Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Queens Baton reaches Tirupati

The Queens Baton for the 2010 Commonwealth Games (CWG) reached the temple town, the last tour in Andhra Pradesh, today evening to a rousing reception.

Chittoor District collector V Seshadri received the Baton from District Olympic Association Secretary G Krishna Reddy and later, the collector handed it over to Asian silver medalist in atheltics S Anjaneyulu Naidu at the outskirts of the temple town to formally flag-off the relay.

The relay passed through the main streets in the temple town by national and International sportspersons and reached Mahathi Auditorium, where the relay concluded.

The Baton will be kept at Mahathi Auditorium for public display before taken to Chennai
tomorrow morning.

Delhi Zoo getting a make-over ahead of the Games

Set to get two AC food courts, a souvenir shop, ATM facility and spruced up enclosures

Delhi Zoo, one of the oldest zoological gardens in the country, is getting a facelift ahead of the Commonwealth Games in the city. Spread over 200 acres, the zoo is home to several species of animals and birds and has 200 varieties of trees to boast about.

“The zoo will undergo a make-over as part of the upcoming Commonwealth Games. It is all set to have two air-conditioned food courts, a souvenir shop, new sign boards, ATM facility and more importantly spruced up enclosures for its inmates,” said a senior zoo official.

The zoo had earlier approached the Union Environment and Forests Ministry to release funds for the mega overhaul work that it is undertaking. “The scale at which the overhauling is being undertaken required support from the Union Government as this is probably the biggest modernisation exercise that we are undertaking,” he added.

Work on the souvenir shop is almost complete and the ATM of the Union Bank of India is also being put up.

The zoo authorities are also renovating the old cloak room and modifying the director's office. “New roads are being built within the complex and we are also looking at bringing in new inmates. To facilitate easy travel within the complex, battery-operated vehicles are also being brought in,” said a zoo official.

The zoo is hoping to see many tourists coming to the complex and the modernisation work is expected to make the experience a pleasant one. The authorities are also providing improved parking facilities and more guides to ensure that visitors do not face any sort of harassment.

MCD cancels staff leave till end of rains

With the Commonwealth Games  approaching and the fear of a dengue epidemic looming large, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has decided to get its act together. On Wednesday, MCD cancelled all sanctioned leave  of its staff, announcing that it would not give leave to any of its employees till the monsoon season is over and claimed that employees of the public health department would have to work on weekends too.

Said MCD commissioner K S Mehra: "We will not give any leave to any of our employees till the monsoon is over and public health department officials will now work on weekends. Staff of other departments will also be available as per requirement."

The total number of dengue cases in the city were 297 with 20 fresh cases being reported on Wednesday. While there has been one death due to dengue in the city, there are three suspected deaths due to the vector-borne disease. According to MCD commissioner K S Mehra, fogging would be carried out twice near Commonwealth Games construction sites to prevent mosquito breeding in such areas.

Mosquito breeding was also found in MCD’s own headquarters in Town Hall and its horticulture and works departmental offices. Mehra said action would be initiated against the official who had not taken adequate steps to prevent breeding. MCD has issued 136 ‘VIP challans’ against offices of various agencies such as Delhi Development Authority, PWD, Delhi Jal Board, Delhi Transport Corporation, Central Public Works Department, several government and MCD schools, colleges such as Hansraj, Gargi, Ambedkar, Shivaji and hospitals like Apollo, IHBAS, etc.

MCD has 456 hand-held fogging machines and 10 vehicle-mounted machines. Around six of the vehicle-mounted machines are not functional.

Delayed, DDA projects may again miss CWG deadlines

Rs 1,034 crore, two years and a dedicated team of officers besides thousands of workers are apparently not enough to get projects finished in time. Of the six major projects that the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) was given for the Commonwealth Games — the Yamuna and Siri Fort  sport complexes, Games Village and practice venue, training venues in Saket sports complex and 5,009 rooms in Vasant Kunj for technical officials — almost none have met their deadline.

Now, neither the Yamuna sports complex nor the Commonwealth Games Village look to be ready by August 31 as promised earlier. Worse, DDA officials say that of the 40 towers that were to be ready for the Games in Vasant Kunj, only 20 will be handed over.

The list of projects delayed is certainly long for the DDA. Topping the list is the Yamuna Sports Complex, which has consistently missed all deadlines. While the show court of the main table tennis stadium is yet to be completed — OC vice-chairman Randhir Singh optimistically claimed on Monday that it would take another week —, the rest of the complex has severe drainage bottlenecks that has stopped work on landscaping and even approach road within the site. Officials at the site admit that substantial work remains to be completed before the venue is ready.

