Monday, September 6, 2010

CWG balloon show at opening ceremony to cost Rs 70cr

With the much-discussed aerostat or balloon show for the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games likely to be tested in the next couple of days, the entire cost of the eyeball-catching spectacle will be around Rs 70 crore.

Though the aerostat contracted from a UK-based company has been billed at Rs 40 crore, the costs do not include the winches needed to set it up or the projectors that will beam light onto the balloon at the opening gala. The device is being laid out at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in preparation for trials as officials hope for a clear day or two.

The paraphernalia accompanying the aerostat has added significantly to the costs as the equipment is not easily available since it is meant for specialized use. The platform from where the show is to be mounted is being tested and the tether and winch system, overlay software, helium trailers and generators have to be in place that are consequently pushing up the actual deployment costs.

While a trial run for the balloon show is a high-profile part of the Games projects that are being tested, delays in venue preparations continue to bother officials, who have been deputed to ensure the work is completed in time. The Games village has towers that are still unfinished with equipment and furnishings to be put in place while the swimming pool at the main athletes' residence is reportedly still not ready for use.

While digital cabling at venues is being reviewed closely at virtually every meeting convened by the cabinet secretary, the approaches to the venues are a problem as construction debris has to be cleared. But rains over the weekend and on Monday as well have led to pools of stagnant water outside the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. The effect of incessant rain on outdoor venues like archery or some shooting events has to be assessed as well.

The government has been hoping for clear weather for four to five days to speedily remove debris, which has not happened so far.

Officials are also worried about the road projects that have been carried out in the past few months and are still underway. The combined effect of the rains and the haste with which work is being done might see the surfaces being eroded and roads cracking or sinking ahead of the Games.

'Delhi Celebrates' the Games spirit

Commonwealth Games will not just be restricted to sporting events. It is going to be one of the biggest shows Delhi has every hosted showcasing country's rich and diverse culture of dance, art, music, theatre and culinary expertise. While the sporting extravaganza would run for 10 days, from
October 4 to 13, the 'Delhi Celebrates' festival will entertain tourists — both Indian and foreign — as well as the locals for two months.

The festival is kick-starting  on Tuesday at Dilli Haat where all the states will present their cultural events.

"It is going to be an iconic festival in the history of art and culture. We will present a huge number of programmes to cater to everybody's taste," Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit said at the launch of the festival's calendar.

Officials said the festival has everything to cater to the people of different nationalities, age groups and people of different genres.

To reach out to the international tourists, especially from the countries participating in the Commonwealth Games, the cultural bonanza will also have film screening, poetry and musical shows from the commonwealth games countries.   

According to senior Delhi government officials, 15 different agencies including the Delhi Government, Ministry of Culture, National School of Drama, Sangeet Akadami, the National Museum for Modern Art and Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts are putting up a grand show across the city.

"'Delhi Celebrates' will be the largest single exposition of culture in history of India," said Jawahar Sircar, secretary, Union Ministry of Culture.

The calendar of 'Delhi Celebrates' events are also on the Delhi government website.

Opening, closing shows in peril

From grandeur to plausibility — the delay in the preparations for the Commonwealth Games has even put the opening and closing ceremonies in jeopardy. Coupled with the incessant rainfall, the delay has put a question mark on the quality of the show. It has also left the performers with just a
week's time for rehearsals. Originally, they were to get an entire month for practice, show producer Wizcraft told the Group of Ministers overseeing the preparations. The producer said the insistence was no longer on "grandeur" but only on the "feasibility" of the show.

"Even Ramlila gets more rehearsal time than this," a senior official, who was part of the meeting, said on the condition of anonymity.

Thanks to the rains, the track and turf at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium — the venue for the two ceremonies — have sunk unevenly. The Central Public Works Department is in the process of rolling 600 tonnes of sand to reduce the slush.

According to the details of the meeting accessed by HT, Viraf Sarkari, director of Wizcraft, told the GoM that in case of more rain, the sand will sink further and make it impossible to even erect the main stage, which weighs 450 tonnes.

"The GoM told the Organ-ising Committee that if anyone is not delivering in time, they should be replaced immediately," said the source.

