Thursday, August 26, 2010

There’s no light at end of this tunnel

It seems that the Organising Committee (OC) of the Commonwealth Games has got its focus wrong. Rather than concentrating on successfully hosting the event, the OC appears to be more interested in the opening and closing ceremonies.

A tunnel, which has been constructed under the turf of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to facilitate the movements of participants during the opening and closing ceremonies, has resulted in continuous soil erosion during the past few days. The erosion is now threatening to damage the synthetic turf around the grassy area.

“There was no place for the tunnel when the stadium was redesigned,” said a senior stadium official, confirming that the tunnel was not a part of the original design and was only constructed after the OC insisted on it.

“It was decided to construct the tunnel because the OC said the participants of the opening and closing ceremonies should come out from under the ground to make it look more spectacular,” he added.

Remodelled and redesigned at a cost of Rs. 961 crores, the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium would be the showpiece venue in the Commonwealth Games. Apart from the opening and closing ceremonies, the stadium will play host to the athletics events.

The heavy rain in Delhi for the past few weeks has further complicated the problem, the official pointed out. “Holes have been created at several places on the ground. The CPWD has been doing its best by regularly putting extra soil and sand but we are yet to find a permanent solution to the problem,” he said.

The ministry of sports, it is believed, was not too happy with the construction of the tunnel at the last moment. On July 27, when the stadium was inaugurated, the union minister of sports, MS Gill, told OC chairman Suresh Kalmadi that the project got delayed because of the construction of the tunnel.

CK Valson, the competition manager of the Nehru Stadium, admitted that the tunnel was creating problems but insisted that the turf would be set right after the opening ceremony, scheduled on October 3.

“We have plans to get the turf re-laid immediately after the opening ceremony is over. This is a procedure which has been used in many countries and could be done in less than 24 hours,” said Valson, who admitted the process would incur a considerable expenditure.

An official of the OC, however, defended the decision to create the tunnel saying such things are common at mega events. “Even at the Beijing Olympics, the participants came through the tunnel. It adds to the glamour of the event,” Valson said.

Queen's Baton arrives in State on September 1

The Queen's Baton for the Commonwealth Games, which journeyed through 70 Commonwealth countries and several States and Union Territories of India, will enter Karnataka from Tamil Nadu at 12.30 p.m. on September 1 and will be received by the President of the Karnataka Olympic Association K. Govindaraj at Chikkanahalli, a border village in Chamarajanagar district.
Minister for Textiles, Youth Services and Sports Gulihatti D. Shekar told presspersons that “the baton after passing through Bandipur, Gundlupet and Nanjangud will reach Mysore at 3 p.m. on September 1. A special cultural programme, depicting the cultural heritage of Mysore, will be held at Mysore Palace at 7 p.m”.

“The baton will enter Bangalore from Mysore on September 2 at 3 p.m. and it will be received by Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa at the Kanteerava Stadium at 4 p.m.

The former world badminton champion Prakash Padukone, the champion sprinter of yesteryears Kenneth Powell, a host of Arjuna and Dhronacharya recipients, Ministers, the BBMP Mayor, leading personalities, film stars and schoolchildren will carry the baton through several parts of the city.

A commemorative postal stamp will be released to mark the occasion. A cultural programme will be held at Sri Kanteerava Indoor Stadium at 6.30 p.m.,” the Minister said.

Other districts

“After leaving Bangalore on September 4, the relay will reach Hassan on the same day; Mangalore on September 5; Karwar on September 6, before reaching Goa border on September 7,” he added.

“To make the baton relay a success, the Government of Karnataka has taken the help of the Karnataka Olympic Association, Karnataka State Athletics Association and other sports associations,” the Minister said.

It may be recalled that the baton for the 2010 Games was launched by Queen Elizabeth II from Buckingham Palace in London on October 29 last year in the presence of President Pratibha Patil.

Relay route

The Queen's baton rally will start from Kanteerava Stadium at 4 p.m. on September 2 and pass through Kasturaba Road, Cubbon Park, Ambedkar Veedhi, K.R. Circle, Nrupathunga Road, Hudson Circle, J.C. Road, Mission Road, Subbaiah Circle, Lalbagh Main Road, Lalbagh Main Gate, Glass House, K.H. Road, Richmond Circle and Rajarammohan Roy Road before culminating at Sri Kanteerava Stadium.

