Monday, June 21, 2010

Commonwealth Games: Queen's Baton Relay to enter India on June 25

The Queen's Baton Relay for the Commonwealth Games is to enter India from Pakistan via the Wagah border on Friday. A grand event has been planned for the occasion after which the baton will travel through the country before reaching New Delhi ahead of the event in October.

The baton will enter India from Pakistan at 9.25 a.m.

"President of Pakistan Olympics Association Syed Arif Hassan would hand over the baton to Indian Olympics Association (IOA) chief Suresh Kalmadi at the Attari-Wagah border. Other senior IOA officials will also accompany Kalmadi during this historic ceremony," Raja Sidhu, nodal officer of IOA and the Punjab government, told IANS.

After crossing the border, the baton will cover nearly 28 states and seven union territories, travelling a distance of over 20,000 km, before finally reaching New Delhi on Sep 30.

The national capital is set to host the Commonwealth Games from Oct 3-14. It will be the biggest sporting extravaganza to be held in India after the country hosted the 1982 Asian Games.

The Queen's Baton Relay is a relay around the world held prior to the beginning of the games. The baton carries a message from the head of the Commonwealth of Nations, currently Queen Elizabeth II of the UK.

The baton for the 2010 Games was launched by Queen Elizabeth II from Buckingham Palace in London on Oct 29 last year in the presence of President Pratibha Devisingh Patil.

India's only gold medal winner in the Olympics, shooter Abhinav Bindra, was the first baton-bearer of the longest relay for any CWG.

"Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal will later receive the baton. Olympians like Bindra, Vijender Singh and Sushil Kumar are also expected to be present there but we are still waiting for their final confirmation. A symbolic relay will be held at the time, but the actual relay will be held in the evening," said Sidhu.

He said thousands are expected to witness the event.

Elaborate arrangements have been made to welcome the baton at the border and a roadmap has been prepared of the various halts and programmes on the relay route.

"The function will start at around 8 a.m. and a special cultural programme will be organised before the baton moves towards Amritsar," Punjab sports director and nodal officer of state government Pargat Singh told IANS.

He said: "After an overnight stay at Amritsar, the baton is scheduled to reach Patiala at 4 p.m. June 26 via Jalandhar and Ludhiana. At all these places, hundreds of spectators, including international-level players, will extend a warm welcome to it. We have made arrangements for refreshments for the participants and spectators."

By the end of its journey, the baton will have travelled over 190,000 km, through different modes of transport across land, air and sea, in 340 days, making the baton relay 2010 one of the longest relays in the history of the CWG.

The Amritsar police and administration have made foolproof arrangements to ensure the security and safety of the baton.

"The district police have made all arrangements to ensure the security of the baton. We have already made all arrangements for guests coming to Amritsar for this gala event. This is a big event and we are working day and night to make it a big success," K.S. Pannu, deputy commissioner of Amritsar, told IANS.

The Wagah border is around 30 km from Amritsar, which is around 250 km from state capital Chandigarh.

India's Commonwealth Games Face Monsoon Test

New Delhi residents can't wait for the onset of the monsoon to bring relief from the summer heat, but the impending rains could spell further trouble for Commonwealth Games organisers.With a June 30 deadline for completion of the Games venues fast approaching, the 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 mostly from the former British empire is already the most expensive Commonwealth Games in history, with an infrastructure and organising budget of two billion dollars.Monsoon rains are expected to hit the city on schedule around July 1, causing major problems for organisers as they race against time to be ready to host the event, which begins on October 3.

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

The Commonwealth Games Federation has repeatedly said that more delays would mean the venues have not been tested properly before the real 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 organisers remain confident that their plans will not be washed away by the annual torrential rains, which reduce 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," organising committee secretary-general Lalit Bhanot told AFP.Jaipal Reddy, the senior government minister overseeing the work, 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," said bank executive Sanjaya Gupta. "Perhaps they could get the Games postponed till next year."

The latest indication of trouble came from city officials who leaked information to the media that a four-kilometre (2.5 mile) elevated road between the main stadium and the athletes' village would not be finished before mid-August.

The rush to complete Games-related work is also proving hazardous. On May 29, a public transport bus full of passengers sank into a large crater that appeared in a newly constructed road.Municipal officials said the road had caved in because its foundation layers were washed away when sewer pipes underneath began to leak.

Zoo to get facelift before Commonwealth Games.

Shera — mascot of the XIX Commonwealth Games 2010 — is all set for special treatment at the National Zoological Park in the Capital during the Games.