Like the Yamuna sports complex, flats for OC staff and tourists in D3, Vasant Kunj are also considerably delayed. Senior officials admit that of the 40 towers that were to be built for the Games, only 20 towers will be ready. Said the official, "We’ve handed over 1,000 rooms for furnishing to the ITDC. Around 18 towers are clear with another tower expected to be ready within a couple of days."

Not more than 20 towers can be handed over to the OC by September 10, the deadline set by DDA, admit officials. Incidentally, the DDA’s commitment was for 5,009 rooms, with the ITDC planning to present the flats as three-star hotels to budget travellers. All such plans have been shelved now, say sources.

Across town, DDA’s Commonwealth Games Village is also causing worry. While construction of the 34 towers is complete, furnishing of the 1,100-odd flats is nowhere near completion. Landscape work in the site is also going on, along with painting and other repair jobs in some of the towers. A club, which is right in the middle of the complex, is also being completed. The practice venue, meanwhile, is still under construction with DDA claiming the venue will be ready by the first week of September.

It’s not the first training venue of the DDA lagging behind schedule. Training facilities in other venues like Siri Fort and Yamuna sports complex are expected to be completed by next month, while the work in the Saket sports complex is not finished as well.

The only venue that DDA seems to have managed to get right is the Siri Fort complex, where cabling work for security and technology network is under way. The main stadium here is finished, say DDA officials, though the landscaping is yet to be completed.

Commonwealth Games sweetener for sports subscribers

Foxtel will broadcast 1700 hours of Commonwealth Games coverage on six dedicated high-definition and six standard-definition channels.

Five channels will be dedicated to various sports while the main channel will be hosted by Steve Liebmann and show highlights and live gymnastics.

The Australian reports the Pay TV operator will not charge subscribers to its sports package extra for access to the Delhi channels.

Foxtel does not expect to make a profit from Delhi, which is hoped to draw new subscribers during a challenging time for the industry.

Coverage will also be available on broadband while TEN has Free to Air rights.

Dikshit nervous about Games preparations

With just 45 days left for the Commonwealth Games and many key projects yet to be completed, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said she was still "nervous" about the preparations.

"It is normal to be nervous till completion of all the works related to the event," Dikshit said when asked whether she was still nervous about the Games.

She said some works have been affected due to rains in the last few days.

Dikshit also took a pot shot at the media for portraying a negative picture of the preparations.

"If you find something wrong then you keep showing them repeatedly," she said, pointing towards the electronic media.

On several occasions in last few months, she had said that she was "nervous" about preparations for the mega event.

Dikshit has been under attack from various quarters for the delay in completion of key projects. Delhi government had undertaken projects worth over Rs 16,000 crore to enhance infrastructure in the city ahead of the Games.

She had last month set August 31 as deadline for completing all the projects linked to the event.

Top officials in Delhi government, however, said important projects like Barapullah Nallah elevated road and renovation of the Yamuna Sports Complex, apart from street-scaping around the Games venues are unlikely to finished by August-end.

The four-km-long Barapullah Nallah elevated road between Sarai Kale Khan and the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the main venue of the event, is being built to provide uninterrupted traffic flow from Games Village near Akshardham temple to the stadium. The over Rs 550-crore project has already missed several deadlines.

Meanwhile Commonwealth Games Federation president Michael Fennell today visited a few stadiums to inspect the facilities and take stock of the progress made in completing all the work at the venues.

Fennell began his inspection tour with the net-ball venue Thyagaraj Stadium in South Delhi and then went straight to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

Fennell, who arrived in the city last night, is on a two-day visit to the country.

The CGF chief, accompanied by CEO Mike Hooper, also visited Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, Indira Gandhi Stadium and the Games Village.

NTPC severs ties with Games, seeks audit of sponsorship fees

The CWG organizing committee has submitted a “written commitment” stating that NTPC’s sponsorship amount will be utilized for the realization of the bona fide objectives of the committee

In what may further embarrass the organizers of the Commonwealth Games (CWG), the board of state-owned NTPC Ltd on Tuesday decided to sever all ties with the event. In addition, India’s largest power generation utility has sought an audit by a government agency of the `20 crore it paid as sponsorship fees.

