Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wrestlers grappling for gold at the Commonwealth Games

It needed just 2 medals, Sushil's bronze in Beijing Olympic and another one by Ramesh Kumar in the World Wrestling Championships 2009, Herning to perk up wrestling once again in India. Some out-of-the-skin performances by juniors, and of late, women wrestlers have only been adding to it. In a sport where decades can pass before something noteworthy comes up, such a successful streak has made Indian wrestlers an buoyant bunch.

Nineteen gold medals (7 in freestyle, 6 in Greeco Roman and 6 by women wrestlers) in 2009 Commonwealth Senior Championships, Jalandhar is a firm indication that India have the talent to shine on big stages. To follow was 2 gold, 1 silver and 4 bronze in the 2010 Senior Asian Wrestling Championship, Delhi and suddenly India were rubbing shoulders with China, Iran and Korea, big boys of the wrestling world.

So, can we expect 2010 Commonwealth Games an extension of that winning streak? Yes, in all probability. For one, the grapplers have trained like never before and with just a month to go, they are at the peak of their form. Secondly, the home crowd will be really behind them. Besides, history also gives them an edge - India have invariably done well in the CWG. The tally so far is 23 gold, 24 silver and 11 bronze, their best being in 1970 (5-3-1) and 1974 (4-5-1). Then, the opposition at the CWG won't be world class, in most categories.

Thus, the feeling in the fraternity is that 2010 Games may even turn out to be India's best ever.

Freestyle wrestling has always been India's strong point and Yogeshwar Dutt (60kg), Sushil Kumar (66kg) and Sumit (74 kg) are expected to shine. 2002 CWG silver medallist Anuj Kumar (84kg) is hoping to better his record this time. Chief coach (freestyle), Jagminder Singh said, "For the last two years, we have consciously worked on the grapplers' technique. They have power but fall short of technique. Special emphasis has been given to ground wrestling because top grapplers score most of the points here. Also, we have strengthened our counterattacking skills." Meanwhile, freestyle coach Vladimer Mestvitishvili is working on the technique of tackling the opponent's feet.

However, it's Greco-Roman wrestling that has found its feet in India recently and Rajinder Kumar (55kg), Ravinder Singh (60kg), Sunil Kumar (66kg) and Dharmendar Dalal (120 kg) hold a lot of promise.

The wrestlers themselves say that frequent foreign trips in the last two years have changed their approach to the sport. They have been to Spain, US, Canada, Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Cuba and France for training and competitions and that is showing in their performance. However, the Senior World Championship, Moscow (Sept 6-12) will be an acid test for them, much bigger than the CWG. "If we can do well there, CWG preparations will take care of itself," said Dutt.

Hargobind Singh, chief coach, Greco-Roman, added: " With three big events - Senior Worlds, CWG and Asian Games - lined up in the coming months, the boys are primed and determined to prove India's might."

Coming to women's wrestling, it will be making its debut in the Delhi Games. It's good tiding for the hosts as the Indian contingent is certain of grabbing a few gold medals. Babita Kumari (51 kg), Geeta (55), Alka Tomar (59) are India's best bets. Babita and Geeta's gold in Commonwealth Senior Championships in Jalandhar (December 19-21, 2009) is a testimony to India's growing muscle power. Alka Tomar's bronze in the Asian championship 2010 is in keeping with her consistent graph.

India’s biggest ever track and field squad for CWG

India named the biggest ever track and field squad in Commonwealth Games as Athletics Federation of India announced 90 athletes for the CWG with almost all big names making the cut.

No athlete has been named for pole vault and 20 km as yet. "It's the biggest Indian athletics squad in Commonwealth Games. We are the host country and we are expecting the highest number of medals. We are expecting six to eight medals," AFI officiating secretary Ravinder Chaudhry said.

Vikas Gowda was the lone entrant in men's discus while a medal can also be expected from Krishna Poonia, Harwant Kaur and Seema Antil in women's discus throw. Om Prakash is another medal prospect in men's shot put and he has been named along with Saurav Vij.

Renjith Maheswari and Mayookha Johny are medal prospects in men's and women's triple jump. Women middle distance runner Tintu Luka has improved a lot in 800m race and she is another medal prospect. National record holder Sinimole Paulose has also been named in the same event.

Centre admits Sheila diverted SC/ST fund for Games

The Centre has admitted that the Sheila Dikshit government violated guidelines to divert funds meant for Schedules Castes and Tribes to finance its pets projects for the Commonwealth Games.

“In view of the guidelines of 2006, these appear to be wrong,” home minister P Chidambaram said in the Rajya Sabha during a discussion on the diversion of nearly Rs 678 crore from the funds for Scheduled Castes and Tribes for the Commonwealth Games. The admission comes at a time when the Delhi government is under attack from the rivals for its reluctance to conduct governance in an ethical manner.

The Rajya Sabha witnessed disruptions by BSP MPs over the issue, which came to light through a Right to Information application.

According to the information given by Delhi government to an RTI petitioner, nearly Rs 678 crore from Delhi’s special component plan, which was meant for improving the standard of living of the poor sections of the community through various government schemes and programmes, was diverted for Games projects.

In his reply, Mr Chidambaram said that Delhi government had got around Rs 8,000 crore for five years from 2006-7 to 2009-10, under the special component plan. “As is common practice with various other state governments, Delhi had divided this fund into two categories — divisible and indivisible.” The divisible category was for schemes which affected the Scheduled Castes and Tribes directly. “While Rs 983 crore was in the divisible category, the rest — Rs 7,100 crore — was in the indivisible category. Out of that (indivisible category), Rs 678 crore was contributed to CWG projects,” the home minister said.

“This seems to be prima-facie wrong,” Mr Chidambaram admitted, but added: “This happens not just in NCT, but in all states.” He said that Delhi government had told him that the amount diverted will be added to the Plan funds for the next financial year. The minister said that the Planning Commission was seized of the matter and had set up a committee to look into the diversion of funds in all states.

MCD seeks public help to clean city before Games

Having failed to clean the city before Commonwealth Games, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has now sought public participation. The civic body, along with voluntary organisation Let's Do It Delhi, on Tuesday announced a `Clean Delhi Challenge' to be held on September 11.

The idea is to include community groups, educational institutions and corporates in a special sanitation drive-cum-contest across the city on that day. Mayor Prithvi Raj Sawhney said the initiative will be open to all organisations, residents' welfare associations, companies, colleges, NGOs and government departments. "All groups entering the contest will get a certificate from MCD and there will be special winners' certificates for groups based on the volume of litter collected as well as how clean they have made an area," Sawhney said.

`Let's Do It Delhi' programme director Anita Bharghav gave the example of Estonia where 50,000 people cleaned up the entire country, collecting 10,000 tonnes of garbage, in five hours. "We can also play our part in improving sanitation conditions in the city. Everybody can join. Let's do it,'' she said.

The mayor said among those who have confirmed their participation are ICICI, KPMG, Genpact, Jindals, LSR College, Sanskriti School, a group of civil servants in Ekta Vihar, Radisson Hotel and occupants of New Friend's Colony community centre. Leader of the House Subhash Arya and MCD standing committee chairman Yogender Chandolia said such campaigns should focus on unauthorised colonies and urban villages where the situation is worse than other parts of the city. Facing a volley of questions on why such campaigns only focus on so-called posh areas while localities like Jamia Nagar are left struggling with unhygenic conditions and dengue outbreak, the mayor said the September 11 contest was open to people from all parts of the city.

For the challenge, participants will have to choose a location of at least half-a-square kilometer, get their own volunteers or hire cleaners. The litter collected will be taken away by the MCD later. The winners will be chosen from 12 MCD zones by a panel of judges.

DDA to ready only 1,600 flats in Vasant Kunj

Despite its assurance on August 6 that 4,000 flats in Vasant Kunj will be ready in time for the Commonwealth Games, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) admitted at a recent meeting of the Empowered Group of Ministers that it will now only deliver 1,600 rooms for the October event.

Sources at the Organising Committee (OC) have also revealed that the completed flats are not up to the expected ‘international standards’, and only national technical staff will be accommodated in them. International technical staff will now be accommodated at hotels. The DDA, meanwhile, said it has not been informed of this decision yet.

The recent revelation is yet another in a long string of embarrassments for the land authority. The DDA was tasked with constructing the flats and the Indian Tourism Development Corporation was handed the task of furnishing them.

While the national technical staff will be accommodated in 1,600 flats, the rest were meant to accommodate tourists.

“The OC’s original requirement for its staff was approximately 1,600 rooms, which we will deliver in time. ITDC is working on furnishing those rooms right now,” said Nand Lal, Finance Member, DDA. When asked if the Ministry of Tourism was unhappy with the news as the rest of the flats were to accommodate tourists, Nand Lal added, “Not at all. They have enough rooms to accommodate tourists.”

DDA officials also said that as a result of the security restrictions around the flats where the Games staff will be accommodated, it would have been difficult to accommodate tourists. The remaining flats will be ready after the Games, and allotted by way of the DDA’s usual draw system.