But, according to Lalit Bhanot, OC secretary general, everything was in order. "What-ever has been decided earlier… it will be like that only... It's going to be a mega show," he said.

The lack of time has even abridged crucial show content.

Sarkari told the GoM that the crucial Mahatma segment might not happen at all. Even the final music was not in place and key participants were clueless about several important songs to be used.

RTI watchdog seeks CWG info

The alleged Commonwealth Games scam might turn out to be much bigger after government agencies upload all the details of their Games-related projects on their respective websites. The Right to Information (RTI) watchdog has directed the agencies to make the information public. The Central
Information Commission (CIC) has asked the Delhi government, New Delhi Municipal Council and Municipal Corporation of Delhi to reveal all details about their tendering processes of all Games projects in the last five years.

The CIC has issued a set pattern under which all the details have to be furnished - the government agencies will have to reveal the number of people who applied for the tenders of a said Games contract, date of completion of the project and whether any penalty was

levied. The CIC, in a letter written to all agencies on August 10, said that a lot of information about the agencies was not available in the public domain, as it should be under Section 4 of the RTI Act.

The commission said the government agencies should provide more "transparency" in its dealings. By doing so, it will also "reduce the load of RTI applications", the CIC added.

"We found out that a number of agencies had not uploaded a lot of details regarding the Commonwealth Games projects including the tendering process on their websites. We have now directed Delhi government, MCD and NDMC to furnish such details which will help curb corruption, as everything will be available in the public domain," said Shailesh Ghandhi, Central Information Commissioner. 

While the Delhi government and the NDMC have to furnish all details by September 15, the MCD has been given time till September 30.

Around 2000 media professionals to cover Commonwealth Games

Around 800 international and 1200 domestic media personnel are expected to cover the Delhi Commonwealth Games scheduled to be held in the capital from October 3 to 14.

As compared to 1562 Media accreditations for the Melbourne Games in 2006, around 2000 accreditations will be made for Delhi 2010.

The Main Press Centre (MPC) will be available for use from September 23 and can be accessed till September 30, daily between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m and will be open round-the-clock from October 1-15.

The MPC boasts 600 work stations for press and photo areas, with Wi-Fi and High-speed broadband at rate card, Games info service to access Games News Service and transport schedules.

The Venue Media Centres, that will open two hours prior to the event and close two hours after the event concludes, will also have work stations, high-speed Internet, press conference room, Media Lounge, info terminal for Games News Service, catering concession outlets and Mixed Zones.

Apart from this, the Games Village Media Centre will have an International Zone, which will allow access to accreditated pass-holding Media.

The Media Centre will have work areas, Media Lounge, Media Pass Desk, two press conference rooms, presentation studio and two interview rooms.

Also around 600 volunteers will assist the Media at all competition and non-competition venues.

There will be extensive transport arrangements for the Media, with T4 shuttles being made available. The Main Media Transport Mall will be located at ITPO, Complex, about 70 metres from MPC.

CM inaugurates Commonwealth Games exhibition on wheels

Chief Minister Digambar Kamat inaugurated an exhibition on sports and Information Technology on board Commonwealth Games Express, a special train which arrived at Vasco this morning on its 75th day of the journey.
Highlighting the sporting achievements of all time great sportspersons in the country, the Commonwealth Games Express arrived to a rousing reception at the Vasco Station.

The train, modified into an exhibition-on-wheels, also lays emphasis on the sporting history of India, apart from highlighting the significance of Commonwealth Games (CWG).

Speaking on the occasion, Kamat complimented Department of Ministry of Communications, Information Technology and the Indian Railways for planning such an exhibition.

The students will make best use of this opportunity to learn about the IT and the Commonwealth games, he said.

While a section of the population is much aware of the significance of information and Technology, the larger section still does not have much clarity about it, Kamat said.

The more important fact is that they don't know how IT as a tool can change their lives, he added.

The Commonwealth Express is about bridging that knowledge gap, he said in a press release.

Kamat also visited the exhibition. This train consists of 11 coaches out of which five coaches have been allocated to Railway Sports Promotion Board and rest to Department of Information Technology.