NTPC, the official power partner of the Games, is concerned that the negative publicity associated with allegations of widespread graft will hurt its brand image. Mint had reported on 6 August that the power utility plans to drop the use of the event logo in its communications for this reason.

The money it paid was part of a total `50 crore commitment to the country’s biggest sporting event in 28 years.

“We have taken a call. Our board met yesterday and we have decided not to give the remaining money to them,” said chairman and managing director R.S. Sharma. “The games logo stands dropped from all our communication. We need an audited account of `20 crore to show us how the money was spent.”

The CWG organizing committee has submitted a “written commitment” stating that NTPC’s sponsorship amount will be utilized for the realization of the bona fide objectives of the committee.

“They gave it in writing. That doesn’t meet anything. They will be required to submit the audited accounts of how `20 crore was spent,” Sharma said.

NTPC had initially sought to piggyback on CWG goodwill to open up fresh commercial opportunities in member countries by developing its brand internationally.

It had signed an agreement with the organizing committee on 10 December, which entitled it to marketing, advertising and promotion rights to showcase the company’s brand in India and overseas.

In a communication—reviewed by Mint and dated 4 August—from A.K. Bhatnagar, NTPC general manager, human resources and corporate communication, to V.K. Saxena, additional director general, revenue, in the organizing committee, NTPC stated: “We are quite disturbed by the various reports appearing in the media about the alleged misutilization of the funds.”

Another state-owned firm, Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd (PGCIL), has also decided not to part with the `10 crore sponsorship fee it had promised.

“We have refused to release any money for the Games,” chairman and managing director S.K. Chaturvedi said.

The sponsorship controversy relates to a contract that the organizing committee had with Australia’s Sports Marketing and Management (SMAM), which allows it a commission, something not acceptable to the public sector companies.

As part of a damage control exercise, the organizing committee had cancelled the contract with SMAM.

Other public sector sponsors of the event include Indian Railways, Central Bank of India and Air India.

No specific threat to Commonwealth Games: Govt

There is no specific threat to the Commonwealth Games, scheduled to be held in October, but a general one from terrorists who want to strike at high profile targets, Minister of State for Home Ajay Maken said on Wednesday.

Maken informed the Rajya Sabha that there was no specific input suggesting threat to the Commonwealth Games 2010.

"However, there is a general threat from those militant groups who want to strike at high profile targets," he said in a written reply.

Maken said security arrangements in National Capital Region are being regularly reviewed in the meetings of Empowered Security Committee headed by Union Home Secretary.

"Security coordination meetings are being held regularly by central security agencies with the neighbouring states, Delhi Police etc to prevent such incidents," he said.

The Commonwealth Games will be held in the national capital between October 3 and 14.

Fennell inspects Commonwealth Games venues

Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) president Mike Fennell Wednesday embarked on a whirlwind tour of the stadiums and Commonwealth Games village here as part of his two-day visit to monitor the preparedness for the Oct 3-14 Games.

Fennell’s visit comes at a time when the Commonwealth Games are embroiled in controversies ranging from financial irregularities, unpreparedness and sub-standard quality of work in Games projects.

The Jamaican, who arrived in India Tuesday night, went around the city checking out the facilities at the stadiums. He was accompanied by CGF chief executive Mike Hooper, Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (CGOC) vice-chairman Randhir Singh and secretary general Lalit Bhanot.

Fennell began his day visiting the Thyagaraj Stadium at 9 a.m and then went on to see Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies, Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, Indira Gandhi Complex, Games Village and Yamuna Sports Complex.

He will also be visiting Delhi University’s Rugby Stadium, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Swimming Complex, Talkatora Stadium, Siri Fort Stadium and R.K. Khanna Stadium to complete his day.

Fennell will visit the two shooting ranges — Karni Singh and Kadarpur — Thursday.

The CGF president is also expected to have a series of meetings with government officials, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, and Urban Development Minister S. Jaipal Reddy, who is the heading the Group of Ministers overseeing the preparations of the Games.

He is also expected to address the Organising Committee executive board.

Before Fennell’s ongoing tour, Randhir and Bhanot made a round of all the facilities except the Kadarpur Shooting Range following the uproar over their unpreparedness.

Final touches are still to be given to the venues and garbage and construction materials are littered all over the stadiums.

The CGOC top brass, after their four-day tour of the venues, said they have scanned through the minute details related to the finishing touches and overlays and they appeared satisfactory.

The CGOC gave Aug 25 as the deadline when all the venues will be completely ready while the Games Village will be thrown open Sep 16 when foreign delegates will start arriving.

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