Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Usain Bolt won't run at CWG, confirms manager

Usain Bolt will not be running at the Commonwealth Games, his manager Ricky Simms confirmed to TOI on Wednesday.

"I can 100 per cent confirm that Usain will not be running at the Commonwealth Games," Simms informed after the sprint champion’s name figured in the preliminary list of athletes submitted to the Commonwealth Games organisers by the Jamaican Olympic Association.

"Maybe this list was sent in some time ago," Simms added. "The Commonwealth Games is not on Usain’s schedule for this year."

Simms in fact, echoed what Bolt’s coach Glen Mills had said last week. Bolt had himself expressed doubts over his Commonwealth Games participation in a interview to TOI last year.

If finding Bolt’s name on the Jamaican list had raised the Games’ organisers’ hopes, Simms had a stern message for them.

"I do not understand why the CWG official cannot just accept his decision and stop putting out more stories in the press. They should focus on the athletes who are coming to India," Simms said through email.

Bolt might not be willing to come to India as a guest either, if invited. "I don’t think Usain would want to come to India as a guest. He is scheduled to resume training after a 4-6 week break at that time," Simms said.

Ministers to oversee CWG projects

With just three months to the Commonwealth Games and several infrastructure projects still in various stages of construction, Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit has asked her cabinet of ministers to personally monitor the progress of each work.

In a recent, informal cabinet meeting, Dikshit distributed areas to all her ministers and assigned inspection duties to them.

While finance minister A.K. Walia has been assigned east Delhi, public works department minister Rajkumar Chauhan has been asked to concentrate on works being carried out by his own department. Walia will also keep a tab on progress of all works the Municipal Corporation of Delhi is managing for the sporting event.

While the deadline of most of the projects has already been stretched, Dikshit has told her cabinet to ensure the projects do not get delayed any further.

Sources said health minister Kiran Walia has been asked to look at the projects in south Delhi. She is also overseeing the upgradation of medical facilities in Delhi hospitals.

Delhi social welfare minister Mangat Ram Singhal has been given charge of north Delhi projects.

Delhi set for major sanitation drive ahead of Games

With the Commonwealth Games drawing near, civic authorities in the capital are Thursday set to launch a sanitation drive, which would include disinfecting railway stations, bus stops and major markets.

“This special awareness programme on cleanliness will be carried on from July 1 to July 15. The MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) will engage sanitation staffs, a five-member team in each zone to check and supervise the sanitation work,” Delhi Mayor Prithvi Raj Sawhney said at a press conference Wednesday.

Apart from this special team, every department of the MCD will participate in this cleanliness drive.

“We are planning to visit every ward within two days from Thursday to supervise the cleanliness programme,” Mayor said.

Major points of the city like the Old and New Delhi railway stations, inter-state bus terminus, airport, markets, religious places and major road junctions would be cleaned and treated with disinfectants.

The corporation will give special attention to the sanitation of latrines and urinals in schools and hospitals run by the civic body.

To prevent waterlogging during the coming monsoon season, the MCD has a special plan to remove debris from several areas in the city. The officials will identify at least one site in each ward where garbage or debris generated out of construction can be thrown, Sawhney said.

About complaints of debris due to works pertaining to Commonwealth Games, he said: “We will ensure that these will not go into drains, as it would lead to waterlogging during rains. We will strictly monitor and if drains are filled with debris, payments to the concerned contractors will not be made until they clear it.”

MCD house leader Subhash Arya said Rs.1 lakh would be provided for every ward in the city to hire trucks to clean the debris from drains before the monsoon sets in.

“Apart from this, the civic body has installed over 600 pumps across the city to avoid waterlogging,” he added.

30,000 Games volunteers to be trained in 3 months

With three months to go before the Commonwealth Games, the OC is now getting its volunteers trained as D-Day approaches. While the timescale is delayed as usual for the Melbourne Games in 2006, training had taken place almost a year in advance, OC is hoping that three months will be enough to train 30,000 people on not only how to help in conducting an international event but also, how to react in emergency situations.

