Saturday, August 21, 2010

British supplier caught up in Delhi games price-hiking row

• Startling disparity in cost of items supplied by ES Group
• Fears for games as organisers' budget balloons

A British event-organising company that works with international stars including Elton John, Rihanna and Green Day has been dragged into the growing number of scandals gripping the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

ES Group is part of a consortium accused of charging inflated prices for supplying items to the games, which are becoming increasingly mired in controversy ahead of the opening ceremony on 3 October.

The company and its partners charged organisers £64 each for 360 tissue paper dispensers. Comparable items were available for just £9 from another games supplier. It supplied 176 rubbish bins at £104 each, compared with the £16 charged by another group. And the 20 sinks it supplied each cost – at £501 a time – more than double those provided by a rival.

The huge price differences appear to highlight the failure of the games' organisers to keep a check on the budget, which has ballooned from £260m to £1.4bn. The overspending, coupled with growing evidence of corruption, nepotism and shoddy work by contractors, last week prompted the leader of India's ruling Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, to threaten dire consequences for those found to have sullied the country's reputation. "The prestige of the nation is involved," she said.

Allegations of corruption have dogged the games for weeks and have so far led to the suspension of two senior officials and the resignation of a third. Games treasurer Anil Khanna resigned amid claims that the contract for laying tennis courts went to an Australian company headed in India by his son. Veteran opposition politician Lalu Prasad Yadav has described the games as "an organised looting operation".

Large-scale irregularities are suspected at 16 venues, according to the Indian government's own anti-corruption agency, the Central Vigilance Commission. The chairman of the games' organising committee, Suresh Kalmadi, has faced repeated calls to go.

The London launch of the Queen's Baton relay, the traditional curtain-raiser to the Commonwealth Games, is already under investigation after the contract was handed over without tender or competition to a man who is barred as a company director in the UK until 2017. It later emerged that organisers had agreed to pay his company £450 a day for taxis for the event.

Not surprisingly, sponsors have been aghast at the negative publicity. Two companies have withdrawn their sponsorship entirely.

With just six weeks to go until the opening ceremony, Delhi is disfigured by torn-up streets and mounds of rubble. Work is still going on around the stadiums, which were meant to be finished by March but which Commonwealth Games Federation president Michael Fennell last week admitted are still in need of remediation. City officials say many roads will not be surfaced before the middle of September at the earliest, with the possibility that some will have to wait until after the games are over.

Government watchdogs have found that quality certificates for much of the completed work are suspect or faked. Water poured through the roof and walls of the weightlifting stadium during its public handover.

Four groups were selected to fit out the stadiums with non-permanent items known as overlays. ES Group won a £20m contract under the name ESAJV D Art Indo, covering three venues, a temporary stadium for the rugby and 18 training facilities. An inventory of these items seen by the Observer shows huge variations between the amount charged by the different groups for comparable items. In some areas, ES is markedly cheaper, but in others its prices are inexplicably higher.

Approached by the Observer, the company refused to comment. In a statement, Liz Madden, its head of sales and marketing, said: "As is the case with all major international sporting events, the Delhi organising committee has imposed very strict confidentiality clauses in the contracts. For this reason we are unable to discuss the terms of our agreement."

The organisers will only say that the four bids came in lowest over all. It therefore remains unclear how the company was able to convince organisers to pay £129 for each of the 480 liquid soap dispensers it supplied, despite the Swiss group Nüssli charging just £2.57 for comparable items for its three groups of venues. The soap dispensers alone earned ES £61,920.

The 77 pigeonhole cupboards it supplied cost £780 each compared with Nüssli's £251. Nine thousand disposable glasses were charged at 51p each, more than double its Swiss rival's price.

While many international sporting events are dogged by negative publicity and concerns about whether they will meet deadlines only to come good at the last minute, Delhi appears to be in serious danger of bucking the trend. Hopes of recouping up to £14m through merchandising were severely dented when the company awarded the contract pulled out, blaming delays in the launch and calling organisers unprofessional. The organisers hit back by claiming the quality of the merchandise had been poor.

Until Friday morning, the organising committee did not even have a caterer for its venues.

Even the new airport through which the crowds of visitors are expected to pass is struggling. Domestic flights, due to start next week, will not now commence until after the games are over, because of power and water shortages and the failure to complete the new approach road.

