Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Games security still not in place

The government may have assured the 71 countries participating in the Commonwealth Games that security during the 12-day event will be foolproof but with just six months to go, it isn’t so sure itself.

Security and toilets were top concerns at a review meeting chaired by Union cabinet secretary KM Chandrashekhar and attended by all the stakeholders — ministries, civic agencies, sports bodies and the Delhi government — last month.

The Games’ organising committee blamed the police for delaying the implementation of security measures by eight to 10 months. “There were genuine concerns in the process of security arrangements made by the Delhi Police, including procurement of equipment,” committee CEO Jarnail Singh said at the meeting. HT has a copy of the meeting minutes.

“Security preparations were complicated due to the insistence of the police on having their own screening and accreditation process for people working in the stadia,” said Delhi chief secretary Rakesh Mehta.

The police are still to hire cargo scanners and buy equipment like hand-held metal detectors, road blockers. But they denied there was a delay. “We have bought some equipment and tenders for others are in the final stage,” said Rajan Bhagat, spokesman, Delhi Police.

With the committee also concerned about inadequate toilets, it was decided that additional toilets will be constructed but only outside the venues, with access from inside.

OC bullish over opening ceremony, security

Commonwealth Games Organising Committee joint director general, TS Darbari has said that Delhi will host the best ever opening ceremony and insisted that security will be foolproof during the October 3-14 Games.

The delay in construction of venues had raised doubts regarding India's capability to host a world class opening ceremony.

But Darbari have put all speculations to rest. “The opening ceremony, the way it has been planned, it’ll be the best ever,” Darbari, who is in Australia for Queen's baton relay ahead of the October 3-14 Games, said .

“Better than Melbourne, better than any Commonwealth Games, better than Beijing. It’s a guarantee,” he added.

Delhi is facing a test against time to put the venues in place as work in the main Nehru Stadium, swimming complex and cycling venue is lagging behind. However, Darbari exuded confidence that by June the constructions should be over to allow hosting of test events.

“It’s going to be tight but it will happen,” he said.

Darbari scotched doubts that visiting family and supporters of the athletes could be at risk when outside the sporting venues.

“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.

“I know what the plan is that is being formulated, I can’t share the details, but let me tell you it is foolproof,” he said.

Hooker to lead Aus athletes at 2010 Games

Athletics Australia has named a 69-strong squad for the Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi after the three-day Australian Athletics Championships and Commonwealth Games selection trials in Perth, according to information reaching here.

National pole vault champion and athletics team captain Steve Hooker (pole vault) will lead a squad that features a mix of youth and experience — Liz Parnov (pole vault) at 15 years of age is the youngest athlete nominated and track veteran Patrick Johnson (4x100m relay) the oldest at 37.

John Steffensen (400m and 4x400m relay) is another big name who will defend his 2006 titles in Delhi. Fabrice Lapierre, Chris Noffke and Mitchell Watt were all named in the men’s long jump.

A team of up to 90 athletes is expected to be named to the final squad, to be announced following the close of the qualifying period on August 15, Athletics Australia said.

“God, I can’t even describe it, I’m just so overwhelmed and happy and grateful to my family and my coach,” Liz Parnov, 15-year-old daughter of Russian pole vault guru Alex Parnov, said. “I have my bad days, she (Vicky) has her bad days but in the end we’re still sisters,” she said.

“Knowing Vic could do it, it really made me realise I had a chance and especially with my training group, I have Steve Hooker, Alana (Boyd), Amanda (Bisk), all of these amazing pole vaulters,” she added. “To have jumped what I have jumped and to make it is pretty cool.... But I don’t really think about how old I am, I’m just like everyone else, trying to do my best.”

Australian Commonwealth Games Association Chief Executive Perry Crosswhite said the Games were a great place for Australian athletes to “learn to win”.

“The Commonwealth Games gives them that opportunity (to win) then they go on (to win elsewhere). That’s what happened with Steve Hooker who won at the Commonwealth Games, then went on to win the Olympics and world championships.”

Crosswhite added that the ACGA has planned to take a team of about 425 athletes — its biggest squad ever sent to an overseas Games. Australia collected 16 gold, 12 silver and 13 bronze medals in the 2006 edition of the Games in Melbourne.