While the land agency claimed the Vasant Kunj flats were originally part of its usual housing construction and were to be ready

by December this year, in April last year, with concerns paramount about tourist accommodation during the Games, it had volunteered to get its flats ready in time for the event.

Earlier in July, DDA’s two main contractors on the job — M/S Brahmaputra and M/S A K Mehta — had expressed serious reservations about being able to complete the flats on time. Following negotiations with them, DDA had decided that 4,000 flats will be completed instead of the original 5,000. The DDA’s Engineering Union had then protested that its engineers were being pressurised to finish work on these flats, which may result in sub-standard construction.

The DDA had then allayed fears on August 6 by assuring that the quality of the flats would be above par and that 4,000 flats will be ready for the Games.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Special cover on Queen's Baton relay released

A special cover was released here yesterday to commemorate Queen's Baton Relay for the upcoming Commonwealth Games to be held in Delhi.

This was a sequel to a set of two commemorative postage stamps issued by the Postal department when the Queen's Baton arrived in the country crossing the Wagah border, an official release said today.

The Postal department had taken a decision to release special cover on which these two commemorative stamps would be affixed, in all those 34 places through which the Queen's Baton would be passing through.

At the end of the run of the Queen's Baton, an album will be prepared with all the 34 special covers with the commemorative stamps affixed on it, which would be displayed at the venues of the Commonwealth Games to be held from October 3 to 14.

1,900 new buses to drive in for CWG

Delhiites will witness around 1,900 new buses making their debut on city roads during the Commonwealth Games. The vehicles will be brought in to ensure hassle-free transportation for athletes, officials and spectators during the mega-event from October 3 to 14.

Of these, a fleet of 600 air-conditioned low-floor buses to be provided by Tata Motors would be dedicated to ferrying sportsmen, media personnel and technicians.

While 349 buses would be used to ferry athletes during the Games, including the days of the opening and closing ceremonies on 25 routes identified for the purpose, 225 would be used by mediapersons and technical officials. “The remaining 26 buses will kept on standby for usage in cases of any emergency such as sudden breakdowns, etc. Transportation is going to be the backbone of the Games, and we are committed to providing the best facilities to athletes and commuters,” a senior Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) official told Newsline.

In a major thumbs-up for the DTC, which has been given the responsibility of ensuring a smooth ride for participants by the organising committee, the Supreme Court also permitted them to de-activate speed governors in 600 buses recently.

Standing Counsel for the Delhi government Najmi

Waziri had, on the last date of hearing in the High Court regarding the Blueline phase-out, informed the apex court about the pending applications along with a submission that the government was committed to effect a viable and convenient mass transportation system in the city, complementing its Metro Rail services.

“We were required to approach the SC for getting these speed governors removed as they had been installed on court orders. Earlier, the buses could not accelerate beyond 40 km per hour. But we had to get special permission for the buses meant for athletes as we cannot afford to take any chances with their safety in case of emergencies,” the official said.

People coming in to watch the international event are also in for a fun ride, with the DTC making 1,667 buses available to them under the ‘park and ride’ facility. “These buses will carry spectators from designated spots, where they can park their vehicles, and take them to the stadiums,” he added.

By the end of the Games, the city would have at least 1,000 additional buses on its roads. “By the end of September, we will have around 6,500 buses on the streets and 600 brand new buses, to be used exclusively for the athletes and others,” the official said.

Police verification of Games volunteers has barely begun

The antecedents of only 1,591 volunteers - of the 20,000 chosen for the Commonwealth Games - have been verified and the remaining are yet to get the green signal from Delhi Police even as the mega sporting event is just 34 days away.

Police have not set a deadline for the process and say verification is done as and when the Games organising committee sends in the names of volunteers.

"We have set no deadline for the (completion of) verification of volunteers. We will keep on doing that till the organising committee continues to send us the forms. We are committed to completing the process at the earliest,"
Rajan Bhagat, spokesperson of Delhi Police, told IANS.

Bhagat also denied allegations that police were facing a staff crunch for verification of volunteers. "When we get a large number of applications, we distribute them among different branches so that verification is completed in time," said Bhagat.

According to Delhi Police, they are still receiving forms from the organising committee for verification of contractors, caterers, sponsors and others related to the sporting event.

All those who need to enter the Games venues during the Oct 3-14 event will be issued accreditation cards and no one will be allowed inside the venues without the cards, officials said.

Bhagat said under no circumstances would any person be allowed inside a Games venue without a valid card.

In June, the organising committee had reduced the number of volunteers for the sporting event from an initial 30,000 to 22,000. Of those selected, only 19,724 turned up for training.

The selected volunteers have been imparted three days of intensive training in various aspects like medical assistance, disaster management, gender sensitivity, doping test and protocols.

According to senior officials, the special branch of police is handling the verification process. The character verification department in the branch is headed by an assistant commissioner of police and has one inspector and a few subordinates.

The special branch also carries out verification related to passports and character verification requests from public.

As per police officials, the verification process is multi-layered. "We want everyone to be verified by police and then by the organising committee," said an official.

"We have carried out verification of even policemen who will be deployed inside stadia," he said. "All those who will go inside stadia, be it volunteers or artists, need to be verified."

While most contractors will get access to venues as per operational needs, some of them will be issued special passes, with multiple entry facility, according to the nature of their job function, said the official.

Indian hockey squad for Commonwealth Games announced

A 16-member Indian hockey squad for the Commonwealth Games was announced Monday. Rajpal Singh will lead the team for the Oct 3-14 event.

"The team was selected after the trials conducted at Balewadi, Pune, in the presence of Hockey India selectors Balbir Singh and B.P. Govinda, government nominees Ajitpal Singh and Zafar Iqbal besides the foreign coach Jose Brasa
and national coach Harendra Singh," Hockey India said in a statement Monday.

The Indian team is currently training at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune.

Squad:
Defenders: Sardar Singh, Sandeep Singh, Dhananjay Mahadik, Gurbaj Singh, Prabodh Tirkey Midfielders: Arjun Halappa, Vikram Pillay, Ravi Pal, Bharat Chikara, Danish Mujtaba Sarvanjit Singh Forwards: Rajpal Singh (captain), Tushar Khandker, Shivendra Singh, Dharamvir Singh. Goalkeeper: Bharat Chetri

Saturday, August 28, 2010

"Oh yaaro", Rahman launches CWG anthem

Oscar winning music composer A R Rahman launched the theme song of the Commonwealth Games with a rendering of "Oh yaaro, yeh India bula liya" at a glittering ceremony.

Rahman sung the song for around five minutes in front of a gathering which included Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, her Haryana counterpart Bhupinder Singh Hooda and CWG Organising Committee Chairman Suresh Kalmadi.

"I feel honoured to get the opportunity to compose the theme song for the mega-event. It was not an easy task. I had started composing it six months ago and finished just last night," Rahman said.

A beaming Kalmadi hailed the launch of the theme song as a good beginning to the hosting of successful Games.

"A well beginning is the half job done. Now onwards you will listen this song day in and day out. It is the first move towards a great Commonwealth Games, which we had promised years back," Kalmadi said.

He said that he was happy with the sale of tickets for the Games, including the opening ceremony at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

"In the opening ceremony we will depict the 5000 years of culture of our country. We are getting good response as far as tickets are concerned. In the last two days 800 tickets have been sold in Gurgaon only. Thats good," said Kalmadi, also the chief of Indian Olympic Association.

"We are prepared to organise the best ever Commonwealth Games and that is the message I would like to give," he added.

The hour-long launch function also saw some enthralling dance performance by 'Sadya' group followed by another Gypsy group dance show by the artists from Shiamak Davar Institute of Performing Arts.

The launch of the theme song got delayed after the Group of Ministers overseeing the quadrennial sporting extravaganza asked Rahman to change it a little bit.

Dikshit was all praise for Rahman, saying, "I am extremely happy that Rahman agreed to do the job. We could not have found a better person for it. I am confident that Delhi, with the whole India behind it, will achieve what many people believe is not possible."

"I hope that with this song we will now swing into the Games with broad smile. There are lots of problems, but I do believe that the end will be good," she added.

Hooda reiterated his promise to extend every help to the Organising Committee.

"I have the confidence that we will do it in a big way.

The CWG festival starts with this launch and Haryana is ready to give all kinds of help to make it successful," Hooda said.

Renuka project to miss date with CWG water supply

With barely a month remaining for the Commonwealth Games, there was no progress on the Renuka Project planned to supply drinking water to the national capital for the sporting event.

Infact,the State Authority working to acquire the land and build the project has so far failed to settle the land dispute, as the occupants were demanding higher compensation for their land.

The time frame for the completion of the dam was 2007-10, within five years. The Central Water Commission had approved the 40 mw Renuka Hydel Power project in May 1997 at a cost of Rs 1,150 crore. However, the project was put on hold as Haryana and Uttar Pradesh also wanted a share of the water flowing through their territories before reaching Delhi.

