Sunday, September 5, 2010

Games on mind, Chandigarh offers food fest

In a bid to get a share of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) pie, the Union Territory of Chandigarh  is taking the food festival route. By offering heavy discounts on food and stay packages, the city is targeting both foreigners and Delhites who will virtually have a 15-day holiday due to the sporting event.
Gurvinder Juneja, president of hotel association, says, "We are expecting the CWG to boost our business by at least 35%. The Games will also bring lot of foreign tourists wanting to visit nearby places, and Chandigarh's good connectivity will be a plus point.''

"Not only this, many Delhi residents are also likely to head this way, with most government schools and other offices remaining closed during the games,'' he added.

As many as 25 hotel and restaurants from Chandigarh have already decided to participate in the food festival and have submitted their plan to the Chandigarh administration. Some of the hotels that will offer 15-20% discount on food are South End, Park Inn, KC residency, Orange35, Metro 35, Khyber and Aroma. Taj GVK is working on having one on the sports theme. The CITCO-run hotels, including Mountview, Shivalikview and Parkview, will also be part of this gastronomical bonanza.

Apart from food, hotels will also offer reduced room tariff for one or two-night stay. Chandigarh has a capacity of 850-900 rooms in the organised sector and double this number in the unorganised hospitality units.

Meanwhile, the Chandigarh administration has planned illumination of all markets to reflect a celebratory spirit. The hotel have decided on life-size Shera mascots to welcome guests.

To ensure that the visitors get a good first impression of the city, the Indian Institute of Hotel Management is holding a workshop for all cab and auto drivers on how to conduct themselves properly. Apart from helplines at international bus terminals in sectors 17 and 43, railway station and the airport, the administration's representatives would be on a duty 24x7 at all these places to guide tourists.

The CWG spirit is already visible, with the first quarter results of hospitality industry in the whole country showing an upward trend.

Comm Games building certificates arrive

The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) is relying on Indian officials to provide bona fide building certificates for all of the sporting venues suspected of dodgy construction.

CGF chief executive Mike Hooper has received certificates from the Indian government for the athletes village and the training facility at the village.

He has also received certificates for the Yamuna Sports Complex, where the table tennis competition will be held and for the Siri Fort Sports Complex, which will host the badminton and squash.

Teams from 71 Commonwealth countries compete in New Delhi from October 3-14.

But construction crews are working furiously to complete the venues which are months over due and slated to finish by September 15.

Last Thursday, Indian officials missed a second deadline to provide the building certificates for all 17 venues and the Games village.

The certificates began trickling in last weekend to Mr Hooper with more expected this week.

"They call them the occupancy certificates apparently," he told AAP from New Delhi on Sunday.

Mr Hooper said he trusted the government to provide the CGF with legitimate proof that the venues are of sound construction and safe to occupy.

"I'm sure they're not going to lie to me," he said.

But he himself was not sure that the documents he received met the federation's demands.

"I assume that's what is required," Mr Hooper said.

"It's just a language thing. Do you call them building certificates or occupancy certificates. I don't know the clarification because they've only just come over the weekend."

In late July, India's anti-corruption watchdog dropped a bombshell by citing suspected dodgy building practices at a number of Games' venues and making accusations that construction firms have inflated their costs.

The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) inspected 15 roadway and sporting venues and found substandard concrete and steel works, and evidence that regulatory approvals had been forged.

Only 10 days remain before thousands of athletes begin to arrive to the Games village and only four weeks remain before the official start of the Games.

Mr Hooper said he was confident the certificates he has received and the ones he has yet to receive will be legitimate.

"It would probably be more odd if they just rocked up all on the same day, at the same time," he said.

"They're coming through as they're being completed."

"I'm sure they will come. But the sooner they do, the sooner we can allay people's fears. I still remain confident they will come."

Make sure certificates come on time: Hooper

Commonwealth Games Federation CEO Mike Hooper has once again left the Organising Committee red-faced by warning just 28 days ahead of the Games that some events may be in jeopardy if all completion certificates do not come on time.

