu Rio, his cabinet colleagues, government officials and prominent sportspersons from the state.

On Monday the relay will visit the historic Khonoma village before leaving for Dimapur on its onward journey to Manipur.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Our hard work is already bearing fruit: Kalmadi

There are 72 days – and 72 nights – to go for the start of the Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi and the excitement is building up to a crescendo. The headquarters of the Organising Committee Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi, with a staff of close to 2000, is buzzing round the clock as we strive to achieve our collective vision of producing the best Commonwealth Games ever.

I can see that our work is already bearing fruit.  Thanks to the splendid work by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor, security concerns appear to be a thing of the past. It is also clear that the Chefs de Mission of each of the 70 other nations and territories who will compete in the Games went back satisfied after their seminar here a couple of months ago. That is reflected in the fact that each of them is sending its largest ever contingent to a Commonwealth Games.

Delhi 2010 will be the biggest ever Commonwealth Games, what with Australia, England and Canada – and many other nations – telling us that they will field their biggest contingents ever. After all, we have built the Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi around the athletes.  

Be it the competition venues or training venues or the Games Village, catering or transport, we have kept the athlete in focus when designing the facilities and making decisions.  At what has already been described as being better than the Games Village in Beijing, we will expose the athletes to our rich and diverse cultures.

If any athlete chooses to skip the Games, for whatever reason, he or she will be the one missing out on a wonderful Games. For the first time, the athletes will be able to witness the Opening and Closing Ceremonies from the stands and we know we are laying out a veritable treat for them. They will miss a chance to experience our hospitality in a great Games Village and the opportunity to perform in world class conditions.

Of course, barring some exceptions, the best athletes will turn up in Delhi. Let me reassure you that the Commonwealth Games Federation and its President Mr. Mike Fennell are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the best athletes compete in Delhi 2010.

There have been some reports quoting champion sprinter Usain Bolt’s manager and publicist that he may not come to Delhi. All I will say is that at the moment, Organising Committee Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi only knows that the number of athletes from each of the 71 members of the Commonwealth Games Federation.

Since the last date for entries by name is September 3, we will know for sure which athletes are coming. I will also point out that Bolt’s fellow Jamaicans Asafa Powell and Yohan Blake are in the same league as him as was seen in the Paris Diamond League event when very little separated them.

Yet, the websites of these Commonwealth Games Associations tell us that some fabulous athletes have been named for their sides. Let me introduce you to some of these athletes. Australian swimming medley queen Stephanie Rice won three gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and is a world record holder. England’s Rebecca Adlington won two swimmer gold medals in Beijing. Australian pole vaulter Steve Hooker is a world champion.

That is not all. English road cyclist Bradley Wiggins has three Olympic gold medals and five world championship titles. England’s squash players, Nick Matthew and Jenny Duncalf are ranked first and second respectively in the world. Pistol shooter Michael Gault, who has 15 medals in Commonwealth Games, will aim to become the most decorated athlete by winning four more medals in Delhi.

Besides all this, the fact that the International Hockey Federation has allotted the 2011 FIH Champions Trophy tournament to India is a clear indication of the success of the test event for the Commonwealth Games – the FIH World Cup 2010 -- and the fact that India did a great job of hosting the event.

To return to talking about the rain in the past week, it did cause some setback but we are seeing it as part of the test events, allowing the venue owners time to carry out the corrections before they hand the venues to us on August 1. I am sure there will be no more delays as we need to get cracking with the overlays work. As we get closer to the D-day, our confidence that we can deliver the best ever Commonwealth Games grows. We know we will.

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