Saturday, October 2, 2010

Vigil up for CWG opening event, 1.15 lakh men guard capital

In an unprecedented security cover, over 1.15 lakh security personnel were keeping a watch in the capital a day before the 19th Commonwealth Games on Sunday.

As many as 195 paramilitary companies — six of which are constituted by women — including 2,300 commandos, 100 anti-sabotage teams, 300 sniffer dogs, 80 radiation meters and 15 bomb disposal squads are securing the city. Add to the heady combo IAF helicopters with snipers, NSG men on top of high-rises around venues and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and you have a sporting event with unprecedented security.

Like any top cop waiting to pass a major test, Delhi police commissioner chose his words carefully on Saturday. ‘‘The security arrangement was made after considerable thought, rethought, examination and reexamination.

It is a multi-layered, multi-dimensional arrangement,” he said. Noting that it was a “moment of great challenge” to ensure security for the Games, Dadwal said: “We have a higher security matrix for the Games compared to any other event ever held in the city”.

Take the example of the opening ceremony alone. Sources said at least 7,500 security personnel will guard Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Over 350 CCTV cameras will keep a hawk’s eye on the spectators.

Ninety checkpoints — the highest-ever in a stadium complex in India — has been set up with security divided in the outer, middle, inner and exclusive zones. The sources said defence helicopters with will do an aerial recce of the Games Village and stadiums at regular intervals. The helicopters will receive additional support from three UAVs, which will also be pressed into service for surveillance work at regular intervals.

The sources said about 70 personnel of the Delhi Police’s Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT) have been trained by the Indian Air Force and the NSG to shoot down suspicious manned or unmanned ‘‘ flying objects”. The three Light Armoured Troop Carriers — bought at Rs 54 lakh each — will also be deputed at the venues and during the opening ceremony.

Eighty radiation meters have also been procured and CBRN teams of the NDRF and the Army have been deployed to tackle emergencies like chemical, biological and nuclear radiations. The Army has also been put on standby, the sources said.

There is no specific terror threat, commissioner Dadwal said. ‘‘There is no truth to the intelligence input that terrorist Illyas Kashmiri is targeting the Games,’’ he said.

Helping the security personnel are gadgets like baggage and car scanners, pass readers, integrated CCTV cameras and many more. An integrated communication room has been set up at the Delhi Police headquarters. Named C4i, it will provide round-the-clock access to all venues through the CCTV network and aerial pictures sent by the UAVs. ‘‘We have dedicated hotlines for each security and civil agency here. Any emergency will be monitored from here,’’ said Karnal Singh, joint CP (Northern Range).

Boycott threatens Delhi Commonwealth Games opening ceremony

THREE countries are threatening to boycott the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony because they claim organisers have not told them enough about the event.

In a move that would overshadow Delhi's three-hour extravaganza and shatter organisers' hopes the show could save its Games, Scotland, New Zealand and the Isle of Man have refused to guarantee they will march tonight.

A fourth country, Commonwealth Games giant Canada, confirmed it had raised concerns with organisers and was still seeking guarantees for the welfare of its athletes planning to take part.

The countries have sought assurances about the welfare of their athletes and details of their movements to and from the ceremony.

They have also asked Indian officials for the latest security intelligence but have received no reply.

But with little or no feedback from organisers, they are threatening to pull out.

Despite the row, Australia has no plans to join the boycott.

Chef de Mission Steve Moneghetti said it was a "privilege and a highlight of an athlete's career" to take part in the opening ceremony.

A report in London's Daily Telegraph said the threat to stage a last-minute boycott of the three hour extravaganza came from Scotland, Isle of Man, Canada and New Zealand during this morning's chef de mission meeting.

In a heated meeting top officials from those countries demanded more explicit details about the ceremony, in particular the time demands on the athletes.

Scottish representatives said ''it was a wild rumour that we won't take part at this point'' but sources have confirmed they have refused to confirm to Indian officials they will march.

It is understood Scotland's concerns relate to "logistical" issues and confusion surrounding how long its athletes will have to stay out in Delhi's sapping heat to attend the event.

Initially the Delhi 2010 Organising Committee told team officials the athletes could leave whenever they wanted. But this week they reportedly backflipped and warned them they would have to stay for the entire event, which is expected to run for more than three hours.