The Divisional Railway Manager Shri Pravin Kumar Mishra said that the Indian Railways has always been promoting sports.

Now by endorsing ICT through the Commonwealth Express it has taken the initiative of spreading the essence of IT to citizens who are not yet exposed to opportunities that IT generates.

Officiating Chief Secretary Shri Narendra Kumar in his welcome speech expressed happiness on the arrival of the train and said that it will benefit the locals as well as students to learn more about the Commonwealth games and the Information Technology.

Vasco da Gama is the 36th stop-over on the special train's itinerary.

The train which has a 101 day long journey schedule and is planned to travel through 20 states, stopping at 49 major stations was flagged off by the Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee from the Safdarjung railway station in New Delhi on June 24, 2010.

The train stayed for one day in Goa.

India's new super luxury train flagged off from New Delhi

India's new super luxury train 'Royal Rajasthan on Wheels' was flagged off from New Delhi on Sunday.

It has several new destinations added to the itinerary as compared to the previous luxury train 'Palace on Wheels'.

The new luxury train is a joint venture of Rajasthan Tourism and Development Corporation and the Indian Railways.

The government decided to launch a new train with improvised provisions for tourists keeping into mind the 'Palace on Wheels' concept that has been a hit with the tourists.

"See, firstly, our itinerary is very different. None of the trains has a similar itinerary as ours. In this, we cover Rajasthan, we cover Madhya Pradesh and Khajurao and we cover Agra and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh as well," said B. K. Sharma, general manager of the luxury train.

"The itinerary of none of the trains covers all this. The theme of the interiors is entirely different from the other trains. We have super deluxe suites, which are not there in any other train. There are saloons, cubical showers, satellite TV, and also there are spa and gym, which are not present in any other train," he added.

The 22-coach train has the capacity of carrying 82 passengers in a journey with one Super Deluxe saloon, 13 Deluxe Saloons and two restro-lounges.

Special discounts are being offered for the upcoming 2010 Commonwealth Games.

"Regarding Commonwealth Games, we have made some extra efforts. We have given a 10 percent discount on the fares of the train. We know that this is a very good moment for our country that tourists from across the world would come here," said G. N. Bhatt, Joint Director, Public Relations Department of the Government of Rajasthan.

"When a foreign tourist comes to Delhi he definitely visits the Golden Triangle, - Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. This train covers all the three destinations. So, the tourists coming here for the Commonwealth Games would also take the advantage of this train," he added.

The passengers on the 'Royal Rajasthan on Wheels' are taken around the rich cultural heritages, including architecturally renowned palaces in various towns of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh besides Rajasthan.

Around 33 tourists including ten Indian passengers travelled in the first trip of this luxurious train on Sunday.

"It will be a festival. Everyone is happy, having fun. They are all friends from Portugal and they are from Brazil. Everything is nice and fine. We are all very happy," said a tourist from Portugal.

"Well, it's not cheap, but being expensive depends on what they offer us, what will be their treatment, and at the end, I will tell you if it's expensive or if it does not meet our expectations," he added.

While the 'Palace on Wheels' starts its journey every Wednesday between the months of August and April, the 'Royal Rajasthan on Wheels' is scheduled to run every Sunday between September and April.

Security measures at CWG venues by Sep 15

Delhi Police will take over all the Commonwealth Games venues by Sep 15 and initiate security measures to ensure an incident-free sporting event, an official said Monday.

"There will be full-fledged security measures in all Games venues by Sep 15. The security check in Commonwealth Games village will be done shortly, a specific date cannot be divulged, Commonwealth Games Security and Planning Joint Commissioner J.K. Sharma told IANS.

Even though there is no specific threat to the Games, the security measures were to showcase that we are alert and well prepared for the mega sporting events, he said.

He said once the security personnel take over the Games venues, they will completely sanitise and seal them after a detailed check.

"Delhi Police, the nodal agency for Games security, will conduct various drills, including anti-sabotage checks, once they take over possession of the venues," Sharma said.