Himachal Pradesh has also received Rs 200 crore from the Delhi Government for the project proposed to be built on the Giri River, according to Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal's statement on November 9,2008 during the Renuka fair. The construction work for the dam was yet to begin as the land meant for the project was still under dispute.

CWG projects to complete in time, says Prithviraj Chavan

Prithviraj Chavan, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, today assured that all Commonwealth Games-related projects would be completed in time.

''All the projects of the upcoming Games would complete well in time. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Cabinet Secretary were monitoring the works,'' Mr Chavan told mediapersons here.

He was speaking after receiving a cheque of Rs 1.75 crore from Ranjeet Kumar Bhatia, Director General, Indo-Tibet Border Police for the victims of Leh flash floods.

''The focus is on completion of the games successfully and the issues of charges of irregularities would be taken up later,'' Mr Chavan added.

PM to visit Games venues tomorrow

Against the backdrop of construction delays and missed deadlines, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will visit a few Commonwealth Games venues in New Delhi on Sunday for an on the spot inspection of the facilities. The Prime Minister's inspection visit comes as part of the series of steps he
had taken to streamline and expedite the preparations for the October 3-14 mega event which had been rocked by a spate of corruption allegations.

Sources said that the PM will visit a few venues in the morning and interact with the Organising Committee officials there.

Concerned by the delays and the corruption allegations, the Prime Minister had convened a high-level meeting on August 14 to review the preparations for the Games.

He had formed a committee of bureaucrats headed by Cabinet Secretary and given it overriding powers by bringing into its ambit the Games Organising Committee that has been tainted by corruption charges.

Observing that there have been "slippages" in time schedules and deficiencies noticed, Singh had directed that thorough probe should be held by the ministries concerned into complaints of "procedural and other irregularities" and "those found guilty should face severe and exemplary punishment".

He had instructed that all pending works should be completed expeditiously in a time-bound manner and decided to visit select venues of the Games in the last week of this month.

Traffic 'biggest threat' at Delhi Games

Security experts have warned potential traffic snarls will pose the biggest security risk when thousands of athletes gather in New Delhi for the Commonwealth Games.
The Indian capital has faced traffic congestion on a daily basis due to the amount of road space being taken up by delayed construction work on games-related projects.

With projects experiencing further delays, it also means less time to plan for security on the ground.

Though there will be dedicated lanes for athletes and delegates, experts believe it may not be easy to keep roads secure during the October 3-14 event.

"Traffic needs to be reduced drastically at that time and the security systems need to be tightened on transport systems like the metros and public buses," said Vijai Nair, a retired army brigadier who has contributed to many research papers on defence and security.

"The need is to restrict VIP movement and ensure there is no strain on the system. Our policemen will be doing 16-17 hour shifts during the games and they need to be helped."

Nair believes that distances between venues will test the system.

"The geographical settings of venues will make things difficult. We will have to try and work on the lines of the Republic Day and the Independence Day when we have phenomenal security," he said.

India celebrates its Republic Day (January 26) on the day its constitution came into force, and Independence Day on August 15.

The central part of New Delhi holds military and cultural shows which are attended by most prominent leaders of the country amid tight security.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has conceded that games-related projects were not likely to be completed before September 15, just a day ahead of the games village being thrown open to athletes.

But she feels traffic can be handled without much difficulty.

"Delhi has the advantage of being round. There are several alternative routes and that will be to our advantage," she said.

The games will see around 8,000 athletes from 71 countries competing in 17 disciplines. The events are being organised at 11 stadium clusters, plus a series of practice venues.

CM inaugurates parking facility for 820 buses near Nehru stadium

Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit today inaugurated Prem Nagar underpass and the Kushak and Sunheri Nallah parking facility near Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, the main venue for the Commonwealth Games. The site, developed by the MCD at a cost of Rs 303.95 crore by covering Kushak and Sunheri nallah, will provide parking facility for 820 buses during the Games and afterwards. Though developed to provide ample parking facility during the Games, the Chief Minister described it as a permanent infrastructure for Delhi. Such a facility was necessitated keeping in mind the large number of players, officials, mediapersons and spectators expected to visit the stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies. She expressed confidence that the parking facility will suffice during the Games. A total of 10,000 hutments and staff quarters of DJB and MCD, pipelines, BSNL power cables and water pipelines were relocated or shifted to bring up this parking area, which took a record time of 16 months. The parking area stretches over approximately 1.28 lakh sq mts. A length of 1030 metres was covered over Kushak Nallah extending from Sewa Nagar Culvert to Nehru Stadium South Gate, while a stretch of 950 metres was covered over the Sunheri Nallah from Dayal Singh College Campus upto Lala Lajpatrai Marg behind Lodhi Hotel. The waterway of both of the nallahs beneath the parking has been kept at 46 meters. There are three sets of modern toilet complexes and two restrooms at each parking.

The Chief Minister congratulated the MCD and its engineers for completing the work in record time and within the set budget.

She also inaugurated the Prem Nagar Underpass constructed with Rs 20.75 crore in a time period of 18 months.

Speaking on this occasion, Mayor Shri Sahney said the newly-constructed parking sites will be connected later on with Barapulla Elevated Road to Lodhi Colony and INA. A large number of DTC AC buses were parked there to exhibit parking capacity.

Local MLA Shri Neeraj Basoya, local councillors, Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta, Principal Secretary to CM P K Tripathi, Commissioner (MCD) K S Mehra, MD (DTC) Naresh Kumar, Special Advisor, CWG Ramesh Narayansami were also present on this occasion.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Something positive about CWG

Missed deadlines, leaking stadiums, zero hotel bookings, corruption scandals, flooded roads, absentee athletes, Connaught Place looking like bombed-out Baghdad and Swagatham as our Waka Waka. Every day the bad news about Delhi Commonwealth Games gets worse. Is there any thing about the Games that’s untouched by controversy?

We decided to be optimistic and asked around for something positive about the Games. Interestingly, all answers had one thing in common… the phrase ‘at least’. Lyricist Gulzar, who was in the city, groped for words before saying, “At least Delhi is getting to host such a prestigious event.” Farid Ahmad Nizami, a lawyer in Nizamuddin Basti, said, “The dug up roads are an eyesore but at least you will see the difference after the Games, if not before.”

Commonwealth GamesAuthor Anuja Chauhan said, “The Games have given all Delhiites a feeling of oneness. We are united, at least in our outrage against the R 28000 crore scam being pulled here.” Madam Kamini, a eunuch in Shahdara, said, “The Games-wallas are eating money but kam se kam (at least) they are doing some work.” Gay rights activist Ashok Row Kavi has a different take: “Lots of escort services and sex workers will be coming to Delhi to cater to the Games’s visitors. At least Delhi will finally know what professionalism is.”

Ram Lalla, an auto driver says, “Kam se kam sadak toh chowri kar rahe hain auto ke liye (at least I can drive my auto on wider roads now).” “Every publishing house is coming out with good, focussed creative works on Delhi,” says Sheema Mookherjee, senior editor, HarperCollins India. “At least, these books will last longer than the the Games.”

Even former union sports minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, the most eloquent voice against the Games, has finally something good to say. “The Commonwealth Games have at least given Delhi an excellent airport (the new T3 terminal),” says Aiyar, “to fly out of once they start.”

Will the Commonwealth Games be held at all?

The relentless digging is all that Delhi has to show in the name of the Commonwealth Games. Everything else is hidden - shrouded in mystery and intrigue.
Amid all the troubling talk of corruption and a benumbing lack of transparency, there are pressing questions the nation is asking: will the extravaganza be held on time and will it be held at all?

For a poor country, Rs 65,000 crore being spent on the extravaganza is a lot of money; is it being spent well? Who will gain most from it - the Capital, India's sportspersons or politicians and builders?

Boria Majumdar and Nalin Mehta talk about the intransigence, the false promises and the mad budgets that have come to symbolise the event

The Commonwealth Games have been dismissed by many as a posthumous celebration of a long-forgotten Empire. Others have mistakenly played up their potential to revive Indian sport, offering rosy visions of an assembly line of Indian sportsmen and women turning us, overnight, into the next China.

This is all just window dressing. At their heart, the Commonwealth Games are about the politics of development and the raging ambitions of a rising India that so animate the middle classes and many decision makers in this country.

Fuelled by the unrelenting fear of global ridicule that so drives our weak egos - and by the colour of money - politicians, bureaucrats and India's sports czars have taken the citizens of Delhi on a ride that will change their city forever. India must show its best face, we are told.

WHAT COST GAMES?

So, how much will the Commonwealth Games cost us? That is the first big question that this book grapples with. It is not an easy question to answer because the work is spread across diverse sectors and the money is being spent by a bewildering morass of multiple agencies.

To enter the story of the Commonwealth Games is to enter into a labyrinth of overlapping controls - Ministry of Sports, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Tourism, Government of Delhi, Planning Commission, New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), Sports Authority of India (SAI), Delhi Development Authority (DDA), the Organising Committee and so on.

