Monday, April 26, 2010

Keeping Commonwealth Games in mind, Govt to speed up development works at Agra

UP government has directed the government agencies implementing development works in the city of Agra to complete all works by June 30.

Keeping in view of the huge influx of tourists in Agra owing to the 2010 Commonwealth Games to be held at Delhi from October 3, chief secretary (UP) Atul Kumar Gupta has given directions that all construction works in Agra and expansion in tourist facilities there should to be completed by June 30.

At an important meeting held in Lucknow on Monday, the chief secretary said that the guests coming from the Commonwealth nations will be visiting world renowned tourist places like Agra and Mathura in large numbers.

Keeping this in mind, he has asked the Agra development authority, Nagar Nigam Agra, Tourism, Forest Department and Public Works Department to work on a war-footing to get the works related to them completed at the earliest.

He also directed that operation of battery-operated cars near the Taj Mahal besides works like putting up impressive sign boards which give information about the direction and place etc should all be completed on time.

It may be mentioned that prior to the Commonwealth Games, the Queen’s Baton Relay 2010 will pass through the state of Uttar Pradesh in two phases wherein it will also have a night stay in Agra during its visit there.

In the first phase, from July 8 to 13, the relay would pass through Bareilly, Lucknow, Rae Bareli, Amethi, Allahabad and Varanasi while in the second phase, from September 20 to 22, the relay will cover Lalitpur, Jhansi and Agra before proceeding towards New Delhi. It will reach Agra on September 21 where a cultural function during the night halt has been planned.

On September 22, the relay will be heading towards Jaipur on way to New Delhi.

where are the sponsors...

Toyota, Microsoft, Visa, Omega… these are just a few big brands that formed the sponsorship league of the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. The Games caught the attention of not just the international sporting community but corporate entities as well. In all, Melbourne had eight partners and 15 sponsors for the Games, which with a budget of $1.1 billion, was the most expensive Commonwealth Games held till then.

Circa 2010. With an estimated $1.6 billion to be spent on the 2010 Commonwealth Games (CWG), Delhi might walk away with the tag of being the most expensive CWG ever, but with just six sponsors in its kitty, of which four are public sector entities, the road to recovery of the astronomical amount being spent doesn’t look easy. Leave alone the big international brands, for whom an event like this presents an ideal opportunity to reach out to audiences far and wide at one go, even the domestic ones do not seem too excited about the Games.

This when the 2010 CWG beginning on October 3 is the biggest multi sporting event in India’s history. What further complicates the picture is that while overall sponsorship has been going slow, international companies have already started inking deals with individual teams. A case in point: Adidas is the clothing partner for the England team. So why are brands shying away from the opportunity here? Clearly, there is more to it than what meets the eye.

Among those who have hopped on to the Games till now is the Indian Railways which as the lead partner brings in the highest sponsorship sum of Rs 100 crore. Air India, as the official carrier, and NTPC, as the official power partner, has paid Rs 50 crore each. Central Bank of India won the official banking partner title for Rs 51 crore. While Hero Honda paid Rs 38 crore for the partner tag, Coca-Cola India won the official beverage partner title for Rs 15.8 lakh. Together, the six sponsors have brought in Rs 300 crore only.

The Organizing Committee (OC) of the Delhi CWG, headed by Congress Party politician and Indian Olympic Association chairman Suresh Kalmadi, which is responsible for the planning, management and execution of the Games, had initially asked for Rs 767 crore for the Games from the government. This was increased to Rs 1,620 crore late last year. The money has been provided as a loan to the committee. Kalmadi, at a press conference last month, claimed that the OC will be able to recover all the money and there will be no burden on the government.

According to OC secretary general Lalit Bhanot, the principal sources of revenue for the government are sponsorships, sale of telecast rights, ticketing and merchandise. As per government estimates, the biggest source of revenue will be sponsorships at Rs 960 crore. There are four categories of sponsors which include two lead partners, 10 partners, 12 sponsors and a number of co-sponsors. With only about Rs 300 crore in, it is not going to be easy for CWG to secure a major chunk of its annual budgets.

An obstacle course

Advertisers are certainly not too enthused with the Games. “Right now they are too occupied with the Indian Premier League (IPL). It’s not on the top of their minds. And going ahead, there are other sporting events like the T20 World Cup, FIFA World Cup, etc., which are likely to be on the marketers’ radar,” says Sandeep Goyal, chairman, Dentsu India.

What also is killing advertiser interest is the negative coverage of the event, prominent among them being the delay in readying the venues. Companies would not want to risk their brand image in such a situation. But the OC argues that this is not an issue. “A lot of stadiums have already been completed and others will meet the April 30 deadline. I don’t see any cause to worry. All the events which were planned till now have been held,” says Bhanot.

