Monday, April 19, 2010

Indian security 'thwarts Games attacks'

Many potential attacks on the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi have already been thwarted, according to Indian officials who are promising "foolproof" security.

The weekend bombings outside the stadium at an Indian Premier League cricket match in Bangalore which injured at least 10 people have revived international jitters about the safety of those attending the October 3-14 Games.

The blasts rekindled fears aroused by the February bombing at a cafe in Pune, east of Mumbai, which killed 17 people, and the Mumbai attacks which killed more than 170 less than 18 months ago.

But high ranking Indian Games official T.S. Darbari has reassured Australian athletes and challenged suggestions that their visiting family and supporters could be at risk when outside the sporting venues or beyond protection perimeters.

"Delhi is very, very safe (and) secure - not only for the sports people who are coming but also for their families and for the tourists," Darbari told AAP.

Darbari, joint director general of the Organising Committee of the Commonwealth Games 2010, is leading a delegation to Australia accompanying the Queen's baton relay.

He echoed the sentiments from Delhi that Games security measures will be unprecedented.

"I know what the plan is that is being formulated, I can't share the details, but let me tell you it is foolproof."

India's delegation also includes D.R. Kaarthikeyan, a former director of his country's Central Bureau Investigation.

Kaarthikeyan, one of many security experts advising Games officials, says statistics show that nearly all potential attacks are thwarted.

"When something succeeds, you can see 99 have been prevented," he told AAP.

He would not divulge specific measures to protect Delhi from terrorist attacks but did reveal that security agencies have already stopped potential attacks in the host city.

"So many are being rounded up, so many have been detected," Kaarthikeyan said.

"But then they will not be discussed in public. What have been prevented, what have been planned and the stage of plotting itself, that does not come out."

Tourists can expect obvious signs of security in Delhi streets during the Games but most measures will be covert.

"They feel more assured when they see a lot of policemen around and gunmen around, because we cannot take chances," he said.

Kaarthikeyan also said security was so tight in India's major cities that attackers were resorting to small disruptions in rural and regional areas.

Commonwealth Games official complains: Firm managing sponsorships is getting the cuts, not the deals

The top revenue official of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (OC) has prepared a note saying that a foreign company contracted to bring in sponsors for the Games has achieved “practically nil” results.

With less than six months to go for the Games, the OC has only six sponsors, with just over a quarter of the Rs 1,200 crore sponsorship target met.

Four of these sponsors, making up the bulk of the total sponsorship value so far, are public sector organisations. However, the company managing the sponsorships, the Singapore-registered Sports Marketing and Management (SMAM) gets a commission of between 15% and 22.5% on all sponsorship deals, including those struck with Indian public sector undertakings.

“SMAM’s contribution in major deals signed so far has been practically nil, even though they are entitled to the same commission from these deals as they are from deals which are negotiated by them,” wrote V K Saksena, Additional Director-General, Revenue, in a note prepared on February 12.

Saksena is an IAS officer on deputation with the OC. The note, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, was written after Saksena discussed the matter with OC Treasurer Anil Khanna. Khanna, who heads the R K Khanna Tennis Academy, joined the OC after the previous treasurer, A K Mattoo, quit in the wake of the crisis in Indian hockey in January.

Saksena sent the note to SMAM on February 20, asking for a review of their performance. March 17 was fixed as the date for the review, but the meeting was cancelled. SMAM has earlier managed sponsorships for the Melbourne (2006) and Manchester (2002) Commonwealth Games, and works for the British Olympic Association.

Hero Honda and Coca-Cola are the two private sponsors who have come on board so far with commitments of Rs 38 crore and Rs 15.7 crore respectively. PSUs NTPC, Air India and Central Bank have committed Rs 50 crore, Rs 50 crore and Rs 51 crore respectively.

SMAM will get a commission for all these deals. The only sponsorship it will not get a commission for is by the Indian Railways, which, at Rs 100 crore, is the lead partner for the Games, and whose sponsorship was part of the Budget announcement.

OC chief Suresh Kalmadi said, “When you are tying up with a PSU, our effort is about one-third. They will not give us a sponsorship based merely on our clout until SMAM gives them a detailed presentation and then follows it up.”

The agreement between SMAM and the OC was signed on July 25, 2007, making the company the “sole and exclusive negotiator and procurer of sponsonsorship for licensing contracts”.

In his note, Saksena said, “SMAM claims to have brought 150 companies so far, but hardly any of these have joined the OC as sponsor.” SMAM was unable to find any sponsors for the international leg of the Queen’s Baton Relay.

Despite repeated attempts, no official from SMAM could not be contacted. The company’s India representative Susan Hunt was not available, and calls to Mike Bushell, who heads the firm, at its office in New South Wales, went unanswered.

