Friday, August 6, 2010

DD refutes Kalmadi's claim on free commercial time

In a fresh controversy involving Indian Olympic Association President and Chairman of Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (CWG OC) Suresh Kalmadi, India's national broadcaster- Prasar Bharti - has rebutted the claim that it has committed free commercial time for the games.

In a letter written to the Organising Committee, Prasar Bharti (PB) on May 15 refuted Kalmadi's claim. The letter indicates that no agreement was reached between the OC and its public television broadcaster division, Doordarshan (DD), on free commercial time (FCT).

"Providing any commercial time free of cost would be against the norms and it will be difficult for DD to account for the same in the books..." the letter states.

Kalmadi had claimed that 75,000 seconds of FCT, worth Rs 75 crores, was committed by DD. The letter however suggests that instead of FCT, a revenue sharing model for commercials was reached between the two. In fact, the agreement clearly states that out of the revenue earned, the OC would get to keep 60 per cent and the rest 40 per cent would go to PB.

"We have been suggesting that the OC may like to use as much of commercial time it could and the same would be computed as per DD's rate card," it adds.

In his appeal to the Prasar Bharti, Kalmadi had sought free time so as to be able to repay the government's loan.

"The sponsorship programme of the Organising Committee has been envisaged for colleting revenue to help repay the loan advanced by the government for the conduct of the Commonwealth Games..." wrote Kalmadi.

However, in its reply, DD has dismissed Kalmadi's contention.

"Your contention that the OC would not get money from clients but receive services and kinds from various sponsors doesn't justify off-loading them on DD Air Time as we have to account for each and every second of commercial to the audition authorities..." it says.

The latest controversy adds to the problems facing the Organising Committee Chief who is already under the scanner for alleged irregularities and mismanagement in the organisation of the Commonwealth Games 2010.

According to sources, the controversy has created a lot of confusion among the sponsors are feeling very unsure as to whether they should book their slots or not.

Keeping an eye on the Commonwealth

Less than two months before the opening ceremonies for the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, turmoil reigns as venues are untested or still under construction and top officials have been turfed by the organizing committee in a corruption scandal.
The Commonwealth Games Association of Canada is monitoring the situation and still intends to send a team of some 400 athletes, coaches and officials, CGAC director of sport Scott Stevenson says. He said CGAC president Thomas Jones this week will report his update of the situation after visiting India last week.

“But at this point, we're certainly going,” Stevenson said Friday.

“There have been issues, but we've been able to predict them. The one issue that causes some concern is that they haven't been able to test the venues fully. If they haven't been able to put them through the wringer, we don't know to expect. But if we can cope better than other countries do, we'll be ahead of those countries.”

The New Delhi organizing committee has suspended two officials for alleged financial irregularities, and a third resigned in an uncomfortable corruption scandal. Games organizers also terminated a contract with an Australian firm hired to raise as much as $122-million in sponsorships, citing “non-performance.”

India's government is using the 2010 Commonwealth Games as a spur to upgrade New Delhi's infrastructure and is globally spending $7.9-billion on Games-related building, including stadiums, swimming pools, cycling tracks and tennis courts. One recent report said the budget has increased by 17-fold over the original estimate.

But Suresh Kalmadi, chairman of the organizing committee, said he will not entertain public calls for his resignation.

“The buck stops with me to deliver a good Games,” Kalmadi told Times Now. “If anything goes wrong, I am responsible.”

Stevenson said Canada's monitoring of the situation has been “fairly accurate in projecting the time of completion and there haven't been too many surprises.”

Some Canadian athletes, including top hurdlers Perdita Felicien and Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, have declined places on the Commonwealth Games team. Track team officials have said the rejections were a combination of concerns over catching a long-lasting stomach bug and the Games coming late in the season and possibly interfering with preparations for the 2011 world championships in South Korea and the 2012 London Olympics.

Meanwhile, the Australian team has cited security as a concern, telling athletes everything they need will be in the village and not to go sight-seeing.

