Monday, June 14, 2010

Deadline for CWG practice venue extended

Barely three months to go for the Commonwealth Games, and the practice venue coming up at the Village is yet to be completed. The Delhi Development Authority (DDA), agency entrusted with the task of constructing the venue, says completion is still months away. Incidentally, the Village itself will only be handed over to the organizing committee in August.

Acknowledging the delay, senior DDA officials claimed the reason for the extended deadline was the slow pace of work that previous contractor had been maintaining. "Because the pace of work was so slow, we had to terminate the services of the contractor, and take over construction ourselves. This resulted in slight delay," added the source.

In November last year, the development authority had cancelled the contract of the company that had previously won the bid for construction of the practice venue. At that time, Sportina Payce Infrastructure had been removed for not complying with the terms of the agreement and for missing deadlines.

However, sources admitted that continued delay had sent alarm bells ringing, especially as the practice venue is being built specifically for the athletes who will be staying at the Village.

Sources in the OC claimed that overlays after handover would again take at least a couple of months, putting a tight schedule for completion of the work.

Interestingly, DDA officials claim that since the stadium is a "practice" venue, it is not bound by the stringent deadlines of the other venues. A fact that OC officials are not convinced about. Said a senior OC official, "After handover, there are several processes that would need to be followed to bring it (the venue) to international sporting standards. That takes time."

Moreover, the delay in laying the field of play (FOP) — which will be done by the same company chosen for other sporting venues — is leading to mounting expenses, claim DDA officials. The venue — for swimming, athletic track and weightlifting and wrestling in the indoor hall and fitness centre — is not expected to be completed before August-end/September.

The Village, meanwhile, will be handed over in August. While the 1,100-odd flats are apparently 'complete' according to officials of Emaar MGF, the consortium which has built the complex, DDA officials say, handover will take time.

"A number of support works like laying of sewer lines as well as internal roads is yet to be completed. This will take some time," said a senior DDA official. Incidentally, the original deadline for the Village was March 31, 2010.

DMRC to provide preliminary medical aid to commuters

In their bid to improve commuter service, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) from now on will provide preliminary medical aid to the commuters who fall sick while traveling by Metro.

The DMRC will set up special first aid kiosks at main Metro stations during the Commonwealth Games to provide medical services
to the Metro commuters.

"We have shortlisted 23 Metro stations which are expected to have a high footfall during the Commonwealth Games. The kiosks will be set up at these stations. Each station will have a four-member team, trained in administering first-aid," said DMRC spokesperson Anuj Dayal.

The DMRC has tied up with St. John Ambulance Brigade, a charitable organization.

Besides providing first aid, DMRC will also provide basic medical facilities such as medicines and checking of blood pressure will also be provided, said Dayal.

"While the first aid professionals will be from the St.John Ambulance Brigade, the medicines and other related equipment will be provided by the DMRC," said Dayal.

Ambulances will be stationed at some strategic locations from where they can be rushed to the Metro stations in cases of emergency.

The customer relation associates of the DMRC, posted at every Metro station, are also being given first aid training.

The station staff has also been given a list of the hospitals near their stations where unwell commuters can be taken.

Construction Deadlines Loom for India

Residents of New Delhi are anxiously awaiting the monsoon season, which brings with it relief from the summer heat, but the coming rain could spell further trouble for Commonwealth Games organizers.

With a June 30 deadline for completion of the Games venues fast approaching, the mountainous piles of debris around unfinished stadiums, dug-up roads and on-going Metro construction work presents a gloomy picture in the Indian capital.

The 12-day sporting extravaganza involving 71 nations from the former British empire is already the most expensive Commonwealth Games in history, with an infrastructure and organizing budget of $2 billion. The previous event in Melbourne, Australia, in 2006 cost $1.1 billion.

Monsoon rains are expected to hit the city around July 1, causing major problems for organizers as they race against time to be ready to host the event, which begins on Oct. 3.

The Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, which hosts the opening and closing ceremonies, track and field events, the swimming complex and the cycling velodrome, is causing the most concern.