There are several high-level committees to coordinate their work, but like it often happens in government, many things remain unclear to the very end. The result is that even many among those involved in organising the Games do not have the full financial picture in front of them, with each government agency pursuing its own targets.

The financing of the Commonwealth Games has been the subject of parliamentary questioning since 2004. Parliamentary records show that at the time of government approval for the Games in early 2003, the Games budget estimate had been only Rs 617.5 crore.

This was a very preliminary original estimate and the Vajpayee government agreed to fund any future shortfalls between revenue and expenditure. It was a virtual blank cheque. By March 2003, when Delhi submitted its official bid, the cost estimates had tripled to Rs 1895.3 crore.

As Sunil Dutt, the sports minister at that time, told the Lok Sabha in 2004, everybody knew that these were only early projections that could only go up later. By 2005, the estimated costs had shot up by more than six times from the original figure.

By 2008, the minister of sports was estimating a figure of over Rs 7,000 crore and in 2009, the comptroller and auditor general provided a calculation of about Rs 13,000 crore. This was more than twenty times the original cost estimate and even this figure did not include spending by many agencies.

In early 2009, we were discussing these rocketing estimates with a senior Delhi government official when he dropped a bombshell. We had met about something else over lunch on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The Games came up in passing and he listened to our calculations before calmly pointing out: 'The total Games spending on city infrastructure is Rs 65,550 crore.' It didn't square at all with any of the other financial data.

But he was way up in Delhi's power circle and clearly knew what he was talking about. So we asked him for a detailed breakdown and there it was in fine print: Rs 65,550 crore clearly marked in an internal Delhi government note on what it calls 'Commonwealth Games-related work'. The state government subsequently published these figures officially and when clubbed together with other costs, they pushed the total amount to more than Rs 70,000 crore.

Our problem was that between 2003 and 2009, this estimate on infrastructure spending calculated by Sheila Dikshit's government did not figure in any of the data submitted by successive sports ministers in Parliament or in the internal records of the organising committee that were made available to us.

This new information, passed on by the office of Delhi's chief secretary, had us completely flummoxed. Why was it invisible? A close analysis of the financial data reveals that the Games infrastructure budgets submitted in Parliament between 2003 and 2008 had only listed a little over Rs 1,300 crore (for building civic infrastructure) against the Delhi government's name.

This was the amount that the Delhi government said it needed extra funding for, asking the Planning Commission for a grant. This was the amount that got reflected in budget estimates by sports ministers in Parliament, instead of the state government's total Games-related estimate.

The Delhi government and other agencies were spending far more from their own coffers - the CAG also pointed this out - but this spending escaped all other reporting.

The organising committee and Central government budget records, therefore, never reflected the rest of the Rs 65,550 crore that was being spent on the Games. If you include this amount, overall Games expenditure estimates shoot up to a whopping Rs 70,608 crore. This is more than 114 times the original calculation made in 2002!

PROMISES TO KEEP

Some might say that much of the money would have been spent anyway. Projects like new power stations account for nearly half of this budget and is it misleading to account for these in a CWG estimate? No, it is not.

There is good reason why the office of Delhi's chief secretary chose to put all these costs under the heading 'Projects Related to CWG 2010'. This is their language, not ours. The fact is that most of this infrastructure construction is being put on the fast-track only because of the Games and the kind of money that is being spent on Delhi's infrastructure would not have been possible in ordinary times.

Power, for instance, is being fast-tracked due to the lofty promise of showcasing a capital city with twenty-four-hour power during the Games. Delhi is to be India's marquee. Delhi may still have its miracle, but there were structural reasons for the quagmire it found itself in, just a year before the Games.

The story of the Games Village characterises all that went wrong and deserves a close look. In 2003, Delhi was in serious danger of losing its Games bid to Hamilton, the Canadian city that hosted the first version of the Commonwealth Games in 1930 (it was called the British Empire Games then).

In a two-horse race, both cities submitted detailed plans to the CGF in May 2003. When they were opened, Delhi found itself on the back foot on one of the most important questions that determine sporting mega-events: legacies and long-term impact on the city.

Hamilton had put the local McMaster University at the centre of its Games concept. It put academic partnerships as the second-most important objective of the Games and the university was slated to benefit from the entire new infrastructure that was to be built.

The Games Village and three of the other five new sporting venues that Hamilton proposed were to be built on the 300-acre campus of McMaster University. The idea was to create a permanent legacy of world-class and accessible sporting infrastructure for students in this small city of 500,000.

Sheila Dikshit now sets Sept 15 as deadline for CWG venues

The Commonwealth Games deadline has just been pushed back, yet again. On Friday, Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit announced that, god willing, the Games venues would be ready to be handed over only by September 10-15. This means the venues will be ready just about a fortnight before the Games.
After the venues are handed over, a lot of work would have to be done. Apart from fine-tuning facilities, dry runs would have to be carried out to check that all systems are alright. "This is as fine as it gets," said an official with the Organizing Committee. "Another slip-up and we'll be done for."

Dikshit said heavy rain had prevented work from being completed in time, which is August 31. Actually, that was the fourth deadline to have been set after the first date of March 31 was missed. For most of this period, when civic agencies were supposed to be hard at work, there was no rain.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a function, Dikshit said: "Aisa lagta hai ke Indra devta humse kuch naraaz hain. (It seems the rain god is unhappy with us.) I will appeal to him to him bring some sunshine so that work can be completed." If rain stopped, she said, work would be wound up by September 10-15.

Apart from giving the finishing touches to the stadiums, mounds of debris will have to be cleared from the venue sites. This is the third deadline set by the CM for removing the debris. Last month, she had set August 10 as the deadline, which was extended to August 31, and now to September 10-15. Incidentally, India was awarded the Commonwealth Games seven years ago, in 2003.

The new deadline has been set after various agencies involved in construction activities conveyed to Dikshit that they will not be able to complete their work within the next four days. On the pile of debris, she said that a lot of it has been already removed and agencies have been asked to urgently remove the rest. She added that if they are not able to abide then the government would step in to ensure that it is removed. Dikshit said a total of 145,000 metric tonnes of debris has already been removed.

While raising anxiety levels seriously by extending the work completion deadline, Dikshit assured that all the work related to the Games would certainly be completed before October 3. Of course, if that doesn't happen the Games will turn out to be a mega embarrassment for India.

The city government had undertaken projects worth over Rs 15,000 crore to improve infrastructure in the capital for the Games. The pressure on it to complete construction has been growing with each passing day with most of the projects already missing deadlines.

On Thursday, Jaipal Reddy, head of the group of ministers overseeing the work related to the Games, said what has been whispered for the past fortnight - there will be further delay in the handover of the venues to the OC.

It's not the first time that deadlines have been missed by the agencies involved in the preparations. Without exception, every agency entrusted with construction and refurbishment of existing venues has missed each deadline set - from the first one set in November/December 2009 to succeeding ones in March 2010, June 31, July 31 and now, August 31. The deadline now has been extended from August 31 to the first week of September.

The reasons have been varied. In some cases, like the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, the reason was the addition of a tunnel for the performers, an order that was placed in October 2009, further pushing the deadline for the main stadium, which will be hosting the opening and closing ceremonies besides athletic, weightlifting and lawn bowl events. In Siri Fort sports complex, the reason was a court case for the cutting down of trees and the proximity to the heritage Siri Fort wall. Later, it was the delay in laying FOP (field of play), which construction agencies said hadn't been made available by the OC yet, as the committee hadn't floated tenders to engage the companies.

This time, Reddy says it's the rains and the delay in delivery of containers for the overlay work. On Thursday, Reddy said that it would be a "minor" delay of a "couple of days". "The schedule is not met strictly. It is being delayed by a couple of days because of rain and because of delay in delivery of containers," said the UD minister.

Incidentally, the August 31 deadline was set as the last minute work - specifically the laying of cables for security set-up as well as for the communications and technology functions by ECIL and MTNL respectively, hadn't been completed yet.

At that time, the government had said that the cabling would be completed in a month's time - that is, by August 31. On Thursday though, Reddy said the cabling had still not finished.

"The main focus was the work to be done by MTNL, TCIL and Prasar Bharati. All of them have given comprehensive reports," said Reddy, adding, "At the end of the day, the communication network is the most important thing. It was reviewed and we are satisfied that we are on schedule."

The statement is ironic considering the GoM has been expressing satisfaction with the progress of work for some time now. Sources say that work at several stadia like Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Yamuna sports complex, are still to be finished.

"It will take at least another fortnight for the work to be completed, if the rains stop," added the official. However, with the weather going contrary, it's not a state of affairs that seems to be available any time soon. Officials say they expect the venues to be ready only by September 15, less than a fortnight before the Delhi Games 2010 take off from October 3.

No fire clearance yet for 8 C'Wealth Games venues

The Commonwealth Games (CWG) are just 37 days away, but half the venues are still to get a clearance certificate from the Delhi fire services.
“Sixteen venues have to be given fire clearances before the Games and for the practice sessions, but only eight have been cleared,” a senior official from Delhi fire services told DNA.