India was hoping that its tourist industry would get a shot in the arm from the games but it appears that many would-be visitors have decided to stay away, with guest houses reporting that a lack of bookings is forcing them to close and hotels reporting a marked shortfall in expected visitors.

Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh is taking personal charge of attempts to salvage the games and public pressure is now growing for guilty parties to be punished.

Leander & Co. game for CWG

India’s top tennis players, who had threatened to boycott the Commonwealth Games because of non-payment of dues, Saturday pledged to represent the country in the mega event after being given a categorical assurance that the vexed issues would be resolved soon.

On a day of swift developments, the revolting quartet of Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Somdev Dev Varman and Rohan Bopanna made themselves available to play for the country while the Sports Ministry and the AITA also promised to resolve the dispute as early as possible.

Dogs have their day at Nehru Stadium

More than 30 dogs and puppies have made the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here their home, causing a huge problem and embarrassment to the officials in charge of stadium facilities and venue operations for the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

The authorities woke up to the dog menace when a foreign woman athlete came out screaming from a toilet during the Asian All-Star Athletics Meet at the stadium last month-end.

She was terrified when confronted by a dog. The dogs have resisted all attempts to evict them since then.

“They defecate on the track, in the corridors, on the indoor track and in the basement. We keep cleaning up and they come back and dirty the same spots all over again,” said an exasperated athletics official engaged in tying up the loose ends at the venue.

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi had rounded up thousands of cattle and dogs in a special drive recently aimed at clearing the Games venues and surrounding areas of stray domestic animals. There were objections from NGOs to this drive because of the cruel manner in which the task was being handled.

Obviously the municipal squads have not reached the Nehru Stadium, where over 1,000 workers are still engaged in various activities connected with clearing and sprucing up of the venue apart from other work related to cables, drainage, construction of roads, boundary walls, etc. “The labourers provide food to the dogs and that's how they have continued to stay at the stadium,” said one official. “The dogs have had fresh litters too,” he added.

“The wall around the stadium is broken at several places now and a new wall is being erected. Obviously the dogs have easy access to the stadium,” said one Sports Authority of India official.

Commonwealth Express to reach capital on Wednesday

Exhibition on wheels showcases Commonwealth Games memorabilia
Exhibition open for public from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on August 25 and 26

The Commonwealth Express, a special exhibition train designed to promote the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, will reach here on August 25 on the Kerala leg of its nation-wide journey.

The train that was flagged off from Delhi on June 24 has 11 coaches – five of which feature rare Commonwealth Games memorabilia, and six of which are devoted to showcasing Information Technology.

VS to open show

Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan is scheduled to inaugurate the travelling exhibition in Kerala at the Central Railway Station.

The train, which is coming from Madurai in Tamil Nadu, will halt here for two days before proceeding to Kollam on August 27 and to Ernakulam on August 28. The exhibition will be open for public on these dates from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. After August 28, the train will return to Delhi via Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

The exhibition has been organised by the Department of Information Technology (DIT), Government of India, in association with its various arms and prominent IT/ITES companies to showcase the IT success story of the country. It will demonstrate the capability and the work done in the area of ICT (Information and Communications Technology), e-governance, infrastructure, and technology initiatives relevant to rural India and language interfacing technology. Kerala IT has stalls showcasing the ICT initiatives in the State. The exhibition features counters for Akshaya e-Pay to demonstrate the software used by FRIENDS citizen-service centres.

“By endorsing ICT through Commonwealth Express, Indian Railways has taken the initiative of spreading the essence of IT to the citizens who are not yet exposed to the opportunities generated by the sector. We are also leaving no stone unturned to ensure that Kerala's IT journey is highlighted through this exhibition,” Rathan Kelkar, Director, Kerala State Information Technology Mission (KSITM) told a press conference.

“Indian Railways' e-governance initiatives are commendable, like e-ticketing and Corporate Wide Information System (CWIS). It is a role model for other organisations in implementing e-governance successfully,” said Mervin Alexander, CEO, Technopark.

Joint effort

The Commonwealth Express programme in Kerala is being jointly coordinated by the Kerala State IT Mission, Technopark, Infopark, Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management-Kerala, National Informatics Centre, Trivandrum; Centre for Development of Advanced Computing, Keltron, Public Relations Department, Akshaya, District Collectorate, Kollam; Centre for Development of Imaging Technology and Directorate of Sports and Youth Affairs.