The Commonwealth Games Federation has repeatedly said more delays would mean the venues would not be tested properly before the competition begins.

“It does not take rocket science to know that monsoon hits Delhi sometime in late June or early July, and it has a major slowdown effect on construction,” a Delhi government official told the Times of India last week.

Local organizers remain confident their plans will not be washed away by the annual torrential rain, which reduces much of the city to a quagmire for weeks at a stretch.

“There is no doubt everything will be ready on time, whatever anyone may say,” organizing committee secretary-general Lalit Bhanot said.

Jaipal Reddy, the senior government minister overseeing the construction, last week repeated pledges that the June 30 deadline would be met.

Not everyone shares that optimism, least of all Delhi’s harried residents, who negotiate their way every day through a rubble-filled city that often resembles a huge building site.

“They must be six months behind schedule, if not more,” bank executive Sanjaya Gupta said. “Perhaps they could get the Games postponed until next year.”

The latest indication of trouble came from city officials who leaked information to the media that a four-kilometer elevated road between the main stadium and the athletes’ village would not be finished before mid-August.

Circle rates for properties increased in Delhi

The Delhi government Monday massively hiked the circle rates, or land valuation rates, for properties in  a move that is expected to generate additional revenue before the Commonwealth Games.

The decision to increase the rates was taken at a cabinet meeting Monday.

The circle rates — minimum rate for valuation of land for residential use — for 2,480 colonies will vary from Rs.9,000 to Rs.125,000 per sq m.

Rates for posh colonies like Defence Colony, Friends Colony, Greater Kailash, Green Park, Nehru Place, Sunder Nagar, Vasant Kunj will be Rs.125,000 per sq m, while in the case of villages and certain other colonies it will be Rs.9,000 per sq m.

“The new circle rates for 2,480 localities will be publicised soon. The new rates will go a long way in ensuring property transactions at reasonable rates as far as genuine purchasers and sellers are concerned,” said Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.

Diskhit said that based on the report submitted by the cabinet committee it has been decided to introduce circle rates based on localities/colonies instead of the existing basis of unit area method and associated categorisation of colonies from A to H Category.

Presently, the minimum rate for valuation of land for residential use is Rs.43,000 per sq metre for category A, while it is Rs.34,100 per sq m for category B. For Category C, it is Rs.27,300 per sq m; Category D - Rs.21,800 per sq m; Category E - Rs.18,400 per sq m; Category F - Rs.16,100 per sq m; Category G - Rs.13,700 per sq m and Category H - Rs.6,900 per sq m.

The move to hike circle rates for properties is expected to help the government earn additional revenue at a time when it is facing a financial crunch in the wake of large spending on improvement of infrastructure in the capital for the Commonwealth Games Oct 3-14.

Delhi's Common-poverty Games

In preparation for the upcoming 2010 Commonwealth Games, Delhi is bursting with expensive construction and renovation projects. But these measures may further cripple the already struggling Indian economy, says Michael Arthur

Few would describe Delhi as a calm and peaceful city. But the noise pollution has reached a crescendo recently as construction workers toil day and night. This October, once the baking north Indian summer has eased, Delhi will stage the 2010 Commonwealth Games. In a city where millions live in utter destitution, vast stadiums are being constructed at immense cost.

Developers keen to cash in on the anticipated influx of visitors are building a rash of new hotels. Construction workers can be seen on building sites throughout the city without hardhats or even shoes, their small children beside them as they break stones.

No city as poor as this has ever attempted to stage such a tournament. The promise is that the Games will herald a new chapter in Delhi's history, enhancing its international reputation and providing a major and lasting economic boost.

But Delhi may have been sold a lie. The legacy of staging major sporting events is, at best, patchy. Athens was sold the same dream. When the Greek capital won the right to stage the 2004 Olympics it was billed as an opportunity for renewed wealth and glory for this most ancient of cities. But the legacy is a Greek tragedy of immense financial debt. Up to 21 of the 22 stadiums built for the Olympics now lie abandoned. Some have become gypsy camps. The Athens Olympics cost a reported £9.4bn, leaving a debt of €50,000 for each Greek household. Six years later, Greece is on the precipice of utter economic ruin.