The fire department has given clearances to Thyagaraj stadium, Dr Karni Singh shooting range, Chhatrasal stadium, Ludlow Castle stadium, Talkatora stadium, two blocks of Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, the resident block of Games village and the Yamuna Sports Complex.

Stadiums like Indira Gandhi Sports Complex, Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, Siri Fort Sports Complex and RK Khanna Tennis Complex are yet to get fire clearances.

The delay in clearances has been attributed to the delay in completion of work at venues. “Fire clearances should have been given at least few months ago. It will take another 10 days to clear the remaining venues,” the official said.

“Our officers are constantly inspecting sites and preparing daily reports,” the official said.
The fire department gives updates on fire safety plans to 10 officers who have recently been appointed by the Centre to assist the Games organising committee.

Apart from conducting fire safety drills, the fire department is installing sprinklers, fire pumps, hydrant systems and automatic detection systems
at the venues.

Commonwealth Express comes to town on Sunday

The special train would have touched 49 cities in the country after it completes its run

KSRTC to operate special services for people to view the exhibition

The special exhibition train promoting the coming Commonwealth Games (CWG) to be held in New Delhi will reach Mysore on Sunday, after covering 33 cities across the country. The exhibition will be open to public from Monday.

The Commonwealth Express Exhibition Train was flagged off by Union Minister for Railways Mamata Banerjee on June 24 as a special gesture by the Railways to promote the event. The special train would have touched 49 cities in India after it completes its run.

Senior Divisional Commercial Manager Anup Dayanand Sadhu told presspersons here on Friday that the exhibition train would be stationed at Ashokapuram and the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation would operate special bus services to help people view it.

He said priority would be accorded to students. All schools in the city and surrounding regions had been notified and the scheduling for each institution had been done to prevent overcrowding. “We expect around 60,000 students to view the exhibition and learn about the CWG that will be held in Delhi from October,” said Mr. Sadhu.

The special train, comprising 11 coaches, will give a comprehensive picture and information about the CWG. The first coach will give a brief introduction on the Games, the participating nations, the mascot Shera and the Queen's Baton Relay. The second coach will give details on the venues and games and will showcase models of the various stadia while the third one will display sports gear and the calendar of various sporting events.

The fourth coach of the Commonwealth Express will present over 5,000 pictures and images of the past CWGs, medallists in the Asian Games, Olympic medallists and world champions, while the fifth coach will focus on how the Indian Railways is nurturing budding sportspersons. The remaining coaches will highlight the growth and the success story of information technology in India.

Mr. Sadhu said the train would be stationed on Platform No. 1 at Ashokapuram. Priority would be given to school students from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. while it would be open to the general public between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Precautions

Security arrangements will be stepped up at the venue of the exhibition and a control room has been established to monitor the crowd. The Mysore Division will also felicitate three sportspersons from the city — Poojashree (tennis), Tejaswi (chess) and Srinivas (table tennis) — on the occasion.

Tour de Delhi all set to take off

Organizers of the Tour de Delhi on Friday announced the international participants for what is set to be the Capital’s first International Cycling Union (UCI)- sanctioned road cycling event. It will also be a test event for the Commonwealth Games road race that is to be held on the same circuit.

Due to the unprecedented rain, the track has been cut down from 13.7 km to 8 km, but according to UCI official, Jamaluddin Mahmood, the track is still one of the most picturesque.

“We have inspected the circuit and it will be great for the racers and audience. We hope that the construction that is left will be completed by tomorrow,” he said.

The international race will see eight international teams from Europe, Africa and Asia battle it out against 24 Indian riders. A further 122 national-level riders will compete in the lower category.

Cycling Federation of India officials spoke about the delays in procurement of cycles for the national team.

“The final payment for the cycles has been made and they will arrive within a week. This will give the team enough time to get accustomed to the new bikes,” said SS Dhindsa, president of the federation.

Asked to respond to reports in HT about the delays, Dhindsa placed the blame on the Sports Ministry and Sports Authority of India. “We had asked for the equipment three years ago. The delays have been on their part. Finally, we decided we’d ask the cyclists what bikes they want and place the order.”

In response to another report, Dhindsa said, “I have no say in selection and have never used influence to keep a performing athlete out. We maintain though that our campers take priority and that will always be the case until the policy changes.”

No deadlines, Delhi will be ready for Games before Oct 3: Dikshit

Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit Friday confirmed that the Aug 31 deadline for completion of Commonwealth Games-related projects will not be met but said that Delhi will be ready for the mega sporting event before Oct 3 or 15 days earlier, provided the sun shines and the rains stop.

After inaugurating a parking site at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium here, Dikshit acknowledged that the incessant rains have been an obstacle in meeting the deadline, but at the same time refuted rumours that the venues will not be ready in time.

"We have full faith in our authorities that they will ready the venues on time, but incessant rains are hampering the progress of preparations of the venues. And we pray to the rain gods to have mercy on us," Dikshit said.

The chief minister asserted that the Oct 3-14 Games are a national and not a political issue.

"We have beautifully engineered the city, not only in areas in the vicinity of the Commonwealth Games village and venues, but also areas lying far outside," she added.

On removal of debris from across the city, she said the work will be done by Sep 10 and so far 145,000 tonnes of debris have been removed from various areas of the city.

Earlier, Dikshit had set Aug 10 as the deadline to remove the debris.

Goverment exempts C'Wealth Games helium balloons from customs duty

Helium balloons, touted to be a star attraction at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games, will now be exempted from customs duty, the finance ministry said today.

The ministry has withdrawn customs duty on the balloons, technically known as Aerostats, along with equipment used for their deployment, sources said.

Aerostats will be deployed at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium for the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

However, these balloons will have to be imported by suppliers, contractors, vendors or sub-vendors of the organising committee of the Commonwealth Games, they said.

The exemption is a part of the government's move to remove customs duty on sports goods and equipment imported for the Commonwealth Games.

Earlier, in February this year, the government removed customs duty on various sports goods like arms and ammunition for shooting events, broadcasting equipment imported by Prasar Bharti for telecasting the spectacle and doping control equipment.

The Commonwealth Games are scheduled to be held in New Delhi from October 3 to 14 this year.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

There’s no light at end of this tunnel

It seems that the Organising Committee (OC) of the Commonwealth Games has got its focus wrong. Rather than concentrating on successfully hosting the event, the OC appears to be more interested in the opening and closing ceremonies.

A tunnel, which has been constructed under the turf of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to facilitate the movements of participants during the opening and closing ceremonies, has resulted in continuous soil erosion during the past few days. The erosion is now threatening to damage the synthetic turf around the grassy area.

“There was no place for the tunnel when the stadium was redesigned,” said a senior stadium official, confirming that the tunnel was not a part of the original design and was only constructed after the OC insisted on it.

“It was decided to construct the tunnel because the OC said the participants of the opening and closing ceremonies should come out from under the ground to make it look more spectacular,” he added.

Remodelled and redesigned at a cost of Rs. 961 crores, the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium would be the showpiece venue in the Commonwealth Games. Apart from the opening and closing ceremonies, the stadium will play host to the athletics events.

The heavy rain in Delhi for the past few weeks has further complicated the problem, the official pointed out. “Holes have been created at several places on the ground. The CPWD has been doing its best by regularly putting extra soil and sand but we are yet to find a permanent solution to the problem,” he said.

The ministry of sports, it is believed, was not too happy with the construction of the tunnel at the last moment. On July 27, when the stadium was inaugurated, the union minister of sports, MS Gill, told OC chairman Suresh Kalmadi that the project got delayed because of the construction of the tunnel.

CK Valson, the competition manager of the Nehru Stadium, admitted that the tunnel was creating problems but insisted that the turf would be set right after the opening ceremony, scheduled on October 3.

“We have plans to get the turf re-laid immediately after the opening ceremony is over. This is a procedure which has been used in many countries and could be done in less than 24 hours,” said Valson, who admitted the process would incur a considerable expenditure.

An official of the OC, however, defended the decision to create the tunnel saying such things are common at mega events. “Even at the Beijing Olympics, the participants came through the tunnel. It adds to the glamour of the event,” Valson said.

Queen's Baton arrives in State on September 1

The Queen's Baton for the Commonwealth Games, which journeyed through 70 Commonwealth countries and several States and Union Territories of India, will enter Karnataka from Tamil Nadu at 12.30 p.m. on September 1 and will be received by the President of the Karnataka Olympic Association K. Govindaraj at Chikkanahalli, a border village in Chamarajanagar district.
Minister for Textiles, Youth Services and Sports Gulihatti D. Shekar told presspersons that “the baton after passing through Bandipur, Gundlupet and Nanjangud will reach Mysore at 3 p.m. on September 1. A special cultural programme, depicting the cultural heritage of Mysore, will be held at Mysore Palace at 7 p.m”.

“The baton will enter Bangalore from Mysore on September 2 at 3 p.m. and it will be received by Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa at the Kanteerava Stadium at 4 p.m.