Funds for welfare projects spent on CWG

The Centre on Thursday admitted that Rs.678.91 crore, meant for carrying out welfare projects for people belonging to the Scheduled Castes in the Capital, was spent on various Commonwealth Games-related infrastructure projects by the Delhi government.

“An amount of Rs.678.91 crore has been contributed from SCSP (SC Sub-Plan) funds to various Commonwealth Games-related infrastructure projects… these projects will benefit all communities including SCs under the individual category,” Home Minister P. Chidambaram said in the Rajya Sabha.

This led to uproarious scenes with MPs from the BSP, the Left and the BJP alleging diversion of funds meant for the welfare of SC population. They also alleged that the figures given by the government was different from what was given in response to an RTI application. Agitated BSP MPs came into the well of the House shouting slogans against the Delhi government, forcing adjournment of the House.

Green cost of infrastructure projects: 40,000 trees

Delhi  will be gaining infrastructure and better transport facilities thanks to the Commonwealth Games but that is coming at a cost. The city lost about 40,000 trees to Metro  construction, flyovers and other Games-related projects in the past few years. Despite this, the green cover has been growing at an average annual rate of 1% which sources say is due to the high rate of compensatory plantation except that most of it is in city forests that are at the edge of the city.

According to government data, the Metro project alone accounted for 4,340 trees either being felled or transplanted while over 8,000 trees had to be felled for about 30 flyover projects. "However, it is interesting to note that between 2007 and 2008, 18 city forests came up only on the basis of compensatory plantation. Trees are an unavoidable loss if infrastructure is to be developed but the Delhi cabinet's decision to make plantation of 10 plants compulsory for each tree felled has had a really positive impact on the city's green cover,'' said officials.

The argument didn't go down too well with environmentalists. "There is no compensation for the loss of a fully grown, mature tree. While we cannot dispute the rise in green cover, the city seems to be turning into a concrete jungle while the forests are being created on the boundary. There is also no verification of how much compensatory plantation has been undertaken so far. A lot of trees can be saved if only project planning considers these aspects. Can the government really account for trees that were lost in projects like streetscaping where the contractors could not be bothered with preserving the greenery,'' said a tree expert.

Government sources, however, said that the forest department itself had undertaken compensatory plantation of about 3 lakh saplings and would be planting an additional 25,000 saplings under compensatory afforestation fund management and planning authority (CAMPA) funds. "The forest department is responsible for compensatory plantation of DMRC, BRT and NHAI. Other than that, a review of all other agencies will be carried out shortly to assess how their plantation drive is going. In case they are not able to meet their targets, the forest department will do it for them from the money that has been deposited with them. Again, not all the compensatory plantation has been done in city forests. Land was earmarked for trees even in and around the projects that came up or are underway and these will be greened once work is finished. Under CAMPA, an additional 25,000 saplings will be planted next year as well,'' said an official.

GoM reviews installation of overlays at CWG venues

The group of minister overseeing the preparations for the Commonwealth Games met on Thursday to discuss the opening and closing ceremonies and installation of the much-delayed overlays at the event's venues. The meeting of the GoM, headed by UDminister Jaipal Reddy was also attended by sports minister M S Gill, tourism minister Shailja, CM Shiela Dikshit and CWG OC chairman Suresh Kalmadi among others.

"The opening and closing ceremonies were discussed and the electrical connectivity at the venues and other overlays were also deliberated upon in the meeting. There was also a discussion on the broadcasting of the Games by Doordarshan," Kalmadi told reporters. Asked whether the August 31 deadline for the completion of the Games' venues would be met, Kalmadi said, "You will have to ask the sports minister. I can't comment on that."

The GoM meeting was also attended by cabinet secretary K M Chandrashekhar and Delhi LG Tejinder Khanna and other senior officials.

Keep off the grass at India gate till Games

Thanks to the Commonwealth Games you won't be able to walk barefoot on the dew-moist lawns of India Gate. Delhiite's favourite late night drive to India Gate to enjoy ice creams has hit the Games hurdle. A civic agency is planting new grass at the India Gate lawns — the biggest open space in the
heart of the city — so all the parking lots have been barricaded and made out-of-bounds.

You can only walk down till the War Memorial Arch, after parking your car elsewhere. The Rs 6 crore-project is being completed on a war footing with only 37 days to go for the Games.