“There's not going to be athletes coming and going as they please like at previous Games,” Australian high-performance coach Eric Hollingsworth said. “If they do need to leave the village, they'll have the nearest thing to an MI5 [security service] tracking device on them.”

Canada will send some of its top athletes in their respective sports.

Olympic gold medalist Carol Huynh, two-time Olympic medalist Tonya Verbeek, and heavyweight Arjan Bhullar, a Pan American Games gold medalist, are part of the wrestling team. In cycling, Canada will send Tour de France veteran Michael Barry, time-trial specialist Svein Tuft, 2008 Olympian Zach Bell and points-race world champion Tara Whiten.

Some 8,000 athletes from 71 member countries and states that comprise the Commonwealth are expected to attend the 2010 Games in India.

These men are CP’s new builders

It is the twilight hour in F Block, Connaught Place (CP). Amid apprehensions that the renovation work will not get over by October 3, the first day of the 2010 Commonwealth Games that are being organised in Delhi, tired-looking labourers are carrying on the mud work with shovels and spades. Delhi’scolonial-era shopping district is being given a major facelift in the run-up to the D-day.

Roads have been dug up, corridors have been barricaded and subways have been demolished to make way for new ones. Shoppers have to hop over dug-up portions to go from one block to another.

While many Delhiites are dreading the impression that foreign visitors will receive if the various construction projects don’t meet the deadline and CP continues to look bombed-out during the Games, the labourers are optimistic.

“You don’t worry,” says Pashupati Mandal, 20, a migrant from Maldah, West Bengal. “We are working day and night. We will change the face of this place.” Mandal and his fellow workers have set up a temporary house in a settlement near Minto Road, near New Delhi railway station. They are a part of 1,50,000 migrant labourers who are working to rebuild Delhi for the Games.

“You must take our photographs,” says Sunil Kumar, 24, a labourer from Bhagalpur, Bihar. “There were no cameras when the Taj Mahal was being built. Don’t miss the opportunity now.”

Jaideep Gupta, a foreign magazine vendor in F block, is skeptical. “Will the renovation work ever finish? The labourers break some wall here and before they could re-build it, they move ahead and break something else and this goes on,” he says.

“Nowadays, there is such great technology that highways can be built overnight. I wonder why we can’t replace labourers with machines and finish off CP’s renovation in time.”

What will the labourers eat then? Ashok, 47, a migrant from Maldah, West Bengal, wakes up daily at 9 am sharp at his Minto Road house. His schedule, similar to thousands of other labourers, is simple.

After a shower and prayers, he cooks food, mostly rice and vegetable curry, which he eats for breakfast and also packs for lunch. “If I work from 9 am to 5 pm, I get 135,” he says. This amount is less than what you pay to watch movies in your neighbouring multiplex.

“But if I continue till 11 pm, they give me 270.” Just then, a family carrying shopping bags walks past Ashok and his colleagues. “Why is the photographer taking their pictures?” we overhear a lady saying.

“They’re just labourers.” Be careful about what you say, Ma’am. These are the very people who may save your city from embarrassment in October.

Queen's Baton relay preparations

Commissioner of Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation V.N. Vishnu on Friday reviewed the arrangements being made for the relay of Commonwealth Games Queen's Baton in the city on August 16.

The Queen's Baton would reach the airport at 1 p.m. on that day and would be taken on a 25 km route via NAD junction, Port stadium, Maddilapalem junction, AU Engineering College, SP's Office, VUDA Park, RK Beach, Siripuram and VIP road and reach Swarna Bharati indoor stadium.

Rally suggested

Mr. Vishnu suggested to the officials to line up students, NSS volunteers, youth, sportspersons, members of NGOs along the route. A rally consisting of one lakh participants must be arranged, he said. Hoardings, etc. must be arranged along the route.