It's a concern that OC's training partners, a consortium headed by Amity University including Event Knowledge Services (EKS) besides others, claims will be tackled by the day-long programmes that have been devised for training the volunteers. Said Christian Napier of EKS, "The timeline has been a challenge... but there are advantages to conducting the training near the event date, since their (volunteers) motivation levels are kept high.'' EKS, incidentally, was the training partner in the Melbourne Games as well as in the Asia Games in Doha and the recent PanAsia games in Rio.

Motivation levels were certainly high on Wednesday as a group of 250-odd volunteers underwent the first phase of training. The training which has been divided into general (one day), role specific (half day) and venue specific (half day) sessions will be imparted to 30,000 volunteers who have come from all walks of life. For many, it's a lifetime opportunity that has brought them from over 500km away like Rahul Goel from Bhatinda. Or simply a desire to showcase the city to a bunch of outsiders like Razi Ahmad from Jamia Milia university. "I'm a student of history and I'd like to pass on my knowledge about the city's past to the visitors,'' added Ahmad. What's common amongst all is the high level of dedication and the willingness to spend time doing something for Delhi. Said Shantanu Basu, one of the trainers at the venue, "The sessions are not only geared to disseminate information but also turn this disparate group of people into a team.''

The volunteers, who will be deployed across various functional areas, have been selected by not only OC officials, but also 40 Delhi government school teachers. Of the 30,000 shortlisted, around 4,000 are from the general public, comprising housewives, retired officials, senior citizens. The others are from Delhi University, ministry of tourism, NCC, NSS and the Delhi government. Added Ashok Chauhan of Amity, "The training methodology has been specially structured for the Games by us, EKS and other consortium members.'' Interestingly, while Amity is training the volunteers without charging OC, its deal with the latter will enable it to be part of the branding exercise for the Games. Said Sudhir Mittal, a senior official from the OC, "The sponsorship is based on the amount of the VIK (value in kind), allowing Amity to advertise as part of the Games brand.'' The sponsorship is worth Rs 15 crore.

Amity university official trainer for CWG volunteers

Amity University has been selected as the official trainer for 30,000 volunteers and 2,000 workforce for the Oct 3-14 Commonwealth Games.

More than 2,000 students from Amity have been selected as volunteers during the Games and over 310 students of Amity have already served as volunteers during the test events.

“The volunteers will be expected to work in any of the 22 Functional Areas. They will gain knowledge and experience which will add immensely to their skill set and competitiveness,” Ashok K Chauhan, president of Amity University told reporters here Wednesday.

There are four phases of volunteer training — general training, role specific training, venue specific training and leadership training.

After the general training, the role specific training (half a day) of over 22,000 volunteers, will start from July 1 and finish by August-end. Venue specific training (half a day) of all 30,000 volunteers will start from Aug 1 at various stadiums and will finish by September 15.

“The leaders chosen from among these volunteers will then undergo the leadership training at Amity,” he said.

The training modules have been very carefully designed to meet the requirement during the games, said Chauhan.

The general training is divided into eight sessions providing comprehensive details on the background of the CWG, heritage of Delhi, workforce operations, accreditation process for different groups, conflict resolution and the importance of communication.

Air quality monitoring system for Commonwealth Games by July-end

By July-end the air quality monitoring system developed for the Commonwealth Games will start providing real time pollution data at 11 key locations in the city - and will continue to do so till long after the Oct 3-14 mega event is over.

Scientists from the Pune-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) are in the process of installing air quality monitoring stations at the 11 locations near the Games village and venues.

The air quality stations will provide information on level of pollution within a four-kilometre radius on an hourly basis and forecast about air quality 24 hours in advance through wireless colour digital display panels which will be installed in various parts of the capital.

The monitoring stations are part of the System of Air Pollution Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) developed by the IITM at a cost of Rs.100 million (USD 2 million).