As of now, there is little clarity on what a company will get if it signs a sponsorship deal. “Unlike IPL where I know down to the last detail how I can utilize the property, there is very little clarity on it,” says the official of a company which is among the major sponsors of IPL. He did not want to be identified.

Advertisers are also concerned over the popularity of sports other than cricket. Even though India has been performing well at the Commonwealth Games and therefore audience interest is likely, the advertisers are adopting a wait-and-watch policy. “We have to look whether an on-ground sponsorship gives a better return on investment or an on-air sponsorship,” says Sanjeev Tripathy, director-marketing, HDFC Standard Life Insurance. All CWG events will be aired by public broadcaster Doordarshan in India and depending on the performance of the India.

team, money might be spent on commercials during the matches. Even the on-air promotion part is tricky, as some companies have apprehensions about the quality of telecast.

The Commonwealth Games is not the Olympics and therefore not all brands are likely to be as aggressive. “It’ll largely be brands which are headquartered in the UK,” says Goyal. He further adds that since the event is in Delhi, and there’s very little or no activity in other states, the response from other regions is also debatable. The OC, though, is confident of getting more sponsors on board by the time the Games actually start. “Even if you look at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, most of the deals came in the last six months. We have a number of proposals and we’ll be signing the deals soon,” says Bhanot. A deal with sportswear maker Reebok among others is in the pipeline, he adds.

The sponsorship tangle

The current controversy around OC-appointed Sports Marketing and Management (SMAM) which is negotiating all sponsorship deals is adding to the confusion, leaving advertisers wary. The Singapore registered SMAM is “the sole and exclusive negotiator and procurer of sponsorship and licensing contracts and as its exclusive supplier of sponsorship management and licensing services” as per the agreement between OC and SMAM.

As laid out in the contract, SMAM gets a commission of 15%-22.5% on all sponsorship deals.According to a report published by The Indian Express, an internal note prepared by a top revenue official of the OC points out that the agency has achieved, “practically nil” results. The note further questions the rationale for giving SMAM a commission in deals with government owned bodies.

“Even the private deals have been done by the OC and not SMAM,” says an official associated with the Commonwealth Games, on condition of anonymity.

The OC, however, says it is satisfied with the work done by SMAM and they have brought in a lot of sponsors with whom discussions are on currently. When asked about who brought in the public sector units, Bhanot says, “the government sponsors are directly from the government. I don't think SMAM is involved”. He further adds that they will be meeting the SMAM official later this month to talk about a host of issues including compensation.

All calls/emails to Michael Bushell, group director, SMAM, from this paper remained unanswered. The company does not have a website. This is rather intriguing considering its core business is marketing. Part of the reason why too many sponsors have not come on-board certainly rests here.

Beacon of hope

The six sponsors who have signed on are, however, sure of getting their money's worth. For Coca-Cola India, which has paid Rs 15.8 lakh, the sponsorship entitles them to exclusive marketing and supply rights for all its beverages at all the competition and non-competition venues. The company today has a wide range of products including health and energy drinks and therefore sees synergies between the games and the company. “Coca-Cola has always believed in promoting a healthy, active lifestyle through sports. Our association with the Olympics, the FIFA World Cup and now with Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games, reaffirms this same commitment,” says the spokesperson from Coca-Cola India.

Hero Honda which has been associated with various sports events apart from cricket, the latest being the World Cup Hockey, sees synergy between what Hero Honda stands for and the games. The motorcycle maker, which is the presenting sponsor for the Queens Baton Relay, is planning to do massive ground-level activation in about 60 cities, involving customers, channel partners, local community leaders, and brand ambassadors in the baton relay as it traverses almost 20,000 km through more than 100 cities in India.

“The association with CWG 2010 is an attempt to promote the sporting culture in India and also to be associated with the largest sporting event in the world after the Olympics,” said the Hero Honda spokesperson.

The government and the OC will be hoping that more corporate entities follow Hero Honda and Coca-Cola into the Games. Otherwise, in a few months from now, we could be seeing more public sector entities and government backed bodies being cajoled to pitch in, in the name of public interest.

Now, Gurgaon cops will mind their language with public

Common words or phrases like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ have for so long been left out of a policeman’s lexicon that most people do not expect to hear these from the police, even during innocent conversations.

This is set to change in the Millennium City.

With the Commonwealth Games approaching and the police department keen on changing the way its officials interact with public, the Gurgaon police have decided to hold lessons on ‘good conduct with the public’ for its personnel.

In the coming months, as many as 3,000 police personnel — from station house officers to constables — will undergo the three-day training programme on communication and behavioural skills.

“Most complaints we receive against the police personnel are about misconduct and not about their malafide intensions,” Gurgaon Police Commissioner S S Deswal said.