The team together will coordinate the action plan comprising the inauguration, visits by schools to the exhibition, setting up of stalls to showcase IT initiatives of Kerala, counters for Akshaya e-Pay to demonstrate FRIENDS software and inviting sports celebrities to visit the train.

The Commonwealth Express is being run jointly by the Ministry of Railways through its Railway Sports Promotion Board and the Ministry of Communication & Information Technology.

M. Nanda Kumar, Director, Department of Information and Public Relations; Korath V. Mathew, Director, Akshaya; and Elizabeth Sherly, Director, Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management – Kerala, were present at the press conference.

On menu for Games: ‘World class' catering

“World class” catering will greet the athletes, officials and the work force during the Commonwealth Games here in October. The facilities would be in place by September 16 at the Games Village and the venues.

Announcing this on Saturday, Organising Committee (OC) Special Director-General Jiji Thompson said the “installation work is in progress” and will meet “international standards” befitting the event.

Mr. Thompson, who was associated with the 1987 National Games, expressed confidence about the OC “delivering” the desired facilities at the Village and the venues. The contract has been given to Delaware North Company Australia Pty Ltd and PKL London.

Mr. Thompson and OC Officer on Special Duty (OSD) Sanjeev Mittal took pains to explain the criteria employed in the selection of the caterers. “They are top class firms and have handled the catering at the 2008 Beijing Olympics,” said Mr. Mittal.

Initial bid scrapped

Explaining the bid process, Mr. Mittal noted, “We had to scrap the initial bid because the cost was coming to Rs. 800 per person. We thought it was not right to spend so much on food. We negotiated with Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) but it did not understand our requirement. By the time IRCTC responded it was too late and their prices were not acceptable to us. The price is now coming to Rs. 450-750 per person (at lounges) and Rs. 120 per person (work force).” The work force consists of nearly 40,000 comprises officials, volunteers and security personnel.

“We have had to make certain adjustments because of the cost factor but there will be no compromise on quality and variety of food,” assured Mr. Thompson. The Games Village is equipped to cater to 3,600 people in three shifts while the dining area can accommodate 2,300 to 2,700 people at a time.

“The air-conditioned kitc-hen will be functional from September 16 and the main dining area will operate 24 hours. We will have six lounges at every venue and the Village Bar will be located in the international zone of the Village,” Mr. Mittal added.

9-hour English lessons for cops

Over 40,000 personnel of Delhi police are now 'English literate' and 'well mannered'. They have undergone behavioural and English speaking and writing training to ensure an international standard policing during the Commonwealth Games. Delhi Police Commissioner Y.S. Dadwal has spent lakhs of
rupees to ensure the Games have 'smart policemen'.

And the policemen have achieved this is a short span of time. Each policeman took just nine hours to learn English and three days to become 'well mannered'.

Dadwal sent them to IL&FS to become English-literate and to Amity Institute of Training and Development (AIT&D) for Police and Security Personnel to learn etiquette.

Rajan Bhagat, Delhi police spokesperson, said: "The police personnel, ranging from constables to inspectors, have undergone training so that they can police better during the Games. The policemen were taught how to communicate with foreigners in English and also trained to behave properly with foreign guests. The programmes groomed participants on basic skills of spoken English, communication and common courtesies."

However, many of the policemen who have undergone training are not happy.

A head constable of Delhi police said: "We were given some theoretical lessons in both the programmes. Behavioural training though had some worth, English classes were just useless. If one could learn English within a few hours, the number of English-literate people in India would not be so less."

"They taught us some terminology like 'first information report', 'complaint', 'arrest', 'theft', 'burglary' and 'detain'. They also taught us how to describe a person in English like 'he is tall', 'he is well built', 'man with dark complexion', 'he has sharp features', etc.," said a sub-inspector.

"We were expecting to learn something which we do not know. But most of us already knew what we were being taught. We were not illiterate."

Prashant K Dhyani, officer of IL&FS, who is in charge of the police training programme, said: "We have trained over 40,000 policemen in about 1,200 batches. The Delhi Police paid us Rs 10,000 for each batch."

Warm welcome for Queen's baton

The Queen's baton that arrived here ahead of the Commonwealth games to be held at New Delhi, received a warm welcome despite heavy rain on Saturday.