Hooper said a lot of work still needs to be done and they are yet to receive confirmation from the Organising Committee that the Games Village and the venues are structurally safe and sound. “Things are surely going to go down to the wire. It’s a battle against time. If the OC fails to provide the safety certifications on time, if we can’t get the documentation of the Games Village and the venues on time, then a particular event or so may be in trouble,” Hooper said in a television interview.

The Delhi Government, meanwhile, believes there is no need to panic. “Till Saturday, 10 out of the 17 venues got completion certificates. We are awarding clearances systematically. All the venues will get safety clearances by September 6 or 7,” Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta said.

Among the venues that have not yet received fire clearances is the main athletics venue at Jawaharlal Nehru Complex, which will also host the opening and closing ceremony. “To my knowledge, there has been some subsiding due to the heavy rains in the grass in the middle of the track and that has been addressed. But if there is any serious damage with the track itself, then it will have to be re-certified by the IAAF because it was certified in July,” he said.

Another important site that has not yet received fire clearance is the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium, the venue for the hockey event. “There were some problems with the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium, but that has been sorted now and the clearance will be given by Monday,” Mehta added. Delhi University’s rugby stadium, DDA’s Yamuna Sports Complex and Siri Fort Complex are other venues that are yet to be cleared.

The earlier deadline for government agencies to provide building certificates by August 18 was postponed to August 31.

3 events to make CP out of bounds

Central Delhi will come to a virtual halt for nearly three days, thanks to three road events during the Commonwealth Games. Three road events — marathon, cycling and long walk — to be held on October 9, 10 and 14 will severely impact traffic in and around Connaught Place. Vehicles will not beallowed near the market and there would be no parking arrangements either.

"Two of the events will start  from Parliament Street and cover inner and outer circle of Connaught Place. No vehicles will be allowed from 10 am to 6 pm," said Satyendra Garg, Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic).

The police said they planned the route after they were apprised about the event schedule by the Organising Committee (OC) last month.

"As it is a road event we could not have omitted these roads," Garg said.

"There would be no restriction on people coming to CP. The Delhi Metro will be open and we urge people to avail its services," Garg said.

One of the three days when these events have been planned is a Sunday and another one falls on a October 14 — the day for the closing ceremony that has been declared a public holiday by the Delhi government.

On October 9, a 20-km walk has been planned on the Rajpath, which means that traffic around India Gate will be affected majorly.

"We would be barricading the entire Rajpath and people intending to use the road will have to take other roundabouts," said the officer.

On Sunday, the Delhi Police conducted second round of trials on lanes reserved for Commonwealth Games on two stretches — NH-24 Nizamuddin Khatta T-Point up to Noida More and from IP College traffic signal and taking Ring Road to Chhatra Marg. Vehicular movement on the exclusive lane on these stretches was not allowed during the trial that started at 11 am.

Deliberate straying into lanes exclusively marked for the Games vehicles will attract a fine of Rs 2,000. A notification in this regard will be issued in  a couple of days by the Lt Governor’s office.

Rs 750 crore as insurance for the Games

The Commonwealth Games Organising Committee is seeking a hefty Rs 750-crore insurance cover for the event against cancellation. According to sources, the OC was hopeful the government would take care of everything in case the event was cancelled. After nothing concrete came out of the discussions
with government insurance cover, the OC was left with no other option but to insure the Games against cancellation which will cover all eventualities, including cancellation due to terror strike or non transmission of video signals to broadcasters during the event.

Though the deal is yet to be finalised, the OC secretary general, Lalit Bhanot, confirmed that like in any other big event, even this Games is being insured for cancellation. He, however refused to speak on the talks that transpired between the government and the OC.

"I can only tell you that we have sought quotations from our Indian companies to get the insurance," said Bhanot.

"It has not been finalised as yet, but will be done a day or two."

