Wednesday, July 14, 2010

After taking boat rides on holy Ganges in Allahabad and Varanasi, baton reaches Gaya

After taking boat rides on holy Ganges in historical cities of Allahabad and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh the Queen’s Baton 2010 Delhi has reached Gaya in Bihar.

The baton entered the Eastern state of Bihar from UP-Bihar Border, and reached the holy town of Gaya which is almost 200 kms. Large number of people gathered on both sides of the road to catch a glimpse of the baton.

As the baton made its way into Bihar, it braved heavy rains and continued further. Even amidst the rains people thronged towards the relay route waiting to welcome the baton.

For the first time, kids from various schools displayed tableaux to welcome the baton in their state.  

The first relay in Bihar was conducted in Kaimur Vihar. Here, the prominent Batonbearers were Principal Secretary, Bihar Olympic Association Mr. Mohd. Mushtak Ahmed and national athletics champions including Ms. Jyoti Kumari, Mr. Mohd. Tasleen Khan and Mr. Ramesh Prasad. Weightlifter Mr. Mohd. Sheran Khan was also one of the Batonbearers.

From Varanasi, the baton started in the morning and there was a plantation drive conducted at Krishnawati boating site near Rajghat. Later, there was a welcome ceremony at the UP – Bihar border which was followed by another welcome at Khurmabad, Rohtas District.

Earlier, on Day 17 of the relay, the baton witnessed a religious welcome at the ghats of Sangam city, Allahabad. The baton was then taken for a boat ride at Saraswati Ghat.

At the reception, IG – Mr. Sudesh Kr. Singh, DIG – Mr. B.B. Sharma, Tourism and Cultural Secretary of Allahabad – Mr. Avnish Awasthy and Central Director Tourism and Culture – Dr. Hari Om received the Queen’s Baton Relay 2010 Delhi team.

Then, the baton reached Varanasi via Chunar. The four kilometer long relay started from historic Varanasi Ghat where the baton was again taken for a boat ride. Following this, the first Batonbearer, Mr. Kaushilender Singh, Mayor of Varanasi started the relay. The baton was then passed on to various eminent sports persons and Padmashree awardees like Mohd. Shahid (hockey).

Apart from the athletes and leaders, there were artists as well who held the baton. Padmashree awardees like Ms. Girija Devi and Mr. Balwant Rai Bhatt also participated in the relay.

The baton is now in Bihar’s capital Patna.

Delhi to get 50 luxury public toilets before Games

After getting a clearance from the Delhi high court, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) is gearing up to construct 50 luxury pay-and-use public toilets in the capital before the Commonwealth Games, an official said on Wednesday.

"Initially, we planned to build 218 five-star toilets in the city, but with the legal hurdles being solved only in the second week of July, we have little time to build so many before the Games in October. So, we will be building 50 toilets,'' a senior MCD official.

The project for pay-and-use toilets was floated last September but was held up due to litigation. The cost of constructing one toilet block is estimated to be around Rs 1 crore.

On Tuesday, Justice R S Endlaw dismissed a petition by a businessman, from Greater Kailash-I, opposing the civic agency's move to acquire 1,200 square feet in N-block market for building air-conditioned toilets.

"Already work on these toilets with five-star comforts has started in a few places like Defence Colony and Lajpat Nagar market,'' the MCD official said.

"The state-of-the-art toilets will be better than those found in five-star hotels. The toilets will be air-conditioned and the first floor of the toilet will have coffee shops and flower shops,'' the official said.

According to the MCD official, tenders have already been floated and many companies have come forward to open shops on the first floor of the luxury toilets. Sanitation in the toilets will be taken care of by the shop owners.

"The pay-and-use toilet will collect a meagre amount of Rs 1 or Rs 2 from the users. Our aim is to provide better facilities to public, including foreign visitors who would come during the Games,'' he added.

The civic agency has already identified certain areas for opening these toilets and these include Gulmohar Park, M-Block market, GK-I, PVR Saket, Ambavata Complex, Mehrauli, Green Park Market, Chirag Delhi, Subzi Mandi, Kotla Mubarakpur, Nehru Enclave, Andrews Ganj, Paschim Vihar, Janakpuri, Taj Enclave Road, Paharganj, R K Puram, South Extension Part-I, Ganesh Nagar and Delhi University.

Rain hits Games work, TT stadium delayed by 1 month

Monday's downpour in the capital may well cause international embarrassment to Delhi. Top Delhi Development Authority officials admit that the Yamuna sports complex, scheduled to hold the table tennis event of the Commonwealth Games, would now be completed only by the first week of September instead of August 1, partly because a section of the false ceiling at the stadium shockingly collapsed due to rainwater accumulation.

That doesn't leave enough time for the crucial overlay work to be completed by the Games' inauguration, unless it's started before the venue is totally ready. Officials said the time taken to reconstruct the false ceiling -- an estimated fortnight or longer -- has added to the delay.

Said a senior DDA official, "The handover date has been fixed as August 1, which will not be an issue as far as the Commonwealth Games Village is concerned. But work at both Siri Fort and Yamuna sports complex (YSC) will take longer, with lock-down expected to be September 3."

While leaks were detected at Siri Fort during the rain, a section of the false ceiling at the Yamuna sport complex came down due to accumulation of rainwater. Officials admitted that repair work at the Yamuna sports complex would take time especially as a part of the ceiling had to be taken down. Said the official, "Since the roof design is complicated, the work is time consuming. Besides the ceiling, there are other areas which also need to be wrapped up."
However, senior officials in DDA claim despite the delay caused due to the ceiling collapse at YSC and the leak at the Siri Fort complex, work will be finished in time. Said Veena Ish, principal commissioner (CWG), "The work should be completed soon. Handover will take place as scheduled."