The relay run of the baton began at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium at Oppalam with Lieutenant Governor Iqbal Singh handing over the torch to Maheshwari, a weightlifter from Puducherry. Chief Minister V. Vaithilingam participated in the event.

The stadium was filled with hundreds of schoolchildren giving a rousing welcome to the baton, waving the national flag. This was followed by playing of the national anthem after which the relay began.

The baton was carried by a number of sportspersons from the region and officials of various government departments.

Earlier, the Commonwealth Express, a special train exhibiting details of the games to be held in October, reached the Puducherry railway station in the morning. Hundreds of children accompanied by their parents visited the exhibition. The train will leave the station on Sunday.

CW Games motto: Eat, Drink and Play

Thirty kinds of salads, 13 kinds of meats, a dozen assorted cheese and vegetable crudités, more than 18 kinds of condiments, and virtually unlimited booze — that's just a fraction of the gastronomical fare waiting for the athletes and officials at the Commonwealth Games Village this

Unveiling the menu for the Village, the Organising Committee on Saturday said the food plan at the Village and the venues were chalked out to the last detail. “The Village will have food from all over the world. It will be an international experience,” said Jiji Thomson, Functional Head of the catering at the Village.

The central kitchen — running behind schedule — will be ready by September 1 and the work will start by September 15, the OC said. Running 24X7, the central kitchen will dish out 3,600 meals every day at the main dining hall.

Keeping the sportspersons in mind, each item will display nutritional value and allergic foods information in detail, while a special 'No-pork' zone will serve food to people from countries where the meat is banned due to religious reasons.

There will also be street-food from all CWG countries in a Casual Dining Area with a "fun, alfresco environment', and the Village Bar will serve liquor and wine of choice.

Away from the Village, though, the picture changes. At the venues, at a cost of about
R 120 per head per day, volunteers, workforce and the security personnel will get packaged foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“We have finalised the deals for around 40,00-50,000 people at the venues. There will be tasty and healthy items in the food packets,” said Sudhir Mittal, head of Catering.

Delhi experiences wettest August in 15 yrs

If you thought there was something unusual about the wet spell  the city is experiencing, you’re right. This August has been the wettest in 15 years and there are 10 days still to month’s end. Till 8.30 pm on Saturday, 373.9mm of rainfall was recorded as against 1961’s 583.3mm. In 110 years, there have been only seven Augusts that were wetter than this one.

The met department is not promising a breather. "At least for the next three days, we are expecting more heavy showers in Delhi while the rest of the month is also likely to get good rain," said B P Yadav, director, IMD.

This can only add to the troubles of those organizing the Commonwealth Games. The rain can only delay unfinished work, even as it reveals underlying problems with completed projects. But even as waterlogging, and traffic jams continue, the city is quietly enjoying this much-needed respite from heat.

On Saturday, the Yamuna crossed the danger mark of 204.82 metres. All the year round, it is nothing more than a drain and barely visible but on Saturday, it was full and there were boats bobbing on it.

The city recorded 17.4 mm rain till 5.30 pm. The maximum and minimum temperatures were 28.4 degrees Celsius, six degrees below normal, and 26.8 degrees Celsius, one degree above normal, respectively.

The incessant rain brought in its wake the usual problems of waterloggging and traffic jams in some parts of the city such as MG Road, Chirag Dilli, Delhi Cantt, Dhaula Kuan, Moti Bagh and some parts of east Delhi. Traffic snarls would have been worse had it been a working day.

The MCD control room received 78 complaints of waterlogging from areas like Vasant Vihar, G K II, Hauz Khas, Lado Sarai, Saket, Vasant Kunj etc. Gurgaon and other NCR towns were similarly affected. A cave-in was reported at Harish Chandra Mathur Lane near KG Marg in Central Delhi.

While the rain deficiency in June and July gave jitters to the government, the incessant rain has wiped away those worries. Northwest India has already recorded a surplus rain of 4% against its long period average while Delhi has also made up its deficiency with 616 mm rain being recorded here since the start of the season on June 1.

"August has been a good month for almost all parts of the country other than east and northeast which too are as of now getting decent rainfall. For Delhi and neighbouring areas, the main reasons for the good rain have been the location of the monsoon trough, cyclonic circulation over west UP and Haryana and good moisture incursion from both Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea. The monsoon trough has been oscillating between north and south quite rapidly and this has brought heavy showers to the region," said Yadav.