But Delhi builds on. High fences are being erected to hide unsightly slums from the anticipated visitors. In the words of the Indian Express newspaper: "If you don’t see it, it doesn’t exist. That seems to be the view of the authorities."

The event offers the Delhi authorities the chance to sell the lie of the shining new India. This is a country which has higher rates of child malnutrition than sub-Saharan Africa, but which also puts satellites into space. Now Delhi is spending immense sums on a sporting event - even diverting funds specifically earmarked for anti-poverty measures.

At first, the fear was that the city's notoriously terrible transport infrastructure would creak under the pressure of Commonwealth Games visitors. But the new fear is quite the opposite.

South Africa, another country of extreme wealth disparity, is hosting the football World Cup. Hoteliers in the country have reported an alarmingly low levels of uptake for hotel rooms. According to the Daily Telegraph: "Many spent thousands of pounds renovating their properties and are struggling to recoup the costs. Thomas Cook has already slashed travel prices by more than £1,000 after only half the expected 500,000 fans booked flights to see matches live."

The World Cup, the globe's most popular sporting event, is threatening to be an economic dud. What chance, therefore, does Delhi have with the Commonwealth Games? In the global economic downturn, Delhi has been persuaded to stage a cripplingly expensive party, and the guests might not even turn up.

Athletics: Greene goes flat out to boost Delhi hopes

EUROPEAN No 1 Dai Greene produced the pick of the performances on day one of the Welsh Athletics Championships and Commonwealth Games trials.

Greene’s was one of a number of strong displays by Wales’ leading prospects for the Commonwealth Games in October at the Cardiff International Stadium on Saturday.

Swansea Harriers 400m hurdle specialist Greene went in the 400m flat and easily qualified through the heats with a time of 48.23 seconds to go up against Commonwealth veteran and double silver medallist Matt Elias in the final.

Elias was forced to pull out after 200m of the final, leaving Greene to romp home well ahead of the field in a winning time of 46.38secs.

It was a good outing for Greene despite the strong headwind and useful preparation for a busy few months which includes the European Championships and Commonwealth Games.

“For years I’ve wanted to be No 1, so now I’ve achieved that spot in the UK and in Europe I don’t want to shy away from it,” he said.

“I wanted to go faster, but the weather conditions didn’t really allow for it.

“I’m pleased with my performance because the 400m flat is not an event I do very often.

“I’ve been coping with a couple of injuries and Welsh Athletics have been great and allowed me not to hurdle on Sunday.

“With the European Team Championships, European Championships and then Commonwealth Games it’s going to be a busy few months – and I want to be peaking in October.”

Bridgend decathlete David Guest, who smashed the Welsh senior decathlon record last week, kept his sparkling form going with an impressive performance in the 110m hurdles.

The 18-year-old student claimed his first senior men’s title at the Combined Events Championship in Bedford the previous week and added a Welsh Championship title to his CV with a time of 14.86.

He said: “I was a little bit tired going into the race.

“I met up with my physio on Tuesday because my knee was a little bit dodgy after Bedford.

“But I had it well strapped and the physio gave me the all-clear.

“I’m still on a high from last weekend.

“I’m full of confidence and looking forward to competing.

“I enjoyed myself out there.

“It’s good preparation for the World Junior Championships in Canada next month.

“I know there will be some very strong competition, but I am looking forward to it.

“If I do my best, I should be within the medal places which will be great.”

Elsewhere on Saturday, Wrexham’s James Miles won a close men’s 1500m final ahead of Belgrave Harriers runner Steve Davies.

Swansea Harrier Amanda Jones took the women’s 1500m final and the 110m women’s hurdles crown went to Heather Jones of Carmarthen Harriers.

Javelin prospect Lee Doran threw 71.98m to take the men’s crown in front of Simon Bennett with 62.14m.

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