Monday, July 12, 2010

No rush for bookings yet but Delhi hotels to raise rates during Games

Hotels in Delhi are expected to raise room rates by 15-20 % during the Commonwealth Games, which start from October 3, even as hoteliers are yet to see reasonable number of early reservations.

“Demand is expected to pick up closer to the event that is expected to result in many hotels being fully occupied in October,” said Ajay Bakaya executive director of Sarovar Hotels, which runs brands like Sarovar Premiere, Sarovar Portico and Hometel besides Carlson brands like Park Inn and Park Plaza.

Lemon Tree Hotels vice president-sales and marketing Aradhana Lal said the increase in room rates is expected to be up to 20% more than the current rates.

Several city hotels have already blocked a part of their inventory to be used by delegations and other staff through the organising committee of the Commonwealth Games. Other rooms are expected to be occupied by families and supporters of the athletes besides other individuals associated with the games.

As per HVS India executive director Siddharth Thaker, there are an estimated 15,000 branded rooms of various star categories in the city. “On the ground, even as enquiries are coming in, there are few actual reservations that has happened for the Commonwealth Games so far,” he said.

However, expectation that most hotels will be fully booked during the event could keep out other tourists. Group tours, especially international tourists, are likely to skip Delhi during the first half of October and the likely beneficiaries could be other cities in the north India tourist circuit.

This is worrying top end hotels as only a certain portion of inventory of the luxury hotels will be used to host delegates, said Oberoi Hotels & Resorts president Liam Lambert.

“Ironically, the corporate travellers believe everything is going to be full but we are trying to tell our corporate guests that its business as usual,” he said.

Protest over 2010 Commonwealth Games in Varanasi

 The members of 'Paharuaa Jann Sangathan', a voluntary organisation, staged a highly charged protest against the Queen's Baton and the hosting of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India in Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi city on Monday.

The protestors raised slogans against the Queen's Baton and burnt posters and an effigy of Shera, the mascot of the Commonwealth Games.

They said the Queen's Baton is a symbol of slavery and has no meaning for independent countries.

"We are protesting Queen's Baton because it is a symbol of pure slavery. Queen's Baton means the punishment stick of the queen. It has no meaning in any independent and democratic country. The Commonwealth Games are organised for countries, which were the slaves of the British Government at some point of time," said Rajeev Singh, a member of the Paharuaa Jann Sangathan.

"We are protesting these Commonwealth Games in the name of nationalism, and we are protesting because almost 300,000 slum houses were displaced in Delhi, and were not given any shelter by the government," he added.

The protestors further said the money spent on the preparations for the Commonwealth Games should have been spent on the country's development, and in solving problems like the Maoists and militancy.

The initial budget for the Games passed by the Central Government put the total expenditure at Rs 35.66 billion, but with rising costs, the official figure stood at Rs 100 billion as of March 2010.

Seven out of 10 CWG venues ready, rest in 15 days

Seven out of 10 Commonwealth Games venues, which were entrusted to the CPWD, are ready and work on the rest will be over in a fortnight.

"We have already completed work on seven of the 10 Games venues. The remaining three will be completed in a fortnight," Director General of CPWD B K Chugh told reporters here on the 156th foundation day of the organisation.

CPWD is the main construction arm of the government and is undertaking the construction of projects related to the Games along with Delhi government and the Sports Authority of India.

The venues which remain incomplete so far are the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the SPM Swimming Pool complex and the new weightlifting stadium in the Nehru Stadium complex.

Chugh said that the civil work in all these venues have been completed and only peripheral work like greenery, pavements and laying of cables was being done which is expected to be over in another 15 days.

The CPWD DG said the JLN Stadium, where the opening and closing ceremony would be held along with the major events, has an innovative design for roof over seating tier. State-of- the-art technology has been used for sports lighting.

"This would be the largest membrane roof structure in the world," Chugh said. Membrane roofing is used to prevent leaks and move water off the roof.

Asked about the delay in construction of the main stadium, he said an additional work of tunnel construction was given which delayed the project for a while.