Delhi’s rain had been deficient almost constantly since the third week of July. July, with 239.6 mm rain, ended up with a deficiency of 84%. Some of this was made up in the first week of August, though by the second half, the situation was back to square one. In the week between August 11 and 18, the rainfall went from being deficient by 84% to a surplus of 31%. While the highest rainfall on a given day this season has not crossed 62 mm, most of the past week has seen the rainfall figure consistently cross at least 20 mm.

Till Wednesday, the New Delhi district had seen 460.2 mm rain against a normal of 461 mm. North, east and southwest districts were close behind, short by 7%, 9% and 10%, respectively.

The Met department said the monsoon trough is passing through Ferozepur, Delhi, Kanpur, Gaya and Behrampore before moving towards northeast, particularly Assam. "A low pressure area might form over west UP and its neighbourhood and over west-central and adjoining south-west Bay of Bengal. Consequently, widespread and heavy showers are expected over Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Gangetic West Bengal and the northeast states," said a met official.

Mystery behind Kalmadi's appointment as OC chief

So how did Suresh Kalmadi become the chairman of the Organizing Committee of the Commonwealth Games 2010? And how did he end up becoming the face of the Games?

If the official bid submitted by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) in 2003 is anything to go by, then Kalmadi should have only been the vice chairman of the Organizing Committee.

"Should your bid to host the Commonwealth Games be successful how would the Organizing Committee be structured? Please include an organizational chart including details of the proposed relationship with the CGF and CGA," said the bid outline issued by the CGF.

In response, IOA wrote that the OC would be a non-profit, government-owned registered society. It claimed the support of the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who has "pledged his and his government's full fledged support to Delhi's bid". Also offering support was Sonia Gandhi, the then opposition leader. The IOA said it also had an MoU with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) to support its bid.

It added that the executive board of the OC will be headed by a chairman who will be a government nominee. Three members of Commonwealth Games Federation as per Clause 31 of Protocol 2 will be a part of the Board, the New Delhi bid said. In the accompanying chart, the IOA president, Kalmadi, is shown as the vice-chairman of the OC. The evaluation report of the CGF of the bid too reported the same.

However, after the NDA government stepped down and the Manmohan Singh-led UPA came to power, there seems to have been change of stance. It is not clear if it was a political decision or a bureaucratic manoeuvring. And when the OC was finally set up on February 10, 2005, Kalmadi became the chairman.

Now that Kalmadi's image has become somewhat of a liability and there's occasional talk of replacing him, Kalmadi's standard response is that his appointment is mandated by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and ratified by the CGF and hence he cannot be replaced. But that isn't quite the case.

Since the chairman of the OC, according to the bid document, is a government nominee, the government surely can fill in the slot with a nominee of its choice. Vikram Verma, the sports minister under Vajpayee, says he is shocked by the change in the final status of the OC. He claims he is convinced that the bid had been tampered with. He called for an inquiry into the entire incident.

Dismissing the allegations, Kalmadi told TOI, "The bid document that you mention was later revised. I was elected by the general assembly of the Indian Olympic Association as the chairman of the OC. It is the Olympic body which always decides. This name was also endorsed by the group of ministers (GoM)." When asked whether the revised document was finally endorsed in 2003, Kalmadi said "yes". However, there is no revised document on the official website, only the old one, according to which Kalmadi should be the vice chairman.

Kalmadi said, "Even in 1982 during the Asian Games, V K Malhotra was first named chairman by IOA. He was then removed and V C Shukla was appointed. And then again, Buta Singh became the OC chairman. These decisions were taken by IOA."

Asked why the bid document mentions that the chairman would be a government nominee, Kalmadi said, "I don't know why it was done and who did it. The BJP government was in power. Yes, it was revised later... the error was corrected."

Race to save Commonwealth Games amid the corruption

At the Shivaji Stadium in the centre of Delhi, there appeared little reason to cheer.

Hundreds of workers wearing flip-flops and singlets, loincloths and saris laboured amid the mud to complete a Herculean task.

They rushed to finish laying marble for stands, build a series of five-storey blocks and repair collapsed scaffolding.

The stadium is set to be the practice venue for hockey matches in 43 days but this week it is fit for nothing.

