Friday, May 28, 2010

Scottish seven under pressure to do it for Delhi

THE world of sevens rugby was savoured in all of its glory in Melrose last month, but when the leading 16 nations do battle for the Ned Haig Cup this weekend there will be little similarity to what supporters enjoyed in the small Borders town.
The ball will be the same shape and the rules the same, but from about that point on, the Emirates Airlines Edinburgh Sevens moves into a different world. Melrose Sevens remains a world leader for club tournaments and maintains all that is good about the feeling of "a day out at sevens", but this is a very different prospect.

Scotland are under serious pressure to perform today with the nation's place in the Commonwealth Games later this year partly dependent upon their ability to prove they can hold realistic ambitions of reaching the latter stages of the cup in Delhi.

Coach Stevie Gemmell has struggled for continuity and consistency this season with players coming into his squad and departing, dependent on injuries and call-ups from the professional teams. He has fielded veteran sevens caps like Mike Adamson and club stars such as John Dalziel of Melrose and Selkirk's Lee Jones, but the unavailability of Colin Gregor, one of Scotland's best sevens performers for many years, has been a severe handicap.

Jones is part of the squad this afternoon and he will use this tournament to mark the end of his amateur career and what he hopes will be the start of a lengthy one with Edinburgh as he makes the step-up to the pro ranks this summer.

A strong winger just as comfortable playing scrum-half in XVs, Jones blends the sevens nous learned over many years and countless tournaments with Selkirk Youth Club and Selkirk in the Borders with the professional attributes of real strength, power, aggression and pace.

And that is where this two-day tournament differs most significantly from even the best club event. Where a player with pace such as South African Alshaun Bock stood out at the Greenyards this year, he was not considered quick enough any more to be part of the South African team that will this weekend seek to rekindle the celebrations they enjoyed in winning the IRB world crown at Murrayfield last year, even if they cannot catch leaders Samoa or chasers New Zealand this time around.

Put simply, each team aspiring to reach even the quarter-finals of the main cup competition at Murrayfield must have at least seven fast players in its squad of 12. The other five have to be just quick. They must also have the brawn one expects with XV-a-side forwards to survive the mighty impact from tackles, the kind the South Sea Islanders are famed for, and they must also have the movement, balance and handling skills that set apart those attackers who light up XVs rugby by beating a man one-on-one.

It is hard to judge who the top performers will be now. Russia are refining their game and beginning to emerge as a serious pool threat, while Kenya continue to claim top scalps with a regularity that explains their current eighth place in the world standings.

Scotland have managed to pull together their strongest squad of the series and are intent on finishing on a high, and Gemmell hopes the Murrayfield crowd can again help them in the same way that they roared them into the semi-finals last year.

"The last three years the crowd has been magnificent," he said. "They've cheered us from game one until the very last game that we've played in.

"We need to make sure that the crowd are behind us because of how we are performing. When games are tight, the public help us – the atmosphere last year was unbelievable. If we can replicate that in terms of the public support this year, and we can replicate those types of performances, then this will be a special weekend for everyone involved in Scotland Sevens."

Their pool is tough, but more open than last week's, with Fiji and the USA the top seeds, and Wales, like Scotland, capable of beating both of them on their day. The Fijians have lost their mantle as the world's leading sevens nation, but are still third in the rankings.

The size of Scotland's challenge cannot be under-estimated in an ever-improving sevens arena, but on home soil hopes are high that, while a colourful, social carnival goes on across the back pitches and around the stadium from dawn to dusk, the difference on the field this weekend will lie in the results.

Delhi Metro to set up new shopping outlets

In about a month from now, commuters at Delhi Metro railway's Rajiv Chowk station in Connaught Place will have more options to indulge in some retail therapy. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has readied kiosks to be set up on the concourse of the station to sell hand-crafted products.

The Delhi Metro has tied up with the Union Ministry of Textiles to showcase Indian handicrafts at select stations of its network and make them commercially available. Aimed at promoting handicraft items from across the country, the tie-up entails setting up of 160 kiosks for display and sale of handicrafts at metro stations.

40 kiosks in first phase

In the first phase, the Delhi Metro has awarded the contract for setting up 40 kiosks to M/s Basics for a period of six years. Thirty per cent of these kiosks will be reserved for select categories of artisans such as Shilp Gurus, National and State award winners. etc.

“The Agency has already installed a prototype of the kiosk at Rajiv Chowk metro station. The design of the prototype kiosk has been approved by the Ministry and it is expected to start commercial operations in June,” said a Delhi Metro spokesperson.

The scheme is part of the “Marketing Support and Services Scheme” of the Ministry's Office of Development Commissioner (Handicrafts). “The Office of the Development Commissioner is a nodal body for handicrafts sector. This office implements six Central sector schemes for development of the sector and one of such schemes is the Marketing Support and Services scheme, under which there is a component called ‘setting up of marketing hubs in Metros',” said a Delhi Metro official.

A financial assistance of up to 25 per cent of the project cost subject to a ceiling of Rs.10 crore is made available for the hubs. “The Delhi Metro's mandate was to create these kiosks. Accordingly a Rs.41crore scheme was formulated by the Corporation and the Union Ministry of Textiles, for which the latter has sanctioned Rs.10 crore,” said the official.

The kiosks which will be set up at stations attracting huge footfalls, are expected to fetch good returns for the investors. “Since they will be set up at stations with a high commuter turnout, the kiosks are expected to earn healthy returns. Showcasing the best of Indian handicrafts, they will also prove to be popular shopping destinations for foreign buyers, expected in large numbers during the Commonwealth Games,” said a Delhi Metro spokesperson.