The former world badminton champion Prakash Padukone, the champion sprinter of yesteryears Kenneth Powell, a host of Arjuna and Dhronacharya recipients, Ministers, the BBMP Mayor, leading personalities, film stars and schoolchildren will carry the baton through several parts of the city.

A commemorative postal stamp will be released to mark the occasion. A cultural programme will be held at Sri Kanteerava Indoor Stadium at 6.30 p.m.,” the Minister said.

Other districts

“After leaving Bangalore on September 4, the relay will reach Hassan on the same day; Mangalore on September 5; Karwar on September 6, before reaching Goa border on September 7,” he added.

“To make the baton relay a success, the Government of Karnataka has taken the help of the Karnataka Olympic Association, Karnataka State Athletics Association and other sports associations,” the Minister said.

It may be recalled that the baton for the 2010 Games was launched by Queen Elizabeth II from Buckingham Palace in London on October 29 last year in the presence of President Pratibha Patil.

Relay route

The Queen's baton rally will start from Kanteerava Stadium at 4 p.m. on September 2 and pass through Kasturaba Road, Cubbon Park, Ambedkar Veedhi, K.R. Circle, Nrupathunga Road, Hudson Circle, J.C. Road, Mission Road, Subbaiah Circle, Lalbagh Main Road, Lalbagh Main Gate, Glass House, K.H. Road, Richmond Circle and Rajarammohan Roy Road before culminating at Sri Kanteerava Stadium.

Funds for welfare projects spent on CWG

The Centre on Thursday admitted that Rs.678.91 crore, meant for carrying out welfare projects for people belonging to the Scheduled Castes in the Capital, was spent on various Commonwealth Games-related infrastructure projects by the Delhi government.

“An amount of Rs.678.91 crore has been contributed from SCSP (SC Sub-Plan) funds to various Commonwealth Games-related infrastructure projects… these projects will benefit all communities including SCs under the individual category,” Home Minister P. Chidambaram said in the Rajya Sabha.

This led to uproarious scenes with MPs from the BSP, the Left and the BJP alleging diversion of funds meant for the welfare of SC population. They also alleged that the figures given by the government was different from what was given in response to an RTI application. Agitated BSP MPs came into the well of the House shouting slogans against the Delhi government, forcing adjournment of the House.

Green cost of infrastructure projects: 40,000 trees

Delhi  will be gaining infrastructure and better transport facilities thanks to the Commonwealth Games but that is coming at a cost. The city lost about 40,000 trees to Metro  construction, flyovers and other Games-related projects in the past few years. Despite this, the green cover has been growing at an average annual rate of 1% which sources say is due to the high rate of compensatory plantation except that most of it is in city forests that are at the edge of the city.

According to government data, the Metro project alone accounted for 4,340 trees either being felled or transplanted while over 8,000 trees had to be felled for about 30 flyover projects. "However, it is interesting to note that between 2007 and 2008, 18 city forests came up only on the basis of compensatory plantation. Trees are an unavoidable loss if infrastructure is to be developed but the Delhi cabinet's decision to make plantation of 10 plants compulsory for each tree felled has had a really positive impact on the city's green cover,'' said officials.

The argument didn't go down too well with environmentalists. "There is no compensation for the loss of a fully grown, mature tree. While we cannot dispute the rise in green cover, the city seems to be turning into a concrete jungle while the forests are being created on the boundary. There is also no verification of how much compensatory plantation has been undertaken so far. A lot of trees can be saved if only project planning considers these aspects. Can the government really account for trees that were lost in projects like streetscaping where the contractors could not be bothered with preserving the greenery,'' said a tree expert.

Government sources, however, said that the forest department itself had undertaken compensatory plantation of about 3 lakh saplings and would be planting an additional 25,000 saplings under compensatory afforestation fund management and planning authority (CAMPA) funds. "The forest department is responsible for compensatory plantation of DMRC, BRT and NHAI. Other than that, a review of all other agencies will be carried out shortly to assess how their plantation drive is going. In case they are not able to meet their targets, the forest department will do it for them from the money that has been deposited with them. Again, not all the compensatory plantation has been done in city forests. Land was earmarked for trees even in and around the projects that came up or are underway and these will be greened once work is finished. Under CAMPA, an additional 25,000 saplings will be planted next year as well,'' said an official.

GoM reviews installation of overlays at CWG venues

The group of minister overseeing the preparations for the Commonwealth Games met on Thursday to discuss the opening and closing ceremonies and installation of the much-delayed overlays at the event's venues. The meeting of the GoM, headed by UDminister Jaipal Reddy was also attended by sports minister M S Gill, tourism minister Shailja, CM Shiela Dikshit and CWG OC chairman Suresh Kalmadi among others.

"The opening and closing ceremonies were discussed and the electrical connectivity at the venues and other overlays were also deliberated upon in the meeting. There was also a discussion on the broadcasting of the Games by Doordarshan," Kalmadi told reporters. Asked whether the August 31 deadline for the completion of the Games' venues would be met, Kalmadi said, "You will have to ask the sports minister. I can't comment on that."

The GoM meeting was also attended by cabinet secretary K M Chandrashekhar and Delhi LG Tejinder Khanna and other senior officials.

Keep off the grass at India gate till Games

Thanks to the Commonwealth Games you won't be able to walk barefoot on the dew-moist lawns of India Gate. Delhiite's favourite late night drive to India Gate to enjoy ice creams has hit the Games hurdle. A civic agency is planting new grass at the India Gate lawns — the biggest open space in the
heart of the city — so all the parking lots have been barricaded and made out-of-bounds.

You can only walk down till the War Memorial Arch, after parking your car elsewhere. The Rs 6 crore-project is being completed on a war footing with only 37 days to go for the Games.

Metal barricades have been put up at all the six-entry points: Shah Jahan Road, Tilak Marg, Pandara Road, Copernicus Marg, Sher Shah Road and Zakir Hussain Marg. The lawns have also been ringed with barbed wire. The plan also includes relaying the pavements with red sandstone.

Police said they got a request from the Central Public Works Department (CPWD), the agency carrying out the work, to close the parking points.

"It was never a parking area. It's good quality grass so needs time to grow," said Chandra Bhushan Upadhyay, spokesman, CPWD. The lawns will remain closed till the Games are over.

‘Corruption has dented India’s image’

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s promise to act against anyone indulging in corruption in the Commonwealth Games preparations may have settled the dust for a while but people believe the issue has certainly tainted the country’s image internationally. In a survey by AZ Research, a Bengaluru-based
research company, on what does India feel about the controversies surrounding the Commonwealth Games 2010, 53% respondents said the media expose of corruption, delay and sub-standard construction has done a serious harm to the country's image.

The research group interviewed 5,100 Indians in several urban centres including the four metropolitans and bigger cities like Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, Lucknow, Patna, Raipur, Vijaywada, Kochi and Guwahati.

While the Congress Party was seen trying to disassociate with the Games' Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi, who is in the thick of controversies, the survey respondents believed that he is not the only one to be blamed for corruption. “People believe that the sports ministry, the ministry of urban development, the organising committee and the Delhi government have equal share in the corruption. Suresh Kalmadi, however, tops the table,” said Sujay Misra, managing director, AZ Research.

More than 7,500 athletes and delegates from 71 participating countries are reaching Delhi to participate in the sporting extravaganza to be held in the Capital from October 3 to October 14, 2010.

Seventy three per cent of the participants felt that the government has spent more than double on organising the event and that the costs have gone up because the corrupt officials made unrealistic budget initially.

But despite so many controversies, 65% respondents believed that India would be ready to host the Games will within time.

Showcasing the ancient in modern Delhi for Games visitors

Delhi, the capital of several dynasties and empires down the ages, will showcase its array of ancient forts, edifices and memorial structures for visitors to the Commonwealth Games. At least major 46 of them are being refurbished at a cost of about Rs.24 crore($5 million) by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

"The ASI is beautifying the major historical monuments of the city by adding value to their preserved heritage without comprising on the authenticity and integrity of structures to make them more tourist friendly," ASI director-general Gautam Sengupta told IANS in an interview.

"The monuments are being refurbished at an estimated cost of Rs.23.59 crore," he said. The structures will have improved lighting, new signages, audio-video guides, cafeterias and better public amenities.

The aim is to expose the tourists to the history of the capital in all its grandeur and glory.

Some of the landmarks listed for conservation and beautification for the Games include Purana Qila complex, Humayun's Tomb complex, Qutab Minar complex, Hazrat Nizamuddin complex, Lodhi Garden monuments, the City Wall at Kashmere Gate, Khooni Darwaza, Jantar Mantar, Red Fort, Salimgarh Fort, Siri Fort wall and Tughlaqabad Fort.

The makeover also includes rehauling of the environs by clearing squatters within the protected sites, the official said.

"All the 46 monuments require structural renovation, chemical treatment and landscaping. Thirteen monuments will be illuminated with the help of the India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC). But we are not adding any new sound and light shows," he said.

"Our aim is to make the monuments much more visible with more tourist-friendly arrangements. Monuments like the Purana Qila or the Old Fort, the Red Fort and Quli Khan's Tomb will host cultural events during the Commonwealth Games," Sengupta said.