Just six weeks before Delhi hosts the 19th Commonwealth Games, the city is in a state of chaos. Venues that should have been completed weeks ago remain dirty, mosquito-ridden worksites; major roads are blocked by construction work and projects to landscape the city appear to have been forgotten halfway through.

Even the Games' official theme, composed by A.R. Rahman, the man who wrote Jai Ho from the movie Slumdog Millionaire, is behind schedule.

Added to this is the growing sense of panic. Amid revelations of corruption, mismanagement and refusal to follow best practice is widespread concern that the event could turn into a national embarrassment.
CCID: 16375

The city's chief minister said this week she is "nervous" about the outcome.

This week, the Commonwealth Games Federation, which oversees the event, put on a brave face. At a press conference after a two-day inspection of venues for the 17 sports represented, federation president Mike Fennell said that for "all practical purposes" the venues were completed. However, there was still "a long list of detailed work to be attended to".

He listed concerns about the readiness of the Games Village, transportation, catering, landscaping, cleaning, sanitation and hygiene. There were also worries that much of the electronic equipment required by the various disciplines were not yet in place.

However, he dismissed a claim by former Australian swimmer Dawn Fraser that the event would become "another Munich", a reference to the 1972 Olympics at which 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were killed by Palestinian militants, and said he was satisfied with the security in place.

For many involved in Delhi's bid to host the event, bringing the Games to India had little to do with sport. Instead, it was an opportunity to demonstrate a nation keen to throw off the shackles of poverty and boast its economic growth rates of 8 per cent or more.

Falling after the 2008 Olympics, hosted by India's Asian rival, China, there was even more conviction that the event had to be a show-stopping success. Those who spoke out, such as former sports minister Mani Shankar Aiyar - who said he believed the money spent on the event should be used to develop sports in villages across the nation - were condemned.

The event has also suffered from a sporting perspective. Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt pulled out long before his recent injury worries, the feeling being that the Games were an insufficient stage for the world's fastest man.

Heptathlete Jessica Ennis has also ended her season early. And Chris Hoy is among the many names from cycling who are choosing not to disrupt their preparations for November's European Championships, a qualifying event for the 2012 Olympics.

But if the Games fail, it will not be for lack of money.

The cost of the event was reported to have increased almost 18 times from its original budget.

The most recent prediction for the total cost of the two-week event stands at £4.22 billion ($9.3 billion). The 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester cost £300 million.

In Delhi, taxes have increased, money originally set aside to help the development of Dalit or "untouchable" groups has been diverted and slums have been bulldozed.

There are also reports that labour laws and health and safety regulations have been violated.

Moushumi Basu, of the People's Union for Democratic Rights, a civil rights group that has filed a series of court actions against the authorities, said workers had routinely been paid less than the legal minimum wage.

One worker, Bhakti Mandal, from West Bengal, labouring at the Shivaji Stadium, a venue the authorities have admitted will not be fully completed by October, said he was getting paid 3000 rupees ($92) a month to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week. By law he should have been getting double that.

Aside from workers' conditions, some of the most worrying accusations relate to corruption, a daily feature of life in India.

Earlier this year, the Government's main watchdog identified 16 Games projects in which there appeared to be financial irregularities. Three senior officials have already been suspended.

In another blow, two state-run firms have withdrawn their sponsorship as a result of the "negative publicity" stemming from the alleged corruption and mismanagement.

With the negative press that the Games have attracted and the chaotic preparations, some have wondered whether the event could be called off. That is unlikely to happen.

A more likely scenario is that there will be a final frenzy of work that will be sufficient to pull together a decent event.

It might even prove to be a success, a view expressed by many people here, including 71-year-old Babu Lal Bharti, who was certain it would be completed on time, saying: "It will be good for India, it will be good for Indian pride."

On Games Village menu, a rich spread every day

Athletes staying at the Commonwealth Games Village will be treated to a king-size spread, that too from the biggest temporary kitchen in the country during the event. Though the kitchen will dish out 36,000 meals a day, it is the variety of food that has everyone dumbstruck.

“All food items will display its nutritional value and also indicate allergic foods information,” said special DG OC Jiji Thompson, a 1980 batch Kerala cadre IAS officer, who is in charge of the Village.