Mindless digging: Coordinate, civic agencies told

While the road to Commonwealth Games is riddled with potholes, the Delhi government seems to have woken up to some of this mindless digging.

In a recent communication, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister P K Tripathi has noted that all civic agencies should inform each other of projects undertaken by them in the beginning of the year itself to reduce confusion.

The letter comes after several complaints were received by the Chief Minister’s Office about newly laid pavements being dug up for repaving, leading to a hole in the state exchequer.

Tripathi noted in his letter that electric cables and other services are being affected by street-scaping project at various places in the Capital.

Tripathi had held a meeting recently to convey the message to all civic agencies involved in road-related projects.

In his letter, Tripathi blamed the chaos on the lack of coordination between different departments, and that this was resulting in wastage of time as well as taxpayers’ money. “There are instances where a freshly laid pavement is dug up again for work by some other agencies to lay a pipeline or cable,” he wrote.

Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta has reprimanded the civic agencies undertaking these street-scaping projects. A senior Delhi government official said, “We have been told that rubble from all construction sites should be removed within two months.”

While the Public Works Department is spending more than Rs 550 crore on street-scaping, NDMC and MCD are collectively spending about Rs 150 crore.

Men at work: streetscaping chaos on five stretches
Kishan Ghat to Ash Pond
Karni Singh Shooting Range
Siri Fort Road
Roads near Indira Gandhi Complex
Delhi University to Chattarsal Stadium

‘Beautifying’ city streets: the cost
PWD working on projects worth Rs 550 crore
NDMC and MCD collectively spending Rs 150 crore

First 300, now Games panel seeks 4,000 defence staff

In a new twist in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games in October, the organising committee has now asked the Defence Ministry for nearly 4,000 personnel to assist in conducting the games. With the projected cost of assistance by the Defence Ministry nearing to Rs 100 crore, the Cabinet Secretary will hold a crucial meeting on Wednesday that is expected to decide, amongst other things, on who will foot the bill.

The new request, up from the requirement of 300 officers that was initially brought out, comes as the organising committee now wants the Defence Ministry to deploy nearly 2,500 personnel for ‘marshalling duties’ — to escort athletes and cultural performers from various sites to the games village. In addition, more than 1,200 personnel will be required to fulfil the request for 40 military bands that would perform at the opening and closing ceremony of the games.

Sources said the fresh requests for marshalling duties and the military brands came during a high-level meeting between top military officers and Commonwealth Games Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi on Monday evening. The request has left the Services Sports Control Board (SSCB) surprised due the sheer number of personnel requested. In addition, there is a requirement of nearly 300 officers to fulfil vacancies in the organising committee staff that is short of 600 managers.

While the Armed Forces are confident that the request can be met by calling in personnel from around the country, doubts remain on where the funding would come for deputing personnel and resources for the games.

An initial estimate drawn up in South Block puts the cost of assistance at nearly Rs 100 crore. This would include logistics, salaries and the cost of bringing in personnel and resources like the military bands to the Capital from across the country. It would also include the high cost involved in deploying the Sarang and Surya Kiran aerobatic teams that have been requested for the opening and closing ceremony. However, it has been conveyed that other requests, including helicopter sorties for the Queen’s baton rally, would not be possible to meet due to a paucity of resources.

The sources say serious deliberations will be carried out during Wednesday’s meeting headed by the Cabinet Secretary that will include Organising Committee members, the Defence Secretary and senior officers of the Armed Forces. The Defence Ministry is clear that while resources could be lent in what is seen as a national effort, it would not be possible to foot the bill for deploying manpower and resources for the games as the same has not been budgeted for.

Rs 344 cr being spent to improve roads around CWG venues

An amount of Rs 344 crore was being spent by the Delhi Government to improve and beautify roads and footpaths in and around venues of the Commonwealth Games.

PWD Minister Raj Kumar Chouhan said the amount was being spent to improve and beautify the roads near Indira Gandhi stadium, ITO flyover, IP Marg, Rajghat, Khel Gaon, Karni Singh shooting range, Yamuna Sports complex, Delhi University, Chhattarsal Stadium and Siri Fort area.