"In the evenings, we want tourists to be exposed to the history of the capital in all the glory and grandeur. We are printing colourful publications to capture the attention of the tourists. They are a departure from the ones brought out regularly by the ASI," he said.

The department plans to set up cafeterias and small souvenir kiosks at the heritage sites to market handicrafts, the official said.

The department is compiling a pictorial coffee table anthology on the monuments of Delhi that will be released before the Games, Sengupta said.

The culture ministry, which oversees the ASI, and the tourism ministry are promoting  Delhi-Agra-Jaipur as the archaeological tourist triangle during the Commonwealth Games.

"Along with Delhi, Jaipur and Agra will receive sizable tourist inflows. The inclusion of the 18th century Jantar Mantar, the monument devoted to the study of astronomy and time in Jaipur, in the Unesco list of World Heritage sites, will translate into more footfalls to Jaipur from the capital," Sengupta said.

"The archaeology department of the Rajasthan government has set up a site management committee to repair and beautify the monument, with the ASI as the nodal agency," he said. India now has 28 World Heritage monuments.

One of the uphill tasks that the department faces is clearing encroachment from the premises of the protected monuments.

Citing an example, ASI additional director-general B.R Mani said the department went to court "to relocate the Bharat Scouts and Guides from the premises of the Humayun's Tomb".

The ASI is currently landscaping the area vacated by the Bharat Scouts and Guides, he said.

"It was encroached upon by shops and odd settlements. A complex with two monuments, the Bara Batashewala Tomb where the son-in-law of Mughal emperor Akbar was said to have been buried and the Chhote Batashewala tomb, an unidentified grave, was located opposite the Humayun's tomb to its north," Mani said.

"The campus was not in ASI custody. We moved the urban development department and the complex was transferred to the ASI two years ago," he added.

In the last two years, the ASI has cleaned the Batashewala complex. "But the renovation and landscaping will begin after the Commonwealth Games," Mani said.

Citing a study by Maulavi Zafar Hasan, a Muslim cleric, Mani said a "survey by Hasan between 1909 and 1914 showed that Delhi has 1,300 big and small monuments".

High definition coverage for Commonwealth Games

The Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (CGOC) Wednesday said that it has finalised deals with rights holding broadcasters from 13 countries across six continents.

Prasar Bharati is the host broadcast partner for Delhi 2010.

"The international broadcast exposure will beat all records set. The Games are to be viewed across Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Asia, Canada, Europe, the Caribbean and the United States, with additional daily news coverage reaching across 160 countries," said CGOC treasurer A.K. Mattoo.

The total contracted value for the 13 international rights holding broadcasters is $46,342,601 out of which CWGOC has already realised a sum of $34,224,000. The U.S. Canada and Tanzania are paying for the first time for Commonwealth Games broadcasts from overseas.

For the first time in the history of Commonwealth Games, all 17 sports disciplines and opening and closing ceremonies will be covered on High Definition Digital Format (HDTV). National rights holding broadcasters Doordarshan will telecast live opening and closing ceremonies besides all sporting events round the clock.

"The International Broadcast Centre (IBC) being set up at the Pragati Maidan is almost ready. This will be the nerve centre for all the broadcast activities. MTNL is providing Optical Fiber Connectivity (OFC) from all venues to the IBC to ensure the best possible images," Mattoo said.

"British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) will be sending a crew of 250 while Australian broadcasting team will comprise 280 people," he said.

Prasar Bharati has appointed Satellite Information Services (SIS) Live of UK for production and coverage services. SIS Live will deploy over 1300 experts  across all venues. Approximately 345 HD cameras, including 38 Super SlowMotion cameras, 55 Robotic cameras, 40 RF cameras and 100 Slow Motion Servers are going to be part of the technical infrastructure.

A range of 'Speciality Cameras' will include 'Fly Cam' for overhead tracking shots at the ceremonies, athletics and swimming, 'Crawl Cam', 'Pole Cam' and 'Turn Cam for underwater shots at the swimming venues. 'Dive Cams' will follow divers from the diving board into the water.

The 'Track Cams' will run alongside the track for events like the 100 meters. Helicopters with specially mounted cameras will cover the entire route. Special motorbikes equipped with RF cameras will follow the athletes for the coverage during the whole course of route.

"There is no delay as far as broadcasting is concerned. The work is in progress. The IBC is the best I have seen in my career," said Govardhan Sharma, DD Additional Director General.

The leading international Rights Holding Broadcasters (RHBs) of Delhi 2010 include:

Australia: Channel Network Ten/Foxtel/ABC Radio New Zealand: Sky TV and PRIME United Kingdom: British Broadcasting Corporation South Africa and Africa: SABC and SuperSport Asia: Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union Nigeria: Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria Canada: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Cyprus: Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation Namibia: Namibia Broadcasting Corporation Seychelles: Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation Caribbean: Caribbean Media Corporation United States of America: Video Sound Inc. Tanzania: Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation

Commonwealth Games village to provide world class food

The Commonwealth Games village will have food from all over the world. After all for Indians, it is like a grand marriage affair so just have a look at the gastronomical fare waiting for the athletes and officials at the Commonwealth Games Village.
THE STORIES of controversies in Commonwealth Games are not stopping but nation will be happy to see a food menu for the games which is fit in every taste. The Commonwealth Games village will have food from all over the world. After all for Indians,  it is like a grand marriage affair so just have a look at the gastronomical fare waiting for the athletes and officials at the Commonwealth Games Village.

Let me introduce you to the yummy menu at the village:

a) Six 6 types of yogurt like soya, natural fat, greek etc.
b) Eight kinds of fresh herbs like basil, parsley, oregano and tarragon
c) One type of smoked fish like smoked salmon
d) Six kinds of deli cold cuts like smoked chicken breast, buffalo salami and chicken ham etc.
e) Up to 12 vegetable crudités like zucchini, celery etc.
f)  Six type of fresh whole fruits like orange, banana, mango, apple etc.
g) Up to twelve types assorted cheese including cheddar, Danish blue, sponge etc.
h)  Four types of grilled meats like chicken steak, chicken cutlets etc.
i)  Four types of assorted nuts; cashew, peanuts, almonds etc.
j)  Up to 30 kinds of salad bars like lettuce, cherry tomato, artichoke, beetroot, cucumber etc.
k)  Eight types of fruit juices including of watermelon, pineapple, mango etc.
l)   Four specialty oils like extra virgin, walnut sesame, hazelnut etc.
m)   Six dry cereals like cornflakes, wheat barn, wheat flakes etc.


Beef (cow meat) will not be served anywhere in the Commonwealth Games premises. The menu is prepared keeping the sportspersons in mind; each item will show constituents, dietary value and allergic information in details. There will be ‘No-Pork’ zone, where food will be served to people from countries that have banned pork due to religious and other factors.

India’s street foods like pani puree, papri chat, bhel puri etc. will have a special stall in middle of main dinning hall and other CWG countries street food will be served in casual dining area with a ‘fun, alfresco environment’ and Village Bar will serve liquor and wine of choice.

The games central kitchen will run 24x7 and dish out 3,600 meals every day at the main dinning hall.

Apart from that volunteers, workforce and security personnel will get packaged foods at the cost of Rs. 120 for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Overall Games motto; Eat, Drink and Play. Save god it will not turn into Eat, Drink and Sleep.

13 International Rights Holding Broadcasters for CWG

The Organising Committee Commonwealth Games today announced deals with right holding broadcasters from 13 countries across six continents. Prasar Bharati is the host broadcast partner for the Games.

The international broadcast exposure will beat all records set. The Games are to be viewed across Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Asia, Canada, Europe, the Caribbean and the United States, with additional daily news coverage reaching across 160 countries.

The total contracted value for the 13 international right holding broadcasters is 46,342,601 dollar out of which OC CWG has already realised a sum of 34,224,000 dollar. The US, Canada and Tanzania are paying for the first time for Commonwealth Games broadcasts from overseas.

The Committee has secured a Value in Kind (VIK) agreement worth 3,600,000 dollar with broadcasters from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The airtime available in VIK will be shared with Indian Railways and Ministry of Tourism to promote tourism in the country.

Prasar Bharati has appointed Satellite Information Services (SIS) Live of UK for production and coverage services. SIS Live will deploy over 1300 experts across all venues. Approximately 345 HD cameras, including 38 Super Slow Motion cameras, 55 Robotic cameras, 40 RF cameras and 100 Slow Motion Servers are going to be part of the technical infrastructure.

LG launches TETRA system for networking agencies connected with CWG

Delhi Lt Governor Tejendra Khanna today launched a system for networking all agencies connected with the Commonwealth Games.