Food items to be available too

“Two kiosks, each 9 X 12 square metres in size, will be installed at every selected Metro station. Besides handicrafts and textiles, local food items will also be sold at these kiosks which will provide an ideal marketing platform to wholesalers and retailers. The food items will however be packed and consumers will not be allowed to eat at these kiosks,” the spokesperson said.

Listing the advantages of the proposal, the spokesperson said the benefits are twofold: “Since the shops will be located at places where visibility in terms of foot falls is high, they will not be required to advertise. Secondly, all the kiosks will be linked by the Delhi Metro network and it will be possible to project the entire range of handicrafts through this network for the buyers.”

Benefits of Games will be felt for longer than 15 days

Only for 15 days? That is the question that comes to mind each time I read a report or hear about how much the Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi is costing us. I shall get to the numbers a little later, but let me first ask: Is the sports and city infrastructure, which is rapidly coming up and making Delhi a more classy megapolis, going to last just 15 days?

A lot of numbers are doing the rounds, including a mind-boggling Rs 30,000 crore that an NGO has released. Let me reiterate that the cost of the Games is Rs 1620 crore – and this is by way of a loan from the Government that will be repaid from the revenues we earn from sale of broadcast rights, sponsorships, ticket and merchandising.

There has been some talk of the city being left with “severe financial legacy.” I shall address that but only after speaking of the sporting legacy that the Games will leave for Delhi.

Seven venues are being upgraded, spanking new facilities for nine sports are being opened and a number of training facilities are being either upgraded or created. And each of these has been designed with the athlete in mind.

Delhi can truly be the sports capital of the country too, what with our national squads training here in the run up to major competitions. Also, the megapolis has the wonderful opportunity to become the most sports-conscious city in India. Its citizens, who are among the most important stakeholders in the venture, have taken to the Games admirably.

The ever-expanding network of the Delhi Metro – I am told that it will extend to 185km during the Games, spanning the IGI Airport to Connaught Place, to the Games Village in Akshardham to all venues – and the 2000 low-floor buses will make commuting in the city a pleasant experience.

Add to that the new over-bridges and flyovers, and Delhi’s commuters will have a hassle-free time on the city’s roads. None of these facilities has been built to benefit only the Games. These are lasting legacies.

I am sure that the new infrastructure, especially the new airport terminal, will also boost tourism and will make Delhi a hub for international tourists. A study by Price Waterhouse Cooper says India’s GDP will benefit by $4500 million over four years from 2008-2012. Thanks to all these projects, as many as two and a half million jobs would have been created.

Let me draw your attention to reports from Scotland where the budget for the 2014 Glasgow CWG has been revised by 70 million pounds to 523.6 million pounds. It wasn’t any different in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Inflation is not a local phenomenon and cost escalation is a common feature.

To brand the Games a wasteful extravaganza is to take a very short-sighted view. Let me congratulate you and your fellow citizens for taking the discomfort during the city development with a smile. Your patience, I am sure, will be rewarded with a world-class city. Rest assured: That is not just for 15 days.

Now, it's OCA's turn to flex its muscles

The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) has taken exception to what it termed was an attack on its Secretary-General, Randhir Singh, by the Union Sports Ministry.

In a letter addressed to the Union Sports Minister, Dr. M.S. Gill, the OCA Director-General, Husain Al-Musallam, has stated that any personal attack on Randhir Singh “will not be accepted and entertained by the OCA.”

He was responding to the ministry letter of May 25 in which it had alleged that Randhir had a clash of interest in the ongoing dispute about the Government guidelines since he was the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) Secretary-General as well as the IOC Member in India, apart from being the OCA Secretary-General.


The OCA letter warned again that any form of interference in the autonomy of the National Olympic Committee or the National Sports Federations (NSFs) would not be accepted and could result in strict penalties.

Notwithstanding the tone of the letter, the ministry sources were formal and diplomatic, reiterating that there was no change in the government policy to promote autonomy of sports bodies.

“In response to the Delhi High Court, the Government has filed, on May 1, the guidelines of 2001 and 1975. These are court property and are to be discussed on August 18,” sources said. Government endeavours were focused fully on the timely preparations to hold the Commonwealth Games in October and the Indian contingent's participation in the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, a month later, they said.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had also warned the ministry repeatedly of the consequences in case the latter continued to insist on imposing the guidelines on the IOA and the NSFs.

Country’s culture to be on show during the Games

The Organising Committee Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi, in collaboration with the Delhi Government, has decided to showcase India's rich culture to the Games visitors by organising a series of events offering a taste of country's music, dance and folklore.

The Tribune reported that the state government has selected 15 venues in the city where cultural festivals will be held during the mega sports event to be held from 3 -14 October.

A host of renowned artistes and singers will perform in the events.

"The cultural programmes are being selected very carefully as we want the spectators to preserve the memories of the events for a long time," the official said.

He said to cater to the taste of young visitors, programmes featuring fusion music and dance will also be held.

Another official said the government had already roped in renowned theatre director Aamir Raza Hussain to stage shows at Red Fort and Quli Khan Tomb in Mehrauli.

There will be light and sound shows at Red Fort, Old Fort and Quli Khan Tomb.

The official said Hussain had been given the responsibility for the Red Fort and Mehrauli shows, while a film company will organise the light and sound show at Old Fort.

Titled Dasatan-e-Dilli, the 45-minute Mehrauli show will show Delhi's story.

"This is a great opportunity to showcase our cultural heritage to the entire world, and we are putting in a lot of efforts to select the programmes for the events," said a senior official with the Chief Minister's office.

He said cultural programmes would be held at venues, including the Games Village, Red Fort, Mehrauli Fort, Purana Qila and Kamini auditorium.

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