With an eye to attract tourists who will visit Delhi during the Games, zoo authorities have started construction of a waterfall at tiger’s enclosure. Apart from this, work for facelifting of the front gate, construction of a souvenir shop and other facilities for visitors will start soon. “We have chosen tiger’s enclosure for the waterfall programme as the Mascot of Games is Tiger (Shera). We have also started beautification work to attract more tourists,” said Anand Krishna, Joint Director of National Zoological Park.

At present, the spring at tiger enclosure is constructed in half of the area but to give it a better look, it will be spread to the whole enclosure. The water will flow from artificial spring to the moat of the enclosure and will again circulate to the artificial spring. “The waterfall will be joined with a small channel to make it more attractive. It will be nice even for the tigers as they love to be in water,” said Krishna.

The modernisation work has already started on the zoo premises and in the area of administrative office of the zoo, a three-foot deep pond will be constructed which will have fishes, lotus and water fountain. Signages will be put on the zoo premises and work to renovate and paint the animals’ enclosures has already started. “Under the major refurbishment plan, the main gate of the zoo will be renovated with Mangalore tiles using latest designs. On one side of the main gate, the cloak room will be constructed and on the other side, a souvenir shop and an ATM facility of Union Bank of India will be installed,” said Anand Krishna, Joint Director of National Zoological Park, Delhi.

Delhi Zoo is one of the oldest zoological parks in the country. It will be one of the tourists’ attractions in the city looking for a break during the 10-day mega sports event beginning on October 3 until October 14.

“It is our initiative to give a facelift to the zoo as we are also a part of this city and a lot of visitors are expected to visit the zoo. The cost of the project is still not finalised and the yearly fund which we get from the Ministry would be utilised in this work,” said Krishna.

There are ample number of water points and drinking water facility. Several ice-cream and mineral water vendors are deployed on the zoo premises and authorities are running several battery-operated open-roofed mobile vans, which visitors can use at nominal rates for reaching intra-zoo departments.

The zoological park is spread over an area of 214 acres that consists of more than 1,400 animals, including mammals, reptiles and birds from several countries like America, Africa and Australia.

Jaguar, Royal Bengal tiger, Gir lion, giraffe, hippopotamus, African wild buffalo, spider monkey, zebras, stump tailed macaque, red jungle fowl, hyenas, emu, hoolock gibbon, banteng, axis deer, fallow deer, peafowl and hog dear are the major attractions at the zoo.

Rs 33-cr Commonwealth Games’ kitchen bill, and that’s just for the dishes

When the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee said they will leave a legacy behind, may be kitchen equipment worth Rs 12 crore was not what they had in mind. With much time lost on deliberation, the OC will now have to buy the entire kitchenware for the event, earlier supposed to be rented at a much lower rate.

The expression of interest for the catering tender was floated on June 27, 2008, following which 25 players submitted their bids. The tenders were sent out in August and the bid was won by consortium of Australian firm Delaware North, Indian firm Taj Stats and PKL London, the world leaders in kitchen equipment rental. PKL London was to supply kitchen equipment on rental basis as part of the same catering budget — in the original contract the total allocation for equipment was just Rs 20 crore.

However, the bid was cancelled months later on the excuse that the firm did not pay the earnest money of around Rs 30 lakh. A fresh tender was floated on February 3 this year and the same consortium won the bid, but without PKL London.

“The first time the award was won by a consortium of Delaware North, Taj Stats and PKL London. The second time around PKL opted out of the consortium due to their prior commitments. We have since signed a contract with both the caterers and PKL London separately,” said Organising Committee spokesperson Lalit Bhanot.

Sources said the separate contract with PKL was needed as Delaware North said only PKL must supply the kitchen equipment. “Delaware North had clearly stated that it won’t be able to work in case kitchen equipment is supplied by anyone else. So we did not have choice but to sign a contract with them,” said a senior OC official.

But, complicating matters, PKL has refused to give the equipment on hire. “They claimed they have already pledged their equipment elsewhere and will not be able to rent them to us. So now we have to purchase all the required equipment from their warehouse,” added the official.

Now, without floating a tender or looking at other options, a contract has been signed with PKL for supply of equipment costing close to Rs 12 crore. The OC will also have to foot a bill of around Rs 10 crore for shipping and another Rs 11 crore for installation. Total cost: Rs 33 crore.

This comes at a time when the OC is struggling with the catering expenses. When the tenders were initially floated the cost was pegged at Rs 60 crore by Ernst & Young. Now, the contract for just the Games Village is going above Rs 100 crore. The Games Village kitchen will produce 2,500 meals each day.

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