Metal barricades have been put up at all the six-entry points: Shah Jahan Road, Tilak Marg, Pandara Road, Copernicus Marg, Sher Shah Road and Zakir Hussain Marg. The lawns have also been ringed with barbed wire. The plan also includes relaying the pavements with red sandstone.

Police said they got a request from the Central Public Works Department (CPWD), the agency carrying out the work, to close the parking points.

"It was never a parking area. It's good quality grass so needs time to grow," said Chandra Bhushan Upadhyay, spokesman, CPWD. The lawns will remain closed till the Games are over.

‘Corruption has dented India’s image’

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s promise to act against anyone indulging in corruption in the Commonwealth Games preparations may have settled the dust for a while but people believe the issue has certainly tainted the country’s image internationally. In a survey by AZ Research, a Bengaluru-based
research company, on what does India feel about the controversies surrounding the Commonwealth Games 2010, 53% respondents said the media expose of corruption, delay and sub-standard construction has done a serious harm to the country's image.

The research group interviewed 5,100 Indians in several urban centres including the four metropolitans and bigger cities like Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, Lucknow, Patna, Raipur, Vijaywada, Kochi and Guwahati.

While the Congress Party was seen trying to disassociate with the Games' Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi, who is in the thick of controversies, the survey respondents believed that he is not the only one to be blamed for corruption. “People believe that the sports ministry, the ministry of urban development, the organising committee and the Delhi government have equal share in the corruption. Suresh Kalmadi, however, tops the table,” said Sujay Misra, managing director, AZ Research.

More than 7,500 athletes and delegates from 71 participating countries are reaching Delhi to participate in the sporting extravaganza to be held in the Capital from October 3 to October 14, 2010.

Seventy three per cent of the participants felt that the government has spent more than double on organising the event and that the costs have gone up because the corrupt officials made unrealistic budget initially.

But despite so many controversies, 65% respondents believed that India would be ready to host the Games will within time.

Showcasing the ancient in modern Delhi for Games visitors

Delhi, the capital of several dynasties and empires down the ages, will showcase its array of ancient forts, edifices and memorial structures for visitors to the Commonwealth Games. At least major 46 of them are being refurbished at a cost of about Rs.24 crore($5 million) by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

"The ASI is beautifying the major historical monuments of the city by adding value to their preserved heritage without comprising on the authenticity and integrity of structures to make them more tourist friendly," ASI director-general Gautam Sengupta told IANS in an interview.

"The monuments are being refurbished at an estimated cost of Rs.23.59 crore," he said. The structures will have improved lighting, new signages, audio-video guides, cafeterias and better public amenities.

The aim is to expose the tourists to the history of the capital in all its grandeur and glory.

Some of the landmarks listed for conservation and beautification for the Games include Purana Qila complex, Humayun's Tomb complex, Qutab Minar complex, Hazrat Nizamuddin complex, Lodhi Garden monuments, the City Wall at Kashmere Gate, Khooni Darwaza, Jantar Mantar, Red Fort, Salimgarh Fort, Siri Fort wall and Tughlaqabad Fort.

The makeover also includes rehauling of the environs by clearing squatters within the protected sites, the official said.

"All the 46 monuments require structural renovation, chemical treatment and landscaping. Thirteen monuments will be illuminated with the help of the India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC). But we are not adding any new sound and light shows," he said.

"Our aim is to make the monuments much more visible with more tourist-friendly arrangements. Monuments like the Purana Qila or the Old Fort, the Red Fort and Quli Khan's Tomb will host cultural events during the Commonwealth Games," Sengupta said.

"In the evenings, we want tourists to be exposed to the history of the capital in all the glory and grandeur. We are printing colourful publications to capture the attention of the tourists. They are a departure from the ones brought out regularly by the ASI," he said.

The department plans to set up cafeterias and small souvenir kiosks at the heritage sites to market handicrafts, the official said.

The department is compiling a pictorial coffee table anthology on the monuments of Delhi that will be released before the Games, Sengupta said.

The culture ministry, which oversees the ASI, and the tourism ministry are promoting  Delhi-Agra-Jaipur as the archaeological tourist triangle during the Commonwealth Games.

"Along with Delhi, Jaipur and Agra will receive sizable tourist inflows. The inclusion of the 18th century Jantar Mantar, the monument devoted to the study of astronomy and time in Jaipur, in the Unesco list of World Heritage sites, will translate into more footfalls to Jaipur from the capital," Sengupta said.

