Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Commonwealth Games CEO under fire for 'lavish' lifestyle

The Kiwi head of the Commonwealth Games Federation has been accused of living it up royally in India, even as the Games preparations were floundering.
Michael Hooper's come under fire from the Times of India for lavish accommodation and tax arrangements.

The newspaper's obtained documents showing taxpayers have been covering the rental cost of his farmhouse for the past few years, and six staff.

The Delhi Organising Committee's also paid the equivalent of more than NZ $600,000 to take care of Hooper's income tax liabilities.

Hooper isn't the only one in the firing line.

Suresh Kalmadi, chief of India's Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, has also been the recipient of backlash.

Kalmadi spent more than a year assuring backers and critics that India could produce a spectacle to rival the 2008 Beijing Olympics, despite the problem-plagued preparations that have included corruption allegations and concerns over the quality of construction amid the scramble to finish before the Oct. 4-15 event.

The Indian government started to reduce Kalmadi's power last month after an audit body identified concerns over tender procedures and inflated costs.

"I am ready to face a judicial inquiry. Hang me if I am found guilty," Kalmadi said in an interview replayed repeatedly yesterday with Indian news channel CNN-IBN.

"But when the games are over, I should get the credit also."

Meanwhile New Zealand Olympic Committee president Mike Stanley says signs are good that the Commonwealth Games will be a success.

Mr Stanley, who made a whirlwind visit to the Indian capital last week after New Zealand team chef de mission Dave Currie raised serious concerns over the city's readiness to host the games, said conditions had improved overall to the point he felt the games were poised to be a success.

"The response of the Indian government has been very encouraging," Mr Stanley told NZPA.

"A lot of work has been done in the games village. Some towers are yet to be completed but there's been a lot of progress inside the village and its environs.

"We have also received confirmation the training venues are available and secure.

The first wave of New Zealand athletes, including the bowls team, wrestlers, badminton players and archers, had arrived and begun settling in amidst raised security.

"The organisers are working through teething problems with the transport system but the accompanying security seems to be place.

"Security was significant when I was there last week but has been boosted and is very visible this week. The New Delhi police seem to be doing a thorough and diligent job."

Mr Stanley backed Mr Currie's decision to lock New Zealand athletes within a "games bubble".

Athletes will be restricted to 'security bubble'

They won't be allowed outside the areas given the heaviest security allocation - the athletes' village, the venues and the transport to and from them.

"It is very appropriate. We have taken a cautious approach and that (policy) may remain for the whole games," Mr Stanley said.

The international zone at the games village would serve to allow athletes to meet family and friends during the event.

He said he could assure families of the athletes that security around the athletes was of a very high standard.

"The New Delhi police are very experienced around this sort of security deployment and we have confidence they can do the job for our athletes.

"Food at the village is very good. The standard of catering is first class."

As for the threat of mosquito-borne disease such as dengue fever, Mr Stanley said not many of the insects had been observed in the New Zealand accommodation but action continued to be taken by the organisers to minimise the risk.

"Our health team is confident any risk can be mitigated by those measures."

He said the Commonwealth Games Federation had been working with the organisers to see appropriate standards were achieved before the opening of the games.

"Everyone is focused on getting everything ready for the opening ceremony.

"Once the games get going, we get these things behind us and providing . . . all the problem-solving is done as things go along, they should turn out to be a very enjoyable and rewarding games for our team."

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