Tourist cafes to give info in 8 languages

To address the information needs of native and foreign guests during the Commonwealth Games, 2010, tourist information cafes would be set up across the Capital. While 30 people-friendly kiosks have already been installed at prime market locations in the MCD area, another 10 will follow soon in the
NDMC area, senior officials said.

Designed by four individuals — Arvind Ranyal, Suresh Goyal, Amita Bansal Malik and Ved Pohoja — the cafes will have a touch-screen interactive device, which will have information on how to reach the venue and various modes of transport available in the city.

The touch screens would interact in eight different Indian and foreign languages.

The cafes would also have limited editions of souvenirs include t-shirts, caps, bags, crockery, chocolates, stationery, key chains and would also have a counter for sale of coffee table books on Delhi.

"Tourist information cafes would disseminate information such as points of tourist attractions, shopping, food and nightlife ," a senior Delhi government official said.

You tourist? Go straight & traffic signal

Delhi police have spent more than Rs 25 lakh over two years to teach their men to say “good morning”, “good afternoon”, “thank you, sir”, “India good country” and “go straight and red signal”.

The plan was that 42,000 policemen — from constables to inspectors — would be taught spoken English and etiquette in preparation for the Commonwealth Games. Police commissioner Y.S. Dadwal wanted his force to be ready for the thousands of foreigners due to visit Delhi for the Games.

Two private institutes were assigned the job.

“The spoken English course and behavioural training was a farce. We met over 300 constables last week who had undergone the training but they failed to speak one sentence in English. It was simply a waste of money,” said a senior IPS officer who is part of the Games security team.

The policemen have told the officers they were only taught words like “very good”, “how are you”, “beautiful place”, “India good country”, “very good people”, “good morning”, “good evening” and “good afternoon”.

Most were sweating when asked how they would give directions in English if a tourist approached them, the IPS officer said. “Go straight and traffic signal and left,” one blurted without knowing what he was saying, the officer added.

“We will have a meeting soon with the private institutes and ask them to return part of the money spent on the course. Or else we would ask them to give them training again.”

Between Rs 25 lakh and Rs 30 lakh was spent on the course.

S.N. Srivastava, joint commissioner (training), who was in charge of the entire programme, refused to comment when asked if no one had kept tabs on the quality of the training through the past two years.

“I cannot say anything on this,” he said.

The policemen were trained in batches, with each group attending class from 11am to 4pm for three days.

“The three days turned out to be a picnic for everyone in our batch. We had great fun as we got a much-needed break from duty. From the beginning, we knew three days would not be enough for us to speak English. Even people from the institutes said so and gave us a list of words and sentences to memorise,” said a constable posted at the police headquarters who completed his language training last month.

A head constable at Rajendernagar police station said: “Now my son teases me when I try to memorise some English words and sentences. I know some basic words and this is what I learnt there as well. We had a gala time there without learning anything. We wished the course should have continued for several months.”

An IPS officer was critical of the way the course was planned, saying people cannot start speaking a foreign language overnight. “Had this been the case, English would have been spoken by everybody in our country,” he said.

Rajan Bhagat, the Delhi police spokesperson, said there had been some problem with the course. “We are trying to find out what went wrong. The course was meant to groom our personnel with language skills and etiquette. I think three days are not enough to develop all the skills.”

But he contradicted himself when asked why a three-day language course was conceived. “Do you think our policemen are illiterate?” Bhagat asked.

65 units of para-military forces report to Delhi Police

Over 65 companies of para-military forces have reported to the Delhi Police so far for deployment across the city in view of the upcoming Commonwealth Games. A large chunk of the force will assist the police in maintenance of law and order.

As part of the security arrangements for the international sporting event, the Delhi Police are to get over 150 companies from para-military organisations including the Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force, Central Industrial Security Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police and Sashastra Seema Bal. “The units started reporting to us a few days ago. They are being provided accommodations at Jharoda and Wazirabad. Similar arrangements will be made at Malviya Nagar and other places as and when required,” said a police officer, adding that the first phase of allocation of the force had been completed.