"The archaeology department of the Rajasthan government has set up a site management committee to repair and beautify the monument, with the ASI as the nodal agency," he said. India now has 28 World Heritage monuments.

One of the uphill tasks that the department faces is clearing encroachment from the premises of the protected monuments.

Citing an example, ASI additional director-general B.R Mani said the department went to court "to relocate the Bharat Scouts and Guides from the premises of the Humayun's Tomb".

The ASI is currently landscaping the area vacated by the Bharat Scouts and Guides, he said.

"It was encroached upon by shops and odd settlements. A complex with two monuments, the Bara Batashewala Tomb where the son-in-law of Mughal emperor Akbar was said to have been buried and the Chhote Batashewala tomb, an unidentified grave, was located opposite the Humayun's tomb to its north," Mani said.

"The campus was not in ASI custody. We moved the urban development department and the complex was transferred to the ASI two years ago," he added.

In the last two years, the ASI has cleaned the Batashewala complex. "But the renovation and landscaping will begin after the Commonwealth Games," Mani said.

Citing a study by Maulavi Zafar Hasan, a Muslim cleric, Mani said a "survey by Hasan between 1909 and 1914 showed that Delhi has 1,300 big and small monuments".

High definition coverage for Commonwealth Games

The Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (CGOC) Wednesday said that it has finalised deals with rights holding broadcasters from 13 countries across six continents.

Prasar Bharati is the host broadcast partner for Delhi 2010.

"The international broadcast exposure will beat all records set. The Games are to be viewed across Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Asia, Canada, Europe, the Caribbean and the United States, with additional daily news coverage reaching across 160 countries," said CGOC treasurer A.K. Mattoo.

The total contracted value for the 13 international rights holding broadcasters is $46,342,601 out of which CWGOC has already realised a sum of $34,224,000. The U.S. Canada and Tanzania are paying for the first time for Commonwealth Games broadcasts from overseas.

For the first time in the history of Commonwealth Games, all 17 sports disciplines and opening and closing ceremonies will be covered on High Definition Digital Format (HDTV). National rights holding broadcasters Doordarshan will telecast live opening and closing ceremonies besides all sporting events round the clock.

"The International Broadcast Centre (IBC) being set up at the Pragati Maidan is almost ready. This will be the nerve centre for all the broadcast activities. MTNL is providing Optical Fiber Connectivity (OFC) from all venues to the IBC to ensure the best possible images," Mattoo said.

"British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) will be sending a crew of 250 while Australian broadcasting team will comprise 280 people," he said.

Prasar Bharati has appointed Satellite Information Services (SIS) Live of UK for production and coverage services. SIS Live will deploy over 1300 experts  across all venues. Approximately 345 HD cameras, including 38 Super SlowMotion cameras, 55 Robotic cameras, 40 RF cameras and 100 Slow Motion Servers are going to be part of the technical infrastructure.

A range of 'Speciality Cameras' will include 'Fly Cam' for overhead tracking shots at the ceremonies, athletics and swimming, 'Crawl Cam', 'Pole Cam' and 'Turn Cam for underwater shots at the swimming venues. 'Dive Cams' will follow divers from the diving board into the water.

The 'Track Cams' will run alongside the track for events like the 100 meters. Helicopters with specially mounted cameras will cover the entire route. Special motorbikes equipped with RF cameras will follow the athletes for the coverage during the whole course of route.

"There is no delay as far as broadcasting is concerned. The work is in progress. The IBC is the best I have seen in my career," said Govardhan Sharma, DD Additional Director General.

The leading international Rights Holding Broadcasters (RHBs) of Delhi 2010 include:

Australia: Channel Network Ten/Foxtel/ABC Radio New Zealand: Sky TV and PRIME United Kingdom: British Broadcasting Corporation South Africa and Africa: SABC and SuperSport Asia: Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union Nigeria: Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria Canada: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Cyprus: Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation Namibia: Namibia Broadcasting Corporation Seychelles: Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation Caribbean: Caribbean Media Corporation United States of America: Video Sound Inc. Tanzania: Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation

Commonwealth Games village to provide world class food

The Commonwealth Games village will have food from all over the world. After all for Indians, it is like a grand marriage affair so just have a look at the gastronomical fare waiting for the athletes and officials at the Commonwealth Games Village.
THE STORIES of controversies in Commonwealth Games are not stopping but nation will be happy to see a food menu for the games which is fit in every taste. The Commonwealth Games village will have food from all over the world. After all for Indians,  it is like a grand marriage affair so just have a look at the gastronomical fare waiting for the athletes and officials at the Commonwealth Games Village.