For the cultural programme to be held at the indoor stadium from 6 p.m. the GVMC must organise the events and prepare the stage for 100 persons. Mr. Vishnu told the officials to beautify the Swarna Bharati stadium for the occasion. Additional Commissioner K. Ramesh, Chief Engineer B. Jayarama Reddy, Chief City Planner D. Venkata Ratnam, UCD Project Director D.V. Ramana Murthy, and other top officials were present.

Cops to get charge of venues by Sept 15

With the delay in Commonwealth Games projects, the work to put in place security measures for ensuring smooth conduct of the event is also getting delayed. The stadia, practice venues and housing projects will now be handed over to the police only by September 15. Police were supposed to begin security drills, anti-sabotage checks and lock-in the stadia at least a month before the start of the Games.

Now, they are in a fix regarding deployment of personnel and security drills to be undertaken at various Games venues and will be forced to run security drills just days before the Games beginning October 3.

Last year, Delhi Police had claimed that they would take charge of the stadia, Games Village, practice venues and the housing projects at least a month before the Games. However, commissioner of police, Y S Dadwal, claimed that the force is ready for the Games and has even deployed personnel in all the four security layers. "We have been carrying out security drills and there is no threat to CWG," Dadwal claimed.

But what senior officers handling the Games security fear is that they might have to pay for no fault on their part. Most of the Games projects are still under construction. Moreover, once work is finished, a large number of unauthorized structures inside and outside the venues will have to be removed.

Presence of migrant labourers also pose as threat to security. "The agencies claim that there is no such issue but if something happens, the onus will be on us. Police are doing their best from procurement of equipment, deployment and execution of security plan. The force needs completed structures to install security gadgets," said a police officer on condition of anonymity.

"The issue of security was also raised during the recently-concluded security seminar with the security heads of all the participating nations in Delhi. Most of these representatives were given presentation on paper. The real threat exists on the ground and loopholes might remain in a bid to finish the Games-related work quickly. It is yet not clear how Delhi Police plans to respond to such situations," said a police officer in charge of Games security.

In a move to thwart possible disruption of the Games by terrorists, Delhi Police is seeking the help of other agencies, including National Investigation Agency, Central Bureau of Investigation and National Security Guards, to create a multi-agency centre to assist Delhi Police in case of any emergency.

Refusing to elaborate on the role of this newly-created agency, an officer of Delhi Police said, "This has been done as there are several inputs indicating that terrorists might try to disrupt the Games. We will have a system in place to immediately respond to any emergencies in case there is a terror strike."

Kalmadi's Organising Committee influenced big purchase decisions

Suresh Kalmadi's claim of innocence is largely based on the fact that the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (OC) has had a budget of only Rs 1,600 crore, while the bulk of the expenditure on the Games was made by agencies of the Central and Delhi government agencies such as MCD, DDA, PWD, CPWD, NDMC and RITES.

However, documents with TOI show that even if the OC did not spend the money itself, it did its best to influence the purchase decisions of the other agencies on most big-ticket expenditures. The OC made recommendations of brands and companies, and not necessarily of the very best in the business.

It is significant that in its recommendations, the OC omitted the names of several top international brands that have been used in the Olympics or for other international sporting events. Experts who have seen the recommendations describe it as ``highly discretionary''. Some of the companies left out tried to present their case but were blocked off.

The whole things was done in a manner to indicate that the Kalmadi-led OC sought to benefit certain companies on purchases where it was not directly involved. The selective recommendations of brands and companies was known to the brass of the sports ministry, the urban development ministry and Sports Authority of India, and they tried to resist but were bamboozled by Kalmadi's team of ``powerful'' officials.

The OC's recommendations include companies and brands for surfaces, turfs and floors for the various venues under construction. ``Recommendation'' is perhaps a misnomer because the OC's list became binding on all the executing agencies.

The competition, training and warm-up venues are being built by the DDA, CPWD, the Delhi government and others. It's learnt that despite opposition from most of the executing agencies, they had to follow the OC's order in the construction of the 18 competition venues, costing around Rs 3,500 crore.