An air-conditioned tunnel for the performers of the opening and and closing ceremonies has been completed inside the stadium below the athletes' track and arena.

"This requirement came quite late and to accommodate this tunnel, all the remaining works related to roof, track etc had to be rescheduled," he said.

"Cable supported halogen balloons would also be placed inside the stadium which required a base, thus delaying the project," he added.

Slow and unsteady facelift for Commonwealth Games

Days after chief minister Sheila Dikshit took her team to task for lagging behind in executing Commonwealth Games projects, Mail Today finds that most stretches are lying dug up and unfinished masonry littered all over in the name of streetscaping

The entrails ripped out of several of the Capital's sidewalks - particularly those located around Commonwealth Games venues - give the lie to the civic agencies' claims that streetscaping work on 23 roads is almost 90 per cent complete.

That these eyesores have led Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit to serve a stiff August 31 ultimatum for completion of CWG projects bears further testimony to the beautification venture making excruciatingly slow progress.

The fact is that just around 50 per cent work has been finished on almost all roads. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi's ( MCD's) July 15 streetscaping deadline for stretches such as Bhishma Pitamah Marg and Lodhi Road (abutting Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium), Maharishi Valmiki Marg (approach road to Thyagaraj Stadium) and Chaudhary Dalip Singh Marg (leading to Siri Fort Sports Complex) is, therefore, as good as missed.

The Public Works Department (PWD) hasn't fared much better on the pavements of Marginal Bund Road - the stretch leading to the Games Village near Akshardham Temple.

With a substantial portion of the work remaining in all these areas and the monsoon bottleneck looming, the worry now is whether the streetscaping projects will at all be ready in time for the sporting extravaganza which is less than 90 days away.

MCD has received Rs 100 crore from the Delhi government for 2010 Games streetscaping work

This stretch leads to the Akshardham Temple and the CWG Village in East Delhi. Four days after being pulled up by the Delhi government for the tardy progress of work here, the PWD hasn't yet got cracking.

A large portion of the streetscaping work lies incomplete on this road. But the civic agency has not bothered to deploy more labourers to expedite the project, which includes paving and greening of sidewalks.

The large amount of construction material on the road shows the work may take another month to finish. "A lot of stone work is left. We need to lay the tiles and intersperse them with granite slabs, which will take at least a month," a labourer said.

While urban development minister A. K. Walia and transport minister Arvinder Singh Lovely have been assured by the PWD that work will be wrapped up soon, the actual situation is grim.

At an inspection last week, Walia had said the PWD must speed up.

"I am dissatisfied with the progress of upgrade of roads leading to the Village and have instructed officials to accelerate," Walia had said. The minister was particularly upset with work on a flyover near the Village.

Govt tells MCD to catch snakes before Commonwealth Games

After dealing with rats, stray cattle and street dogs, Municipal Corporation of Delhi may now go after snakes that have started making an appearance due to monsoon. The Delhi government has told the civic body to make sure that snakes do not play spoilsport during the Commonwealth Games in October.

The civic agency, however, claims it will not be catching any snakes as its workers neither have the expertise nor is it their "job" to tackle reptiles. Said a senior veterinary MCD official: "In one of the meetings held with the Delhi government, it was suggested that MCD should catch snakes before the Games. But we made it clear that we do not have the expertise to catch snakes."

The civic agency is trying its best to control stray animals before the Games. It has worked out a detailed plan and has formed 13 special teams to keep stray cattle, monkeys, street dogs and rats off the roads in Delhi during the Games. "These teams will be headed by a veterinary official each and will do no other work except clamping down on illegal dairies and catching stray cattle," an MCD official said.

The MCD also plans to rope in veterinary doctors to carry out sterilization of stray dogs in return of a fixed remuneration and is setting up sterilization centres across the capital.

To catch rats, it has shortlisted 65 MCD workers from its veterinary department who will visit Games venues. "We have purchased 1,000 cages that the squad can use to catch rodents. The chief secretary of Delhi recently held a meeting asking the MCD to chalk out a plan for ridding the city of rodents as their presence in venues and Games sites would be an embarrassing situation," said an MCD official.

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