Kalmadi said that he was “satisfied” with SMAM, and sponsors would come “very soon”.

“We will be getting more sponsors on board very soon. It has been seen worldwide that in the last six months in the run-up to the event, sponsors start pouring in. We are satisfied with the working of SMAM and will achieve the sponsorship targets,” Kalmadi told The Indian Express.

The OC is currently negotiating with Maruti Suzuki, Samsung, Tata, Arcelor Mittal and several other firms.

India plays down security concerns

India on Monday played down security concerns over the upcoming Commonwealth Games and other international events in the country after a weekend scare that saw explosions at a cricket stadium.

Eight people were injured in minor blasts on Saturday outside the 40,000-seater Chinnaswamy Stadium in the southern city of Bangalore, hours before an Indian Premier League (IPL) match was to begin.

The match, featuring foreign stars including England's Kevin Pietersen and South Africa's Jacques Kallis, went ahead after a small delay, but two other crude bombs were later defused near the stadium on Sunday.

India is to host the Commonwealth Games in October this year and the cricket World Cup with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in February-April 2011 amid ongoing concern about security on the subcontinent.

“Our foreign guests are happy with the assurances of our government about security,” Lalit Bhanot, secretary-general of the Commonwealth Games organising committee, told reporters.

There were fears that teams would pull out of the World Cup for field hockey in February and March this year because of the risk of attacks, but the event passed off smoothly under an extremely heavy police presence. Officials have shifted the two IPL semifinals, scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, from Bangalore to Mumbai after the weekend blasts even though police officials in Bangalore promised extra security.

Indian cricket board spokesman Rajiv Shukla said the Bangalore blasts will not affect the cricket World Cup, scheduled to be hosted by India. “There is no danger to the World Cup just because the IPL games have been shifted,” Shukla told reporters, adding the showpiece tournament was still a year away.

Australian Commonwealth Games chief Perry Crosswhite had said on Sunday the Bangalore blasts were not direct threats to the Games.

Crosswhite said he had not been contacted by any athletes expressing concerns that the blasts would deter them from competing in New Delhi.

“These things continue to happen and they will continue all the way to the Games, but (security experts) don't see it as a direct threat to the Games,” Crosswhite told reporters in Perth.

“It's just another example of unrest in the country and that part of the world and no one has claimed any responsibility.

But on Monday Kieran Perkins, the former Australian swimming great who plans to visit New Delhi as a trade envoy, voiced concerns about security.

“I've got family, I've got kids and I'm not going to be risking my life for a sporting event,” he said.

“At this point I'm going, but I won't be making any certain decisions until very close to the event.

Australian swimmers Leisel Jones and Jessicah Schipper have already told their families to stay at home.

In February, the Hong Kong-based Asia Times online news website had reported that it had received a warning from Al-Qaeda-linked militant Ilyas Kashmiri about attacking sports events in India.

Address poverty first, showcase mega sports events later

The report New figure for poor: 372m (April 18) paints a dismal picture of a country that aspires towards becoming a superpower someday. With as many as 372 million people living below the poverty line and the government’s food subsidy bill standing at Rs 75,000 crore, one wonders whether the Centre should spend so much on the upcoming Commonwealth Games. It makes no sense for any government to splurge on an event that has no bearing on to the nation’s hungry millions. All the glitz and glamour may provide India with a facelift but will hardly solve any of its core problems.

All arrangements in place for safe Commonwealth Games: Kalmadi

All necessary arrangements are in place for a safe Commonwealth Games in October, the games organising committee's chairman Suresh Kalmadi said Monday.

"We are sure we will have a safe and secure games and that the athletes will be able to perform, assured that they would be given the best protection," Kalmadi, who is the MP from Pune, said.

He said after the blasts outside a Bangalore stadium where the Indian Premier League (IPL) match was being held, the home ministry and Delhi Police have been working on making the best security arrangements for the athletes and visitors in the Commonwealth Games.

Kalmadi noted that Delhi recently hosted the Hockey World Cup, the Commonwealth Shooting Championship, Badminton Asia Championship, which were all "held successfully and the participants have been happy with the levels of security provided".

Safe, secure and splendid Games - India's promise to Australia

Wheelchair athlete Kristy Pond earned the honour of carrying the Queen's baton, for 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, on its first leg on Australian soil here today.

The Baton Relay arrived as part of a tour of all 71 Commonwealth countries leading up to the XIX edition of the Games to be held in Indian capital in October this year.

Later Commonwealth Games road cycling champion, Natalie Bates took the baton to Parramatta wharf where it was put on board a ferry bound for the Sydney Opera House.