According to norms, the OC is expected to lay down the specifications for overlays, surfaces and turfs, but not make leading suggestions of brands and companies. Instead of specifications, the agencies were provided with lists of specific brands, one government source said.

While agencies like CPWD and DDA are being blamed for delays in finishing Games venues, officials say the OC kept delaying giving the specifications and finally gave a list of companies and brands in July 2008 which was again modified by the OC in August 2008.

Interestingly, the Games committee suggested only three brands ^ Conica, Polytan and Rekortan for synthetic surfaces for track and field, but omitted the brand that was used in the Olympics. For badminton only Yonex's name was given, and for table tennis two names, while many well known international brands were kept out.

In fact, the government was dragged to the High Court by one supplier of hockey synthetic surface who was kept out of the OCs list.

"Before coming to us the list went through top officials of Sports Ministry, SAI and Urban Development Ministry, but we don't know why they succumbed to the OC's pressure,'' an official of an agency constructing stadia told TOI. ``We are blamed for the delay, but we were ready with the construction work and waited for OC's specification for surfaces and flooring which come very late,'' he added.

In the 267 athletic facilities around the world certified by the International Association of Athletics Federations, at least 20 different surfaces are used. At least 8-10 of these surfaces are well known in India among those engaged in the business, points out a leading supplier of artificial sports surfaces. Still, the OC chose to recommend just three of them.

An official with Mondo, the Italian firm that has regularly supplied to Olympics and international meets, said they never received any reply from the OC to their expression of interest. Mondo supplied to the Beijing Olympics, and is supplying to the London Olympics. ``We visited Delhi several times, but we were never told the reason for keeping us out of the competition. Mr Kalmadi was never available, so we met Dr Bhanot and explained, but with no result,'' he said.

A mere Rs60 a day for vital supplements for India's elite athletes

Thousands of crores are being spent on the 2010 Commonwealth Games, but organisers are struggling to provide Indian athletes with even Rs 200 worth of essential dietary supplements each day. HT has learnt that athletes are getting supplements worth barely Rs 60 per day, less than one-sixth
of what they need in order to be competitive at the international level.

The supplements, which are vital in preparing athletes for the Games, are not merely insufficient, but even what is provided is often so substandard that athletes are not using them.

In 2008 the sports ministry sanctioned funds that would allow for Rs 200 per day to be spent on each athlete's supplements, in addition to Rs 250 for food and Rs 100 for overhead expenses. However, athletes are getting supplements worth Rs60. What's more, they got nothing at all for the first 8 months of their preparation for the Games because the ministry placed the tender late.

This has forced athletes to spend between Rs 10000-20,000 per month, an expense many can ill afford, on supplements. The kind of supplement needed and the quantity varies based on the discipline, with boxers and weightlifters being the worst hit.

"I have been using my own supplements," Olympic bronze medallist Vijender Singh told HT.

"I rarely use supplements provided by our authorities. Sometimes I take the energy drink that we get," said Vijender, even as other athletes spoke of jars of protein supplements arriving unsealed.  "The expenditure on food supplements depends on the weight category and the level of competition of a boxer and comes to around R 10,000 to 20,000."

Weightlifters have suffered similar difficulties, and in their case the problem has been solved by the Indian Weightlifting Federation providing supplements worth Rs 300, and claiming a subsidy of Rs 200 from the Sports Authority of India. The excess expense is borne by the IWF.

"To perform well at the international arena, a lifter requires a minimum supplement of Rs 400 per day," Sahdev Yadav, IWF secretary general said.

A senior Delhi-based SAI official, however, suggested that there was no shortcoming in the supplements being supplied.

"Whatever we are providing is according to recommendations of the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad," he said.

"The sanctioned money for supplements also includes energy drinks and juices and all our Centre's players are getting this as per the santioned amount."

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