Let me introduce you to the yummy menu at the village:

a) Six 6 types of yogurt like soya, natural fat, greek etc.
b) Eight kinds of fresh herbs like basil, parsley, oregano and tarragon
c) One type of smoked fish like smoked salmon
d) Six kinds of deli cold cuts like smoked chicken breast, buffalo salami and chicken ham etc.
e) Up to 12 vegetable crudités like zucchini, celery etc.
f)  Six type of fresh whole fruits like orange, banana, mango, apple etc.
g) Up to twelve types assorted cheese including cheddar, Danish blue, sponge etc.
h)  Four types of grilled meats like chicken steak, chicken cutlets etc.
i)  Four types of assorted nuts; cashew, peanuts, almonds etc.
j)  Up to 30 kinds of salad bars like lettuce, cherry tomato, artichoke, beetroot, cucumber etc.
k)  Eight types of fruit juices including of watermelon, pineapple, mango etc.
l)   Four specialty oils like extra virgin, walnut sesame, hazelnut etc.
m)   Six dry cereals like cornflakes, wheat barn, wheat flakes etc.

Beef (cow meat) will not be served anywhere in the Commonwealth Games premises. The menu is prepared keeping the sportspersons in mind; each item will show constituents, dietary value and allergic information in details. There will be ‘No-Pork’ zone, where food will be served to people from countries that have banned pork due to religious and other factors.

India’s street foods like pani puree, papri chat, bhel puri etc. will have a special stall in middle of main dinning hall and other CWG countries street food will be served in casual dining area with a ‘fun, alfresco environment’ and Village Bar will serve liquor and wine of choice.

The games central kitchen will run 24x7 and dish out 3,600 meals every day at the main dinning hall.

Apart from that volunteers, workforce and security personnel will get packaged foods at the cost of Rs. 120 for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Overall Games motto; Eat, Drink and Play. Save god it will not turn into Eat, Drink and Sleep.

13 International Rights Holding Broadcasters for CWG

The Organising Committee Commonwealth Games today announced deals with right holding broadcasters from 13 countries across six continents. Prasar Bharati is the host broadcast partner for the Games.

The international broadcast exposure will beat all records set. The Games are to be viewed across Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Asia, Canada, Europe, the Caribbean and the United States, with additional daily news coverage reaching across 160 countries.

The total contracted value for the 13 international right holding broadcasters is 46,342,601 dollar out of which OC CWG has already realised a sum of 34,224,000 dollar. The US, Canada and Tanzania are paying for the first time for Commonwealth Games broadcasts from overseas.

The Committee has secured a Value in Kind (VIK) agreement worth 3,600,000 dollar with broadcasters from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The airtime available in VIK will be shared with Indian Railways and Ministry of Tourism to promote tourism in the country.

Prasar Bharati has appointed Satellite Information Services (SIS) Live of UK for production and coverage services. SIS Live will deploy over 1300 experts across all venues. Approximately 345 HD cameras, including 38 Super Slow Motion cameras, 55 Robotic cameras, 40 RF cameras and 100 Slow Motion Servers are going to be part of the technical infrastructure.

LG launches TETRA system for networking agencies connected with CWG

Delhi Lt Governor Tejendra Khanna today launched a system for networking all agencies connected with the Commonwealth Games.

The LG was handed over the handset for secured communication system (TETRA), established by the Delhi Government for networking all the agencies connected with organisation of the Commonwealth Games - 2010, an LG office spokesperson said. Speaking on the occasion, the Lt Governor emphasised that after he saw the system in use at the Beijing Olympics, he realised that a similar secured communication system would be extremely useful for securing the sensitive security environment, especially with greater multiplicity of agencies and authorities required and efficient secured communication network system for smooth conduct of the Commonwealth Games - 2010. The important benefits of the secured communication system
(TETRA) are ultimate security, seamless service, superior coverage, shared networks without interfering with existing agencies - 'scalability and specialisation'.

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