A visit to the two venues, however, made DDA's optimism appear suspect. While debris continues to be spread all around the venues, work is still going on at both places. The approach roads are yet to be finished while landscaping work hasn't even got off the ground. The prospect of more showers like Monday's loom large over construction work at both sites.

DDA meanwhile admitted on Wednesday that "due to the heavy downpour, rainwater gutters provided for roof drainage overflowed resulting in seepage of water and some damage to the false ceiling at few locations." However, it claimed that no damage was reported "except uplifting of maple wood flooring at few places and a few electrical installations".

Officials from the organizing committee meanwhile tried to play down the incident. Said Lalit Bhanot, spokesperson for the OC, "Since overlay work has already started, the delay will not be a problem. Moreover, we have been assured that the handover will take place as scheduled on August 1."

Targeting Games, ministry to market Golden Triangle

The influx of tourists during the Commonwealth Games has great potential for the domestic tourism hubs. Keeping this in mind, the Union Tourism ministry, which is planning to develop and market the “Golden Triangle” tour — consisting of the three cities Delhi, Agra and Jaipur — in a big way.
“With Delhi preparing to host tourists for the Games, we are thinking of marketing the Golden Triangle package during and after the event. Tourists will get to visit more Indian cities and spend a longer time in the country, and generate more revenue for us,” a senior Tourism ministry official said.

Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri are prime tourist spots in Agra; Qutab Minar, Red Fort and Humayun’s Tomb are the major attractions in Delhi, while Hawa Mahal and the City Palace are in Jaipur.

Sources said Union Tourism minister Kumari Selja is interested in developing the concept and has directed top ministry officials to coordinate with Road Transport and Railway ministry officials and chalk out a comprehensive plan. Tourism officials will also liaise with state government officials for easy movement between these three cities.

Ministry officials said the famous Golden Triangle covers three of the most beautiful cities of the country. “The package presents India in its most colourful forms and offers a dazzling vista of magnificent forts and palaces with a rich heritage. All three cities have been the capitals of princely states in the past and are the epitome of the country’s culture, history and architecture,” the official said.

Money spinners
Revenue earned from ticket sales at tourist spots last year

Taj Mahal — Rs 14.87 cr
Agra Fort— Rs 9.25 cr
Fatehpur Sikri— Rs 4.28 cr

Qutab Minar— Rs 10.41 cr
Red Fort— Rs 5.54 cr
Humayun’s Tomb — Rs 4.87 cr

City eyes good business during Commonwealth Games

As Commonwealth Games (CWG) are approaching, the city too has started gearing up for the same. From cultural programmes to hotel packages including siteseeing to workshops on various skills, the city administration has planned a plethora of activities.

UT Home Secretary Ram Niwas said, “Commonwealth Games are crucial and we want to project our best. Indian Institute of Hotel Management is holding a workshop for all the cab drivers as well as the auto drivers of the city who shall be given training in basic conduct skills.” The administration will have helpline numbers for all the fourteen days till it ends at both ISBT-43 and ISBT-17 railway station as well as airport. Administrative representatives would be on a 24x7 duty at all these places to guide the tourists in every possible way.

All the hotel heads plan to hold a meeting and the Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism development Corporation (CITCO) too is preparing a brochure aimed specifically for those fourteen days where the city hotels shall offer various packages. There would be various packages such as: one night stay with meals and site seeing to two day-night stay with/without food. Also site seeing for nearby areas in the tricity shall be included in these packages.

Ram Niwas added, “They have planned special events for the weekends where cultural programmes would be conducted. The artists from other cities would also participate.” The city will get good business as besides Commonwealth Games, the city shall also be hosting a test match between India and Australia which would attract huge number of cricket fans to the city.

Record 304 international boxers are set to participate in CWG

Home advantage notwithstanding, Indian boxers will have their task cut out when they take the ring in this year's Commonwealth Games as a record 304 international pugilists are set to participate in the October 3 to 14 mega event.

The bulk of the participation will come from the African region, which will have 118 boxers in fray, according to the continent wise entry list for the Games.

Among the Africans, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania, are set to field full 10-member squads. In all, 18 African boxing teams will be seen in action at the Delhi Games.

Europe and Oceania are a distant second in the entry list with 45 boxers each.

European powerhouses England and Northern Ireland will have full 10-member squads in competition, while Scotland has so far committed to seven.

"It is going to be one of the biggest Commonwealth Games as far as boxing is concerned. The size of draws is going to be huge. The participation is unprecedented for any Games," the Tournament Director for boxing in this year's Commonwealth games, Lenny D'Gama, said.

"The countries are yet to send the name-wise list for the Games but it won't be too long before they send that," he added.

From Oceania, strong contender Australia will field boxers in all 10 weight categories, while New Zealand will participate in eight divisions.

Given the huge number of entries, light weight (60kg) and welter weight (69kg) categories are set to have the toughest draws with 40 each.

The super heavy weight (+91kg) category is expected to have the smallest draw as only 17 entries have been received so far.

Indian boxers have a reasonably good record in the Games. Mohammad Ali Qamar (2002, Manchester) and Akhil Kumar (2006, Melbourne) won gold medals for India in previous two editions of the event.

In the Melbourne edition, Indian boxers fetched six medals. Apart from Akhil's gold (54kg), Olympic bronze medallist Vijender Singh, a welter weight boxer at that time, clinched a silver.

The boxing competition of the Delhi Games would be held at the newly-constructed Talkatora Stadium. The dome-shaped arena played host to the Commonwealth Boxing Championships in March earlier this year.

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