In a message to the people of Australia, Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi said, ''India is on the verge of creating sporting history. In the 60 years of our independence, this is the first time we are hosting the Commonwealth Games, so it is very special and proud moment for all of us.'' He further added, ''Security
is of paramount importance and will not be compromised under any circumstances. A full proof security system is in place and the just concluded test events served a dual purpose, not only were the facilities tested for compliance to international standards, but it was a trial run for the security agencies in the country.

''Some of the visiting sportspersons have gone on record praising the facilities and security arrangements; this is a testimony to the efforts in place.''

CM inaugurates upgradation works on NH 10

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit today inaugurated three upgradation works on Delhi-Rohtak Road on National Highway-10 from Punjabi Bagh to Tikri Border. Addressing a gathering after inaugurating works at Nangloi near Maharaja Surajmal Stadium, Ms Dikshit said with the completion of these three works, all roads connecting neighbouring states will become more smooth and excellent.

NH-10 is a major highway for traffic going towards Rohtak, Hissar, and Bhiwani in Haryana and Fazilka in Punjab. It caters to a large number of heavy and light vehicles. Speaking at the function, where Delhi PWD Minister Raj Kumar Chauhan and a number of MLAs were also present, Ms Dikshit further stated that the PWD has been undertaking strengthening and upgradation of all major roads leading to the Capital city from the neighbouring states. This is being undertaken on a priority basis, keeping in view the ensuing Commonwealth Games. Under this project, widening of Delhi-Rohtak Road from six-seven lanes to eight lanes from Punjabi Bagh to Mundka i.e. road length of 11.7 km, strengthening of Delhi-Rohtak Road from Mundka to Tikri Border i.e. road length of 5 km and construction of service road, drain and strengthening of existing service road from Punjabi Bagh to Tikri Border i.e. length of 17 km is to be completed. The stretch of NH-10, which was earlier handed over to the DMRC in July, 2006 for construction of Inderlok-Mundka elevated Metro corridor, has been taken over back by the PWD in November, 2009 and upgradation has been planned to be executed on a war-footing. Ms Dikshit added that the upgradation of 17 km-long road will provide a safe and smooth passage to the inter-state traffic.

The Chief Minister added that the existing width of main carriageway of NH-10 from Punjabi Bagh to Mundka varies from six to seven lanes. Keeping in view the increasing traffic and importance of this road, it has been decided to widen this to eight lanes within the Capital city. Widening work from Mundka to further Tikri Border has already been completed. The existing carriageway on 11.7 km long road will also be strengthened as the road surface became uneven. The last carpeting was done seven years back. An amount of Rs 52.87 crore has been released for this purpose. Keeping in view the importance of the Commonwealth Games, widening of roads along with improvement of footpath from Punjabi Bagh to Peeragarhi along with strengthening of road in the complete stretch from Punjabi Bagh to Mundka will be completed before the Games.

She said the work of strengthening of Delhi-Rohtak Road from Mundka to Tikri Border with road length of 5 km will be completed by July.

Carpeting of existing carriageway from Mundka to Tikri Border was taken up seven years back. An amount of Rs 11.53 crore has been sanctioned for this purpose. Mr Chauhan stated that entire 450 km-long PWD road in Delhi is being strengthened and upgraded with special stress on roads leading to Delhi. Apart from this, a comprehensive project of greenery underneath the flyovers and street-scaping has also been taken up keeping in view the Commonwealth Games. The PWD is striving hard to present a more developed, green and modern infrastructure during the Games. The quality of work of PWD is being appreciated even by the foreign visitors and sports administrators. It has completed three stadia which have proved to be of international standards as trial competitions have already been organised successfully.

All arrangements in place to ensure Delhi 2010 will be safe, secure: Kalmadi

Organising Committee Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi reiterated its confidence that the Commonwealth Games, to be held in October, will be hosted in a safe and secure environment.

“The Ministry of Home Affairs and Delhi Police have been working on making the best security arrangements for the athletes and visitors in the Commonwealth Games. Along with them, we are monitoring the situation in the wake of the recent incident in Bengaluru and we are leaving no stone unturned to make sure that the Capital is safe and secure,” Organising Committee Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi Chairman Mr. Suresh Kalmadi, MP, said.

“The Commonwealth Games Federation has been advised by its international security consultant that India is making the best security arrangements for the Games,” he said. “Besides, we have had a number of security briefings for Heads of Missions of the Commonwealth countries and, recently, we had the Chefs de Mission Seminar for all 71 nations. At each such forum, our security plans and arrangements have been welcomed as the best,” he said. “ the CGF President Mr. Mike Fennell was also satisfied with the security arrangements.”