The LG was handed over the handset for secured communication system (TETRA), established by the Delhi Government for networking all the agencies connected with organisation of the Commonwealth Games - 2010, an LG office spokesperson said. Speaking on the occasion, the Lt Governor emphasised that after he saw the system in use at the Beijing Olympics, he realised that a similar secured communication system would be extremely useful for securing the sensitive security environment, especially with greater multiplicity of agencies and authorities required and efficient secured communication network system for smooth conduct of the Commonwealth Games - 2010. The important benefits of the secured communication system
(TETRA) are ultimate security, seamless service, superior coverage, shared networks without interfering with existing agencies - 'scalability and specialisation'.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

'Commonwealth' Games no good to the common public: Azim Premji

The gross spending on the Delhi Commonwealth Games has been estimated at Rs. 11,494 crore which is quite exorbitant compared to its original estimate of Rs. 655 crore. If the additional amount of Rs. 16,560 spent by Delhi government for the development of infrastructure in the capital and the real cost of labour had to be included, then the real cost of the games will be much higher, says Azim Premji.

The infrastructure included new airport terminal, wider roads, new flyovers, Metro rail extensions and when it comes to real cost of labour, Premji says that labourers were paid minimum wages, made to work in unsafe conditions and were housed in sub human tenements.

According to Premji, the spending of Rs. 28,000 crore of public fund serves nothing good to the common public and this kind of spending does not befit to the concept out of which the idea of Commonwealth Games had germinated. The term 'commonwealth' originally meant public welfare, things that are for the greater good of society. "There are few things as uplifting as watching a sportsperson push physical and mental limits to achieve the incredible. The Commonwealth Games, like the Olympics, are a celebration of the human spirit of excellence. Therefore, in itself, the Games are a worthy endeavour," says Premji.

Premji pesters to question whether the thousands of crores being spent on the Delhi Commonwealth Games is being spent wisely. When it comes to schools, better infrastructure for existing schools and more teachers, we have to compromise on funds. To encourage sports in the country, the government must ensure playgrounds, good equipments and quality coaching. It would be a wrong priority to look snub the grassroot priorities and spend extravagantly on such a grand event of sport.

"Despite the wonderful economic strides of the past two decades, the reality is that India is a poor country. A recent study by the University of Oxford measured levels of education, health and living standard in the world's poorest countries. This study shows that India continues to be predominantly poor. In fact, there are more poor people in eight Indian states than in the 26 poorest African countries combined," Premji added.

Slow ticket sales for Delhi Games

Only two per cent of tickets for October's Commonwealth Games in Delhi have been sold, with organisers banking on a late rush to fill stadiums.

Some 50,000 tickets have been sold so far from a total of 2.3 million available for the October 3-14 Games in the Indian capital.

Organisers concede they're likely to experience a shortfall of sales in the vicinity of half a million tickets.

Tickets have been available since June 4 online, and the pace of sales was expected to pick up once tickets were available over the counter from Wednesday.

However, the start to the second phase of the ticketing process, when online bookings were also to translate into physical tickets, did not go smoothly.

Hundreds of people returned empty-handed from designated counters across New Delhi on Wednesday because the tickets had yet to arrive.

Games organising committee secretary-general Lalit Bhanot blamed a technical glitch for the delay.

"There was some problem with the distribution system but we have things in place now and the process will start on Thursday," Bhanot said.

Demand for tickets so far has not been for sports, but rather opening and closing ceremonies.

But the ceremonies will be largely for the affluent due to the cost - most of the tickets are priced at 5,000 rupees ($A119), 25,000 rupees ($616) and 50,000 rupees ($A1,165).

The prices are steep in a country where a person's average monthly income is about 3,000 rupees ($A72).

The lowest denomination of tickets for the ceremonies, priced at 1,000 rupees ($A24) have sold quickly, with only 3,000 remaining.

"The tickets for the ceremonies are expensive but those for sports events are much cheaper," Bhanot said.

He dismissed fears of black marketing and counterfeiting of tickets.

"Tickets are being given only to those with identity proofs," he said.

"Also, the tickets cannot be counterfeited as they have been published with great care at the national security press where currency notes are printed."

Delhi Games tickets delayed by 'glitch'

Hundreds of people queuing for Commonwealth Games tickets in New Delhi were turned away from outlets because the tickets hadn't arrived.

Games tickets were meant to be available at outlets in the Games host city from 9am local time on Wednesday.

But Games organisers blamed a technical glitch for a 10-hour delay in the arrival of tickets at about 30 outlets, Indian media reported Thursday.

Tickets finally arrived at outlets from 7pm local time, the Times of India reported.

Online tickets for the October 3-14 Games in the Indian capital have been available since June 4.

But collection of the tickets, and non-online purchase of tickets, was scheduled from Wednesday.

Games organisers blamed "system maintenance" for the ticket delay, the Times of India reported.

"The tickets were made available as soon as the system was updated, there is no problem," the organising committee secretary general Lalit Bhanot told the newspaper.

One outlet, the Central Bank of India, said more than 100 people turned up at a branch.

"We kept sending people back through the day ... we had to inform them that tickets were not available," the bank's assistant general manager BS Harilal told the newspaper.

Sports, city infrastructure is handled by the govt, not me

Yes, we can do it. It is the firm belief of the Organising Committee Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi that we will conduct the Games so well that all of India comes together as one and echoes this sentiment with pride. We are committed to realising the Indian dream of delivering the best
Games.

My faith in the people of Delhi and India is immense. I believe they will understand that the budget of the OC is just Rs 1620 crore, including salaries, taxes and rent. The responsibility of my team is to run the Games with this budget. People are well aware that the sports and city infrastructure development have been handled by the Central and State governments.

Sadly, those who mould public opinion seem to make little effort to present facts as they are. Let me cite the example of the case of a toilet roll being ‘bought’ for Rs 3751 each when the truth is that this is the price for a carton of 100 rolls. Such exaggerations were the order of the day and media would not even carry the correct version.

Instead, every development is given a slant to make it seem like the task is beyond India’s collective will.  The decision of the Government to depute 10 officers to different venues to ensure greater co-ordination among the different agencies there is another example. The media interpreted it as a takeover of the OC itself.

The media, by and large, ignored the fact that Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh had said during his meeting on Aug 14 that additional senior and experienced officers would be deputed as required. The media overlooked the fact that the OC had been asking for a number of officers from the Government and the Defence to be seconded to work with us.

The other example that I would like to offer you concerns a long list of champions who have been selected by their respective nations to compete, which will see the biggest participation by athletes. See how little play this has got and compare it with how the withdrawal of athletes due to injury has been showcased as their reluctance to compete here. It doesn’t seem to matter that teams like Australia, England and Canada are sending their largest contingents ever to a Games held outside their own nations.

I am convinced that we will see world-class performances and new champions will be born here. I am delighted that as many as 160 nations will watch the broadcasts. These include the United States for the first time. Despite the attempts to distract us, my team and I have been able to focus on our primary task of producing a grand international sporting event. I am proud of the 3000 strong workforce that is burning midnight oil to ensure that we deliver a great Games.

I know it has been tough for the workforce to keep its morale high against the backdrop of the smear campaign in the media. I believe each one of the staff is committed to rising above all that and making India proud.

I am also happy with the strong support given by the Indian Olympic Association. I have already stated that I am open to any investigation. We shall support the investigation by the government agencies and answer any query they have.

Talking of pride, I am a former Indian Air Force pilot. I would not do anything to dent that pride. Let me assure you: the OC will leave no stone unturned to ensure the smooth conduct of the Games. Delhi has been a wonderful sport all along and there is no reason for it to change now.

Printed on currency paper, Games tickets finally launched

The Commonwealth Games tickets are finally here. And for the first time in the history of this sporting event, tickets have been printed on the same paper as currency notes.

The tickets, printed in the same press in Pune that prints R 1000 currency notes and contains similar
anti-counterfeit measures, said the Organising Committee (OC) while launching the Phase-II of ticket sales.

"These tickets have some visible as well as invisible security features," said Lalit Bhanot, OC secretary general.

Until now, the OC was only carrying out online booking through its website and issuing e-vouchers. The holders of the vouchers will have to get them replaced with real tickets at counters.

"The hologram and the bar code on the ticket are just two of the numerous visible security features. The bar codes will be read with scanners. So, faking them will be next to impossible," said Monica Jolly, director, Ticketing.

In Delhi and the NCR, tickets will be available at 30 retail outlets, along with the website.

So far the OC has generated Rs 10 crore in revenue from ticket sales.

Countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, UK and USA have registered maximum bookings from abroad.

While the sales have been less than estimated, organisers said they were expecting sales to pick up pace now that the physical tickets are here.

"We have to take a decision on corporate bulk bookings, which will boost sales. There are queries from several companies," said Bhanot.

Delhi Celebrates

Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit launched her government's two-month-long Games-related cultural extravaganza called "Delhi Celebrates" by unveiling a theme song and a logo.

Composed and performed by Palash Sen, lead vocalist of band Euphoria, the song is titled Dilli meri jaan, Dilli meri shaan.

Free access

The OC has arranged for the crew of broadcasters who will be in India to cover the Games, to get free access to ASI-protected monuments so that they can show India's glory in their coverage. "The broadcasters will also get facilitation for visits to Agra and Jaipur, " said an OC official.
 


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