When contacted, Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat told IANS: "We have not decided a specific date when the Delhi Police will take up the Games venues, but we are planning to take the security measures shortly."

The Commonwealth Games are slated for Oct 3-14.

OC hands over completion certificates of all venues to CGF

The Commonwealth Games Organising Committee Monday handed over copies of the completion certificates of all competition and non-competition venues, including the Games Village, to the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) chief executive Mike Hooper.

"We got copies of the completion certificates given by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi to the venue owners today and, as promised, handed them over to Mr. Hooper," OC Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi said in a statement.

"We are confident that the Commonwealth Games Federation and its members will be satisfied."

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi issued 14 completion certificates to the venue owners of Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium Complex, Indira Gandhi Indoor Sports Complex, RK Khanna Tennis Stadium, Dr Karni Singh Shooting Ranges, Thyagaraj Stadium, all facilities in the Delhi University North Campus, Chhatrasal Stadium and Ludlow Castle School.

The New Delhi Municipal Council last week had given completion certificates for three venues -- Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, Talkatora Indoor Stadium and SPM Aquatics Complex.

The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) provided the completion certificates for its venues, including the Games Village, Siri Fort Complex and Yamuna Sports Complex.

B-samples of six wrestlers also test positive

The B-samples of six Indian wrestlers, charged with doping, have also tested positive and they now face the anti-doping disciplinary panel for a hearing.

The wrestlers were tested positive in their A-samples for the banned substance methylhexanamine, which was included in the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) list of prohibitive drug this year.

Sumit (74kg), Mausam Khatri (96kg) and Arjuna awardee Rajiv Tomar (120kg) in the men's freestyle and Gursharanpreet Kaur (72kg) in the women's section were part of the Oct 3-14 Commonwealth Games wrestling squad. They continue to be suspended till the hearing.

Rahul Mann (60kg) and Joginder Singh (120kg) were the other two wrestlers.

"All the six wrestlers' B-samples have also returned positive. A copy of the second notice has been sent to them and the anti-doping disciplinary committee which will give the wrestlers a date of hearing tomorrow," National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) director-general Rahul Bhatnagar told IANS.

The disciplinary committee will be headed by retired sessions judge Dinesh Dayal. The three-member panel will include an eminent sportsperson and eminent doctor.

The sports ministry had requested a quick hearing of the dope-tainted athletes keeping in mind the forthcoming Commonwealth Games.

Besides the six wrestlers, two athletes (shot-putter Saurabh Vij and discus thrower Akash Antil) and three swimmers (Richa Mishra, Jyotsna Pansari and Amar Muralidharan) also tested positive for methylhexanamine in their A-samples. Muralidharan is not part of the Commonwealth Games squad.

"Richa, Jyotsana, Akash and Saurabh came today for their B-samples testing," Bhatnagar said.

All these athletes have been provisionally suspended by their federations.

Sports complex closure for Games: Hearing on plea delayed

A matter related to the closure of the Siri Fort Sports Complex in south Delhi as certain events of the Commonwealth Games are to be hosted there was Monday referred by a Delhi High Court bench to another court.

The bench of Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice Reva Khetrapal transferred the matter to another bench as counsel Ruchi Sindwani, who appeared for Lieutenant Governor Tejender Khanna, happened to be a relative of one of the sitting judges.

The matter could not be heard on an earlier occasion as well as the two judges who were to take up the matter were the members of the sports complex.

The petition was moved by members of the sports complex challenging the decision of its secretary to close it down from Aug 16 till the Games. The complex will host events like badminton and squash during the Oct 3-14 sporting event
Counsel R.K. Saini, appearing for the petitioner, said that the matter will come up for hearing Sep 8.

Atul Wadhera, a Supreme Court lawyer who filed the petition, alleged that the closure of the complex was unjustified as it denied facilities to hundreds of its members.

There are only two events to be held for the Commonwealth Games and there are about 29 activities in the complex due to which people come here on a daily basis," Wadhera said in the petition.

Due to the decision, retired people and children have also been affected as they have been denied entry to use a children's park in the complex.

People are not allowed to jog and play football in the ground. For the sake of two events you are stopping people from availing facilities and participating in other activities," said the petition.