The para-military personnel at the disposal of the Delhi Police are now being allocated to the district police for use in routine jobs. “They are being deployed for patrolling, picketing, checking and for mere show of strength in crime-prone areas. They are also assisting in carrying out search operations in busy places like markets whenever required,” said another police officer.

The security personnel are usually deployed for six to eight hours after being briefed by the respective Station House Officers regarding their jobs for the day. “At present, there is no need for heavy deployment at the Games venues and we are using the extra force for general law and order maintenance. Increased presence of security personnel will act like deterrence. During the Games, the 11 police districts will be provided three to five companies each to ensure safety and security of the city,” said the police officer.

The antecedents of the security personnel to be deployed at the Games-related venues would be verified by the police and intelligence agencies. They would be required to fill out personal details in a verification form, sources said.

Now, three swimmers fail dope test

With news that three swimmers have tested positive for a banned substance emerging on Sunday, the total number of Indian sportspersons who have flunked dope tests in the past week rose to 18.

Of the three swimmers, two, Richa Mishra — an eight-time national champion — and Jyotsna Pansare were part of the country’s swim team for the Commonwealth Games.

Three days ago, six wrestlers and two athletes had failed dope tests while last Monday, a netball player and six boxers had tested positive. At least six of them were also medal hopes at the coming Games.

The swimmers tested positive for the same substance, methylhexanimine, that the wrestlers and athletes had done.

The substance, taken as drops in the nostrils and also used to relieve nasal congestion, stimulates the central nervous system and improves reflexes.

A component of geranium oil, methylhexanimine, is also popular at rave parties as a recreational drug.

"It's very unfortunate," said Virender Nanavati, Swimming Federation of India secretary general. “We have provisionally suspended them.”

“I have been tested so many times, and have always come out clean,” said Richa Mishra. “I don’t know how it happened.”

National Anti-Doping Agency director general, Rahul Bhatnagar, confirmed that the ban was imposed on Saturday evening after the agency received the list from the National Dope Testing Laboratory.

Contamination or just a fa├žade?

Experts believe either the athletes are not aware of the substance or have been using contaminated food supplements.
The substance might have been given by experts who thought the National Dope Testing Laboratory would not detect it, as the drug had been added to the World Anti-Doping Prohibited list last year.

However, WADA has been investigating since 2006-07 after an Illinois chemist was found marketing a dietary supplement laced with an amphetamine-like substance. Whether such supplements are still in circulation needs to be investigated.

Ashok Ahuja, former head of the department, sports medicine, NIS Patiala, said, “The drug is usually taken with caffeine and as a dietary supplement to get the desired effect. Since the medicine is not found in India, it will be interesting to see where it has been brought from?”

Experts also felt that it might be possible that since the substance was added to the WADA’s list of prohibited substance in 2009, the dietary supplements laced with the drug made its way into the relatively ignorant Indian market after other advanced nations abandoned its use.

“It could be possible,” said a source.

Bad news for Commonwealth Games, MeT predicts more rains

In what appears to be further bad news for Delhi's preparations for the Commonwealth Games, the MeT department has said that heavy rains are likely to continue in northern India, including in the capital, for some more days.

In its weekly forecast, it said the western end of the monsoon is likely to oscillate north-south of its normal position leading to fairly widespread rainfall with heavy falls over Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Chandigarh and Delhi during the half of the week.

The rains are likely to decrease thereafter in these regions, the weather office said.

The withdrawal of the southwest monsoon normally starts from western parts of Rajasthan around September 1.

"However, in view of north-south oscillation of monsoon trough and continuation easterly flow over northwest India, the withdrawal of monsoon is not expected to commence till middle of September," the weather agency has predicted.

The city has so far received 792.4mm of rains since July five when the monsoon hit the capital. This is an excess of over 120mm of rains so far.

This month alone, the city rain guages has measured over 80mm of rains.

The authorities have blamed the rains for non-completion and extention of deadlines of Games-related projects, which were already running behind schedule.

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