"The system will tell us about the quality of air at any given moment and also what it will be 24 hours later, thus alerting people and helping them avoid immediate exposure to unhealthy air," Gufran Beig, SAFAR scientist and project director, told IANS.

The IITM has already started receiving data from air quality monitoring stations installed at the Palam meteorological office near the Indira Gandhi International Airport, the IITM office in West Delhi and the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF) in Noida on the national capital's outskirts.

At eight other places - Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru Sports Complex, Thyagaraj Sports Complex, Indira Gandhi Sports Complex, Dr. S.P. Mukherjee Swimming Stadium, Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, Siri Fort Sports Complex and Yamuna Sports Complex - it will be operational by the end of July.

A team of IITM experts has been stationed in the capital since mid-June to complete the installation work after their receiving clearance from the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee.

"The air monitoring system will be housed in a walkway shelter made of glass-reinforced material to make it water- and fire- proof," said Beig.

The monitoring system comprises instruments like ozone and carbon monoxide analysers, particulate matter analysers and real time analysers for recording other pollutants.

"The institute has already begun the trail run of SAFAR. We are now validating the data of Oct 2008 and 2009 by putting in parameters like temperature, pressure and humidity and matching the forecast made by the system with the real weather during that time. As of now, the accuracy level is 90 to 95 percent," Beig said.

According to scientists, weather forecast during the Games will be more accurate as they have prepared a vehicle emission inventory for the Games.

Explaining how the generated data will come handy for air quality forecasting, Beig said: "If on a particular day it is found that the pollution level is high, we will recommend to the Delhi government to shut some industries or divert traffic near the venues."

The monitoring system is important as some athletes have hinted at skipping the Games as they fear that Delhi's air is unsafe to breathe. But the Games Organising Committee says it is committed to ensuring clean air as the event has been dubbed the first-ever Green Games.

The organisers are confident that the existing traffic density can be reduced drastically by providing quality public transport by way of more Metro trains and green buses.

The Indian capital is among the most polluted cities in the world and the ever-growing number of cars, two-wheelers and three-wheelers occupy a staggering 75 percent of road space, although only 20 percent of the commuting public use them.

Delhi has over five million vehicles and another four million come to the metropolis from towns in adjoining states in the National Capital Region (NCR).

The Games organisers are keeping their fingers crossed, hoping the scientific methods to improve the quality of air in the capital will succeed.

China had a tough time battling air pollution during the Olympic Games last year and there are doubts whether Delhi can be as effective as Beijing in enforcing traffic curbs, raising emission standards and stopping Games' construction work well in time to improve air quality.

But India is hard at work to ensure a pollution-free event.

Commonwealth Games: Queen's Baton reaches Srinagar

The Queen's Baton Relay for the 2010 Commonwealth Games (CWG) reached Srinagar on Tuesday.

The Queen's Baton was taken to the famous Nishat Gardens where sportspersons of the Kashmir valley were present in large numbers.

" We are carrying a message of peace and harmony. After all, sporting activities have no borders, no religion, and no nationality. Its just pure...promoting tolerance, camaraderie and accommodation. That's the message we are carrying," said Lieutenant General (retired) Raj Khadyan, head of the Queens Baton Relay Run, in India.

The sportspersons in Kashmir were happy, and said this baton was a sign of peace.It's not only about the Commonwealth...this is about sports. So, I think, Jammu and Kashmir is very lucky they are witnessing this rally," said Ishfaq Ahmad, a football player.

The baton will cover most states and union territories, travelling a distance of over 20,000 km, before finally reaching New Delhi on September 30.

The Queen's Baton relay is a torch race symbolising the unity and shared ideals of the Commonwealth of nations. It carries a message from the head of the Commonwealth of Nations, currently Queen Elizabeth II of the UK.

The baton has the ability to capture images and sound as it travels throughout the nations of the Commonwealth. With Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, it can be tracked through exact location.

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