It also sought immediate opening of the complex as an interim measure allowing people access to the jogging tracks, children's park and ground for football.

'Miracle compound' for army rescues CWG

At dawn on September 18, 2009, Group Captain S C Chafekar lined up his An-32 transport aircraft for a landing approach to the spectacular, 13,300-foot high Nyoma airstrip in Ladakh, sending a herd of local Khyang (Tibetan wild asses) fleeing in panic. This first ever fixed wing aircraft landing at Nyoma, the army’s newest Advanced Landing Ground (ALG), close to the frontline with China, was made possible by a new “miracle compound” called RBI-81.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD), always secretive, merely stated that a “new advanced compound” had gone into building Nyoma ALG. But the army was pleased — as a document with Business Standard reveals — at this infrastructure coup. The 2.7-kilometre airstrip was built in just 90 days by jawans who had never worked with RBI-81. All they had to do was to mix RBI-81 with local mud, sprinkle water over the surface and then run a road roller over the mixture. Hardening instantly, the surface easily withstands repeated landings by the 20-tonne An-32.

Now RBI-81 is helping ease the chaos of Delhi’s preparations for next month’s Commonwealth Games (CWG). Here’s what just happened last week at the Siri Fort Sports Complex in South Delhi, the squash and badminton venue, to which shuttler Saina Nehwal will carry the hopes of a billion Indians. On the morning of August 28, a flabbergasted CWG Organising Committee team discovered that the Siri Fort parking area and the roads inside the complex were still knee-deep bogs of churned mud. With the Games five weeks away, the contractor threw up his arms. Laying a concrete surface would take a week; and then 28 days would be needed for the concrete to set. If it rained, said the contractor, it would take longer.

Enter RBI-81. Ashwini Mundra, of contracting firm Salasar Marketing, undertook to prepare Siri Fort’s 1,500-square metre parking area, in 48 hours using RBI-81. Work commenced at 1 pm on the afternoon of August 30; fourteen hours later, at 3 am on August 31, the job was completed. That morning, says Mundra, 100 buses were parked on the newly surfaced area.

The Delhi Development Authority’s Superintending Engineer, R K Gupta, who inspected the finished work, gave an unambiguous thumbs-up to RBI-81: “The Siri Fort Sports Complex is ready for use. This product is much faster than anything we have ever used before and the results are excellent. It is now in our sights for other projects.”

But RBI-81 is originally a military product and Alchemist Touchnology, which holds the licence to manufacture and sell RBI-81 in India, covets the Indian Army’s ongoing programme to construct 3,429 kilometres of border roads in Himalayan altitudes, temperatures and weather conditions. Already the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is testing a road segment in Jammu and Kashmir, constructed with RBI-81, to verify the company’s claims that the surface is waterproof, weatherproof and unaffected by temperatures from minus 40 to plus 60 degrees Centigrade.

“The most attractive feature of this product is the economics,” says Gautam Gulati, a group director with Alchemist, “An RBI-81 based road is almost 40 per cent cheaper than a conventional tarmac or concrete road. Instead of multiple layers of stones, bricks and gravel, all you need is 2-3 layers of RBI-81 and the tarmac can be slapped on over that. A rural road, conforming to Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) standards, costs Rs 28.23 lakh per kilometre built conventionally. If we use RBI-81 instead, the cost drops to Rs 18.52 lakh, a saving of 36.87 per cent.”

Even more important than the price advantage, say BRO officials, is the eco-friendliness of RBI-81, given the growing difficulty in obtaining environmental clearance for road projects. First, building with RBI-81 reduces manual labour by more than 50 per cent and, therefore, the administrative and security problems of moving hundreds of labourers for projects in sensitive areas. Further, building with RBI-81 minimises stone quarrying and crushing, and transporting tonnes of stones to the project area.

Says the BRO official, “RBI-81 dramatically reduces the environmental and carbon footprint of road-building.”