He said all footpaths along the venues of the games would be beautified as per international standard.

Chauhan said an amount of Rs 40.66 crore was being spent on construction of footpaths and cycle tracks near Khel Gaon while Rs 42 crore would be spent on street scaping near the Yamuna Sports complex.

He said different types of saplings would be planted near all the games venues.

Rebecca Adlington included in England’s Commonwealth Games squad

Rebecca Adlington, the double Olympic champion, and Liam Tancock and Gemma Spofforth, the world champions, head a list of 29 swimmers selected today to race for England at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi from October 3 to 14.

With 13 places still up for grabs at two trials in August, the bulk of medal hopes are confirmed for battle against Canada, Australia and South Africa, the nations that offer the main challenge in Commonwealth waters.

The rest of the England swimming team will be selected after the European Championships, to be held in Budapest from August 4 to 15, and the British Gas ASA National Championships, from August 18 to 21 in Sunderland. Included in the England squad are Simon Burnett and Ross Davenport, the defending champions over 100m and 200m freestyle respectively.

Achieng Ajulu-Bushell, the national 50m and 100m breaststroke champion, is confirmed as the first black woman to earn selection for England in the race pool. Her mother, Helen, is English and her father, Professsor Rok Ajulu, one of Africa’s leading politics professors, is Kenyan. The Kenyan Olympic Committee last week let it be known that Ajulu-Bushell was free to seek selection for Britain at the London 2012 Olympic Games after having competed for Kenya for three years until August 1 last year.

Joanne Jackson, Olympic bronze and world silver and bronze medal-winner, was forced to withdraw from the 400m freestyle final at trials three weeks ago after suffering an asthma attack in morning heats. Jackson has a “severe and brittle” form of asthma and is waiting to hear whether the Yorkshire Primary Care Trust will approve a prescription for Xolair, a non-steroidal treatment that can cost up to £8,000 a year and cannot be prescribed by the NHS without special permission.

The England team:

Women: Rebecca Adlington; Achieng Ajulu-Bushell; Ellen Gandy; Francesca Halsall; Joanne Jackson; Sasha Matthews; Keri-Anne Payne; Elizabeth Simmonds; Amy Smith; Gemma Spofforth; Jessica Sylvester; Stacey Tadd; Rebecca Turner; Aimee Willmott; Katherine Wyld

Men: Robert Bale; Adam Brown; Simon Burnett; Ross Davenport; Daniel Fogg; James Goddard; Thomas Parris; Roberto Pavoni; Michael Rock; Joseph Roebuck; Liam Tancock; Grant Turner; Christopher Walker-Hebborn; Richard Webb.

Big-money TT event in June to be CWG test event

Top Asian and some European paddlers will vie for top honour in the USD one lakh Indian Open to be held here from June 16-20 as a test event for the table tennis competition of the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) Secretary General Dhanraj Choudhary said the ITTF pro-tour tournament to be held at Yamuna Sports Complex, sanctioned by the International Table Tennis Federation, would be the highest prize money TT event in the country.

Apart from the huge prize money, the event will also yield valuable ranking points for the players, Choudhary said.

"The event will also give us a chance to see our players pitted against the top players in the continent as well as from Europe. This will, in turn, help us pick our teams for various championships that we have lined up, including the Asian Games in Guangzhou," said Choudhary.

He said Wales, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong have already sent in their entries while confirmation from China, Korea, Germany and Spain are also expected.

The top prize money for winners in both men and women's singles will be USD 12,000 with players up to 32 in both events taking home substantial purse.

Apart from singles in both sections, men's doubles, women's doubles and singles in under-21 categories for both boys and girls will also be held.

"We expect over 200 entries from 25 Countries for this prestigious event. All the participation nations have assured to send their top players for the championships. Since the purse is big, top players of most nations always clamour for such events," said Choudhary.