Noting that it is necessary to eliminate the “fear” that the public holds against policeman Deswal said: “It is important that they (policemen) be taught to keep control on their ‘mannerism’ while dealing with the public at large and observe proper etiquette.”

Officials said professionals will be engaged for the programme.

“We have carried out such short courses in the past for our personnel and seen improvement. As a government department we need to schedule our expenditure. We are working the modalities out,” Deswal said.

With a shooting event, of the Commonwealth Games, scheduled to be held at the CRPF campus in Kadarpur, the department is also expecting an influx of foreign visitors at the time of the Games.

“Constables are learning English so that they do not face difficulty while communicating with visitors,” the police chief added.

The district police have also started regular security drills along the Sohna Road (Kadarpur). Deswal said proper security arrangements will be ensured for visitors coming to Gurgaon to participate in the Games.

The Gurgaon police have also demanded more manpower and the Director General of Haryana Police, Ranjeev Dalal, has assured to provide about 800 more constables to Gurgaon before the Games.

According to Deswal, once there was additional manpower, the police would focus on improving the traffic management, especially at important intersections of old Gurgaon.

Championing Commonwealth Games investment

SNP Depute Leader and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today (Monday) joined SNP Glasgow East candidate John Mason to outline the SNP's commitment to investment in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and ensuring a lasting legacy for the East End and for Scotland.

In the SNP's Westminster manifesto, the SNP also pledges to lead cross party calls for the return of £150 million of lottery cash diverted to the London Olympics to ensure substantial and sustained investment in the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

The Scottish Government is funding 80% of the games and supporting Scotland’s champions as they prepare for the Games, to build a strong sporting and cultural legacy for the community and the country.

Commenting, Ms Sturgeon:

"Just as our athletes are working hard to be Scotland's champions at the Commonwealth games, so SNP candidates across the country are campaigning to become local and national champions for Scotland's communities.

“In the next parliament, SNP MPs will lead efforts to inspire a new generation of Scottish champions. Meanwhile the Scottish Government is funding 80% of the Commonwealth Games and related construction which - alongside infrastructure improvements and new housing for athletes - is providing much needed employment in Glasgow through this recession.

“With local champions like SNP candidate, John Mason, supporting investment, and national champions like medal hopeful, Robbie Renwick, providing real medal hopes for Scotland, Scotland has a winning combination for a true sporting future.”

SNP Candidate for Glasgow East, John Mason added:

"The Commonwealth Games is a great opportunity for Scotland not just in 2014 but to build an amazing legacy for Glasgow East and for Scotland. That's why the SNP is committed to ensuring Scotland can benefit from £150 million of lottery money that could turn a good legacy into a great legacy."

Sturgeon steps up lottery cash call for 2014 Commonwealth Games

DEPUTY First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has set out the Scottish Government's commitment to the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

She was on the election campaign trail in the Glasgow East constituency along with Nationalist candidate John Mason.

Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government is funding 80% of the Commonwealth games and stepped up calls for the return of £150 million of lottery cash which has been diverted to the 2012 London Olympics.

Miss Sturgeon said: "Just as our athletes are working hard to be Scotland's champions at the Commonwealth games, so SNP candidates across the country are campaigning to become local and national champions for Scotland's communities.

"In the next parliament, SNP MPs will lead efforts to inspire a new generation of Scottish champions.

"Meanwhile the Scottish Government is funding 80% of the Commonwealth Games and related construction, which - alongside infrastructure improvements and new housing for athletes - is providing much-needed employment in Glasgow through this recession."

The SNP caused a major political shock when they captured the Glasgow East seat from Labour in summer 2008, overturning a Labour majority of 13,500.

But Labour are confident they will recapture the seat, with MSP and former Holyrood minister Margaret Curran, who lost to Mr Mason two years ago, contesting the seat.

Mr Mason said: "The Commonwealth Games is a great opportunity for Scotland, not just in 2014 but to build an amazing legacy for Glasgow East and for Scotland.

"That's why the SNP is committed to ensuring Scotland can benefit from £150 million of lottery money that could turn a good legacy into a great legacy."

BBC acquires UK broadcast rights for 2010 Commonwealth Games

The BBC has acquired the broadcast rights for the XIX Commonwealth Games to be held between 3-14 October in New Delhi.

It has signed an agreement with the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games Organising Committee for telecasting the 2010 Games live and exclusively for its UK audiences. The BBC will cover the event on the TV, radio, online, iPlayer, mobile and new media outlets across the UK. BBC Sport Head of Major Events Dave Gordon said the corporation had a rich history of covering the Commonwealth Games and that they are looking forward to bringing the best of the action to the UK public.

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