“We have been planning the security arrangements for many years and Government has spared no expense in asking for the best equipment and personnel to be in place. Once all venues are ready, there would be another International Security Liaison Group Security Commanders’ conference. We are taking no chances at all,” Mr. Kalmadi said.

The test events for a number of sporting disciplines, including FIH World Cup hockey, Commonwealth Shooting Championship, Commonwealth Boxing Championship, Badminton Asia Championship, invitational meets in archery, rugby 7s and lawn bowling have all been held successfully and the participants have been happy with the levels of security provided,” he said.

“The security arrangements for the Commonwealth Games are constantly being monitored by the Organising Committee Commonweath Games 2010 Delhi in tandem with the Ministry of Home Affairs and Delhi Police. We are sure we will have a safe and secure Games and that the athletes will be able to perform, assured that they would be given the best protection,” Mr. Kalmadi said.

Aussie athletes anxious of family safety at Commonwealth Games

ustralian athletes said Monday they were concerned for the safety of their families, friends and other spectators at the New Delhi Commonwealth Games in October.

Anxieties spiked after eight people were injured by explosions on Saturday outside Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium, the venue of an Indian Premier League Twenty20 match.

As a baton relay arrived in Australia on a world tour ahead of the Delhi Games, athletes expressed concern for the wellbeing of those not covered by the high level security that will protect athletes and officials.

Baton carrier Kieren Perkins, the former swimming great who plans to visit New Delhi in the role of an Australian trade envoy, said: “I’ve got family, I’ve got kids and I’m not going to be risking my life for a sporting event.

“At this point I’m going, but I won’t be making any certain decisions until very close to the event,” he told reporters.
“Like everybody else, I’ll be keeping a close eye on what’s happening.”

Senior swimmers Leisel Jones and Jessicah Schipper have already told their families to stay at home.

While Australian Commonwealth Games boss Perry Crosswhite made it clear Australia would be sending a team to New Delhi, he was also mindful of spectators’ safety.

“My view is that the team and the athletes will be well protected. But I think people that go to see the Games, to watch their partners and children compete, will have to be careful.”

Games joint director general T.S.Darbari told a baton relay function at the Sydney Opera House on Monday the New Delhi event would be “safe, secure and the best Games ever”.

Security expert D.R.Kaarthikeyan, a former director of India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, said New Delhi was “like any place on the planet”.

Authorities could never prevent “mischievous people” from causing alarm, but he said many levels of security were in place to protect the Games.

The baton will make its way to Melbourne on Tuesday, then on Wednesday to Brisbane and the Gold Coast, which recently submitted a bid for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

By the time the baton reaches New Delhi for the opening ceremony, it will have travelled over 190,000 kilometres in 340 days through all 71 Commonwealth countries.

Australia is expected to send a team of 425 athletes and 175 officials to India, its largest ever to compete in an overseas event.

Sheila Dikshit asks Delhiites to contribute to capital's development

As the capital prepares for the upcoming Commonwealth Games, chief minister Sheila Dikshit today asked residents to contribute to its development and upkeep as the government had its limitations.

Speaking at a function after inaugurating a lane named after industrialist KK Birla, she said in the run up to the Games the capital was being decked up, but some glitches still remain.

"Our roads are still not yet wide enough for our ever-growing traffic and there are other issues. In a city that is expanding every minute, the government has its limitations.

"People should, therefore, also contribute to making it a world-class city ahead of the Commonwealth Games," she said.

Dikshit said Delhi is today one of the greenest cities of the world, and its green cover is being expanded.

"The green cover today is not limited to the Lutyens zone but has extended to the North and the West as well," she said.

The government has set itself a target of extending Delhi's green cover to 30% by 2011.

"We are making efforts to make the city, not only a traffic-friendly city but also a pedestrian-friendly city. The roads are being constructed keeping the necessities in mind," the chief minister said.

She was responding to a question raised by former West Bengal governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi, who said urban cities like Delhi were increasingly becoming un-friendly to pedestrians.

Minister of state for home Ajay Maken said KK Birla was an entrepreneur who always considered his corporate social responsibility.

"He worked at a time when the government did not demand much from industrialists and when CSR was not a very fashionable term, but he was always committed to the society," Maken said.

However, the move to name the lane, that falls near the Max Mueller Marg, and houses the Council for Social Development (CSD) headquarters building has not gone down well with everyone.

A group of people held a protest at the lane, demonstrating its naming after the industrialist.

The protesters demanded that the street be named after freedom fighter and social worker Durgabai Deshmukh, who had founded the CSD.

The street houses important centres and offices like the UNICEF, UNDP, India International Centre Annexe, INTACH, among others.

When asked about the protest, Maken said, he was not aware of the details but added that "there was no better person to name the street than Birla".

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