A typical breakfast will consist of eight type of juices, six yoghurts, six cereals, three cured meats, four grilled meats and 12 types of cheese among others. For non-vegetarians, the choice will be between chicken steak with Greek marinade, chicken tenderloin, chicken cutlet, to lamb prosciutto and turkey pastrami. Smoked chicken breast, buffalo salami and chicken ham will be among the cold meats served.

The salad bar will have 30 items for all three meals, while 12 items will be served for supper. The six salad dressings on offer will include aged balsamic, thousand island and caesar.

Though the Beijing Olympics only had Chinese, Asian, International and Mediterranean food zones, the Village here will have six zones — Oceania, Africa, America, Asia, Caribbean and Europe all divided into hot and cold. The service style will mostly be buffet, with self-service for cold items and assistance for hot items. Alcohol will be served at the bar, but the athletes will have to pay for it.

Where they eat

CASUAL DINING HALL: The main dining hall will be dismantled after the Games, but the casual dining hall will be used as club house post-Games.

VILLAGE BAR: Open from noon to midnight, the bar will be located in the international zone of the Village. The place will offer light snacks besides beverages.

STREET FOOD: Open from 11 am till 6 pm at two locations in the Village, the spots will serve small portions of popular items.

Commonwealth organisers offer advice on how to behave

Commonwealth Games  organisers have compiled an extensive list of hints and tips for visitors to the October event, the guide providing a valuable insight into social mores as well as helping to avoid embarrassing situations.

Visitors to the Delhi multi-sports gathering now understand that greeting an Indian woman with a peck on the cheek is frowned upon, public displays of affection are strictly off limits and they should not panic if strangers stare at them.

Also, it is always safer to use bottled water while brushing teeth, discussing politics is fine but not religion, while knees and shoulders should be covered at holy places.

The guide puts a lot of stress on sartorial modesty and respecting local customs, especially important when visiting temples and religious sites, where trousers or full-length skirts should be worn and shoulders should be covered.

Published on the official website ( for the Games, organisers also explain that in Sikh temples your head must be covered and that the better-dressed tourists were likely to be the ones attracting the least attention.

However, the guide does add that "even in the most cosmopolitan Indian cities, the chances are that your different appearance might mean that you will be stared at. Please do not be offended, no harm is meant, it is just curiosity."

The traditional Indian Namaste, with folded palms, is advocated as a good way to win friends in Delhi while shaking hands with a woman, or greeting her with a kiss, might raise a few eyebrows.

"If she extends her hand, you must reciprocate but don't be the first to extend your hand," is the advice for male tourists, who are also informed that a peck on the cheek is appropriate only when the woman in question is a model or beauty queen.

The guide adds that Indians are prone to shake their heads during conversations and visitors should suppress their amusement if they found it funny.

For those worried about hygiene, organisers say it is better to avoid public toilet facilities, which can be of dubious cleanliness, and carry tissues or wet wipes.

Last month, the organising committee announced beef would not be served during the Oct. 3-14 Games, respecting local dietary traditions.

CWG special road lanes trials likely from Sunday

With the Commonwealth Games approaching, the Delhi traffic police are likely to begin by Sunday trials for the specially dedicated road lanes for the Games officials, athletes and tourists.

"We will begin field trials on the dedicated lanes within this week. As some roads are little narrow with only two lanes, we will have to see how we can adjust the lane and other traffic," Special Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Ajay Chadha told IANS.

There are 36 reserved lanes stretching from the airport to the Games Village and various sporting venues. These lanes will be on the right side of the roads and earmarked by broad blue bands and Commonwealth Games logo.

They will be guarded by the expanded force levels of Delhi traffic police, which will reach 5,500 personnel and over 1,000 volunteers.

"The dedicated lanes will be guarded by the traffic police, the volunteers and Delhi Police. They will be demarcated with signs pointing to them as the dedicated lanes," Chadha said.

According to Chadha, new initiatives to educate drivers about the dedicated lanes and lane management would also be started.

"We will also start drives to educate drivers regarding the dedicated lanes and lane management in general," he said.

The traffic police will also reach out to the public with traffic advisories to avoid the dedicated lanes through its popular profiles on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

"We will also use Facebook and Twitter to connect with the people. We will provide them updates and traffic advisories on the dedicated lanes," he added.

Besides the dedicated lanes, the traffic police recently inducted 200 fast interceptor bikes, 300 women traffic policemen and started a radio out-reach programme in which ace batsman Virender Sehwag gave safety messages to Delhiites.

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