Queen's Baton 2010 Delhi begins its journey Down Under

The Queen's Baton 2010 Delhi begun its journey Down Under from Parramatta (the first Australian city to host the Queen’s Baton) making its way through the main business district to Parramatta Town Hall with the first Batonbearer Kristy Pond, wheelchair athlete and Parramatta sports person of the year. Five Batonbearers relayed the baton to Parramatta Town Hall very excitedly.

Later in the morning, the baton entered Parramatta Town Hall for the official reception and cultural display. Parramatta Lord Mayor Mr. Paul Garrard, Ms. Tanya Gaddiel, Member for Parramatta and the Indian High Commissioner Ms. Sugatha Singh welcomed the baton with traditional aboriginal smoking ceremony followed by speeches and a number of cultural performances.

The baton then passed to 2006 Commonwealth Games road cycling champion, Natalie Bates, who carried the baton to Parramatta Wharf and took the baton onto the RiverCat ferry with cheering from the crowd. The ferry dropped off the team at Homebush ferry wharf and the baton then went on Marine Rescue Vessel to Sydney Opera House. Along the way the baton had lots of pictorials including with the Sydney Harbour Bridge where the Commonwealth Games Flag was flying atop throughout the day.

Later the baton arrived Man-o-War wharf where students of Gladesville Public School were lined up to greet the baton, after which the baton was handed to one of the students who took it to the steps of the Sydney Opera House and passed it to Matt Shirvington, Commonwealth Games sprinter. Matt Shirvington took the baton on the stage for the official welcome by MC James Bracey from SkyNews who spoke about the baton and its features and addressed all the dignitaries from Australia and India followed by some speeches and music & dance performances.

In the afternoon, eight Batonbearers conveyed the baton across the Opera House forecourt and south along East Circular Quay. This concluded the relay’s Parramatta and Sydney.

In the evening, the baton attended CBCI reception hosted by the New South Wales (NSW) Consulate General of India and the Australian Indian Business Council. This was a well attended reception by leaders from Australian-Indian business community, Games Organisers, Australian companies doing business in India and dignitaries from the Indian, Australian and NSW governments.

India says Commonwealth Games’ security ‘foolproof’

Security plans for the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi will be “foolproof” and potential threats had already been identified and thwarted, senior games officials told Australian athletes on Tuesday.

T.S.Darbari, joint director general of the organising committee of the Commonwealth Games, reassured Australian athletes about games security after bomb blasts injured at least 10 people outside an Indian Premier League cricket match in Bangalore on Saturday.

Darbari, who is leading an Indian delegation to Australia, accompanying the Baton Relay, rejected suggestions competitors’ family members and supporters will be at risk outside protection perimeters which will surround games venues.

“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 the Australian Associated Press.

He said security precautions for the Oct. 3-14 games were 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,” he was quoted as saying.

D.R. Kaarthikeyan, former director of India’s Central Bureau Investigation and a security adviser to the organising committee, said security agencies had already thwarted potential terror attacks but kept the details confidential.

“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.”

Security around the games would be intense and highly visible, Kaarthikeyan said.

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

Later, Australia’s Commonwealth Games chef de mission Steve Moneghetti, who ran the last leg of the baton relay with Sydney 2000 Olympic 400 meters gold medalist Cathy Freeman, said the security situation in India was being closely watched.

“Obviously we’re monitoring it,” Moneghetti said. “It’s good we’re talking about it and aware of it.

“It’s high on everyone’s agenda. I was there a month ago and it was very safe and secure.”

Australian Commonwealth Games Association chief executive Perry Crosswhite said the Bangalore bombings had not changed Australia’s position.

“Certainly (the weekend bombings) is not a good thing, but it doesn’t affect our current position,” Crosswhite said.

“Right now, we’re going to the games and as we said all along, if athletes (or officials) don’t want to go to the Games, that’s their decision and it won’t be held against them.

“I’m very confident the athletes will be protected. The safest place will be the (athletes) village in Delhi, the venues and the transport routes there and from.”

16 deaths at CWG sites: Govt

A total of 16 people have died and eight have been injured in various incidents at the Commonwealth Games construction sites in Delhi so far, the government said.

"Twenty-two cases have been registered against the agencies or contractors (in this regard)," Minister of State for Home Mullappally Ramachandran told the Lok Sabha in a written reply.