Alchemist Touchnology plans to leverage this environmental advantage to market RBI-81 to India’s Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. Josy Cohen, the chairman of Holland-registered RBI Global, which patented RBI-81 worldwide and licensed Alchemist Touchnology to produce and market the product in India, claims, “India’s highway building programme uses 175 million cubic metres of gravel annually. By using RBI-81, this can be reduced to just 20 million cubic metres per year.”

RBI-81 was originally developed in South Africa to build roads along that country’s troubled borders and increase the army’s mobility. Today, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) are major users of RBI-81. IDF has rapidly constructed a network of roads from major towns and cities to border areas, permitting the rapid deployment of troops. Invisible from the air, these road surfaces are hard enough to prevent enemies from digging them up and planting mines.

'Demoralised, but we'll pull it off'

Suresh Kalmadi on Monday said he and the rest of his staff were "demoralised", "hurt" and "pained" by the negative publicity surrounding the Commonwealth Games. "We don't deserve it," said the Organising Committee (OC) chairman, who dropped in at the Hindustan Times office to chat about the problems plaguing the Committee, the state of the venues and how the Games will be conducted.

"The infrastructure and building of venues really has not been our responsibility, the overseeing of the Games itself is. Every decision has been taken by the Executive Board, which also includes the secretaries of the sports and urban development ministries, an additional secretary from the finance ministry, the chief secretary Delhi government and members from the Olympic Committee. But popular perception is that the OC should be hanged. So, for no fault of ours, we were. The way things are happening, I'm quite sad about it," said Kalmadi.

He, however, said that despite minor glitches, "each venue is world-class". He said requisite clearances, including fire safety certificates, would be handed over to Commonwealth Games Federation CEO Mike Hooper by Monday and the volunteer programme would be a "rip-roaring success".

"Have faith. We can pull this off," he said.

He also said the Games Village will be ready by September 15, a day before advance parties from foreign contingents arrive to check their quarters. "It's better than the Beijing Village."

Delhi is waiting to find out.

CWG to boost jewellery sales by 15-20%

The 19th Commonwealth Games (CWG), being held for the first time in India  and only the second in the Asian region, is all set to experience the glitters of the jewellery markets of the world's largest gold importer country.

Industry players in the gold jewellery sector in India are in the lookout for robust jewellery sales during the international event, which will start off from October 3, 2010 and last till 14th of the month. Retailers estimate 15-20% growth in sales due to the Games, where nearly 72 nations will bring hundreds of their participants.

Commenting about the outlook for the jewellery demand during the Games, Rajesh Mehta, Chairman, Rajesh Exports maintained that the sales will be robust as the event is colliding with the ongoing festive season in India.

"We are hopeful of increased sales during the Commonwealth Games to be held in October as a large number of foreign tourists will throng India, especially Delhi. We have three retail jewellery outlets in Delhi alone and expect increased sales clubbed with festive buying during this period," Mehta told CommodityOnline over a telephonic interview today.

The national capital, which is famous for gold jewellery, will host thousands of foreign visitors during the event. Jewellers are hopeful of strong sales on the back of upbeat sentiment.

"The buoyancy in market is already there and the mood is upbeat among the retail consumers. We see sales rising by around 15-20% during Games," Mehta maintained.

However, concerns run high over the shooting up prices of gold that may play a spoilsport for the jewellery industry. But considering the ongoing festivities and Diwali, being merely a couple of months away, jewellers expect demand and prices, both to rise.

Diwali is one of the most auspicious periods for Indians to buy gold and made-ups.

The mood among the consumers is upbeat, as was informed by Jai Begani, Managing Director of Forever Jewellery that gold sales is currently on upward trend due to the upcoming festive season and is expected to rise further. Forever, a retail jewellery chain has a showroom in Delhi.

"The mood of the consumer is upbeat and the sales have in fact increased, even though the gold rate is showing an upward trend. Consumers are expecting the same to go up further and thus have already started buying both for investment and also adornment," told Begani adding that the upcoming event of Commonwealth Games should be a very exciting prospect for sales of gold and diamond jewellery.

In the Indian markets spot gold prices are hovering over 18950 per 10 grams today, while on the commexes, MCX Gold traded at Rs.18974 up from its previous close of Rs.18971 per 10 grams.

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