The Games will be held from October 3 to 14 this year in the national capital.

Sania targets Commonwealth, Asian Games medals

Newly-wed tennis star Sania Mirza said she will try to remain injury-free and her target will be to win medals in the Commonwealth and Asian Games later this year.

Having turned a new chapter in her life after marrying Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik , Sania said tennis remained on top her agenda and she is focussing to do well in the October 3-14 Commonwealth Games in Delhi , followed by the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.

"Commonwealth Games and Asian Games are coming up and those are my priority this year. I would like to be fit and healthy for these events," Sania said.

"I'm especially eager for the Commonwealth Games because it is in India and it's also going to be my first Commonwealth Games," said the tennis ace.

Looking ahead, Sania said she had not set herself any target as far as ranking was concerned and just wants to stay away from injuries.

"I don't have a target. I never had a target. I think the main target should be healthy and injury-free, which is very difficult in our sport. Still, I will try and play as long as I can and try and get a medal in Commonwealth and Asian Games. I don't have a number in my head (about rankings)," Sania said.

Post-marriage, Sania and Shoaib would settle in Dubai and she dismissed suggestions that shifting base would affect her career.

"Dubai is not so far, it is almost like living in Delhi. It is only three hours' away. I know a lot of people, tennis courts and tennis coaches. That's not an issue at all to get practice and everything.

"We don't spend much time at home any way. I'm travelling, he is travelling. Even before marriage, I used to travel 35 weeks a year. When we are at home, we are usually taking (time) off. Professionally, it is not going to affect anything," she explained.

Sania was also of the view that marriage had brought happiness in her life and it also came at an opportune time.

"It's (marriage) a part of life, it's a phase of life. I think it will add to all the happiness. It's very a positive thing in a person's life," she said.

"I think it is the best time to get married for both of us. He has some time off and I am also nursing my wrist injury. We both had time. After that, we are going back to practising in a couple of weeks and get back to our routine," she said.

Both Sania and Shoaib insisted they were not making any political statement with their cross-border marriage.

"She is not the bahu (daughter-in-law) of Pakistan. She is my wife. It is about two people getting married," Shoaib said.

"Similarly", Sania said, "He is not the damaad (son-in-law) of India, Hyderabad, Secunderabad or Jubilee Hills. He is the damaad of this house. In fact, he is the beta (son) of this house now.

"I don't think there is any reason to make this political. We are all very happy and excited and that's it," she added.

The marriage followed a tumultuous episode, which culminated with Shoaib giving divorce to another Hyderabadi girl, claiming he had been conned into a marriage with her.

Professionally, Shoaib is also going through a tough time, having incurred a one-year ban from the Pakistan Cricket Board, against which he has made an appeal.

"My appeal has been submitted. My lawyer is looking after all that. Once I go back, I will find out what it is exactly. We are waiting for an answer," he said.

"I am not hoping anything because I have not done anything. My case is very strong. I cannot answer more on this. I am just waiting for the next hearing," Shoaib said.

Sania and Shoaib said they would leave for Pakistan soon after the cricketer gets his passport back from police.

CWG opening ceremony will be better than Beijing: Officials

A top Indian Commonwealth Games official has promised that the opening ceremony will be the greatest ever seen -- surpassing even the glittering Beijing Olympics curtain-raiser.

"The opening ceremony, the way it has been planned, it'll be the best ever," TS Darbari, joint director general of the New Delhi Games' organising committee, said.

"Better than Melbourne, better than any Commonwealth Games, better than Beijing -- it's a guarantee."

The comments come as the Indian capital races to complete venues for the October event, after Games chiefs expressed concern about facilities being ready in time.

The Commonwealth Games, the biggest multi-sport event to be staged in India since the Asian Games in 1982, will feature 71 nations and territories mainly from the former British empire.

"It's going to be tight but it will happen," said Darbari, who also shrugged off costs that have ballooned to about two billion US dollars -- nearly twice Melbourne's 2006 Games.

"So what. It happens everywhere," he said.

The four-hour, vastly impressive 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony featured some 15,000 performers and 35,000 fireworks and was reported to have cost about $100 million.

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