Another person at the meeting told the Telegraph that some of the teams were more worried about the ''haphazard'' and ''confusing'' orders of protocol than any perceived security risk.

The countries have demanded that the organising committee come back to them urgently with more specific details before they will confirm their attendance at the ceremony.

Delhi woes exhaust Team Canada head

The fortnight of intense labour to ensure the Commonwealth Games would take place has left Canada’s chef de mission feeling like she has completed the event already.

Martha Deacon told Reuters on Saturday that the number of calls to organisers over the past 10 days and reassurances to worried parents of Canada’s athletes had left her feeling drained.

“Yes,” Deacon said when asked if she felt liked she had completed the event already.

“You get that comment as people get tired and they’ll say ‘I feel like the games are over’“

The opening ceremony for the 12-day Games, which features 71 mostly former British colonies, will be on Sunday and organisers hope it will bring an end to all the talk of a crisis surrounding the event.

After the collapse of a bridge near the main stadium, an outbreak of the dengue fever and question marks about the cleanliness of the athletes accommodation, there were serious concerns that the Games in India would have to be moved or cancelled.

These fears have led to a number of athletes withdrawing but Deacon said she was proud that no Canadian athlete had quit over safety or security issues, which she said was down to excellent communication with all of Canada’s 260-strong athletes.

“I am very pleased by it (no withdrawals),” she said.

“When things were a challenge in the village I was on the phone to Delhi by the hour. (We) met with every sport every day and met via a teleconference so I think it was the communication.

“The communication and the updates kept (up the morale of) the athletes, (who) were incredible. (It allowed) the athletes to train and (stay) at their peak and trust that things were being looked after.”

Deacon said that after all the turbulent events of the past few weeks, she was simply looking forward to the magical opening day of competition.

“The focus does become more and more on sport and that is truly what we are here for.

“All of the speculation, all of the talk, all of the wonderment, all of the predictions ... it become the athletes just coming in and doing their thing and that is wonderful.”

Rural young folks lend a hand at the Games Village

Over 60 rural young men from Bharatpur district in Rajasthan have joined the housekeeping services at the Commonwealth Games Village in New Delhi. The youngsters have been trained under a special employment project. Lupin Human Welfare and Research Foundation conducted a month-long training programme recently for the young men belonging to Below Poverty Line families under the Swarna Jayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana. They have been hired for housekeeping services during the Commonwealth Games.

Lupin Foundation's chief programme manager Murali Nair said here on Saturday that the training course was structured to meet “world-class standards” with emphasis on working knowledge of spoken and written English.

“The trainees were specially apprised of the significance of discipline and good habits crucial for their behaviour during the services for Commonwealth Games,” said Mr. Nair.

Scots team excused from Delhi Commonwealth Games ceremony

SCOTLAND's athletes have been told they do not have to attend the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games today because of fears they will be penned in holding areas for hours at a time.

As Prince Charles flew into Delhi yesterday for the extravagant curtain-call for the event, local dancers complained they had been held for long periods without food and water during rehearsals. Some collapsed in the heat.

But although Scottish team bosses appear confident that competitors will not face undue delays, last night they were still awaiting answers about precise timings for the event before delivering a definitive briefing to their athletes.

Although athletes competing on day one of events tomorrow are already banned from attending the ceremony, there are also concerns about those involved in events over the next few days.

"There were some questions raised this morning in terms of the timings: when the athletes leave, get to the ceremony, then get back again," Team Scotland chef de mission Jon Doig said.

"We have a policy that athletes competing on day one (Monday) do not go to the ceremony. It's quite a physically and emotionally demanding occasion at any Games. We will go back to our team leaders with the final timings, and athletes will make their individual decisions whether to go or not."

As Games open today, Delhi closes down

Relegating all controversies surrounding its preparations to the background, the Capital is all set to play host to over 6,700 athletes and delegates from 71 countries who are here for the 19th edition of the Commonwealth Games that opens at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium this Sunday evening.While the build-up to the Games has been marred by missed deadlines, reports of shoddy construction works, allegations of corruption and mismanagement, the cleaning up of the Games Village in record time and the arrival of several thousand athletes and delegates to the city has raised expectations again about successful conduct of the Games.

The Delhi edition of the Commonwealth Games is also the largest in the history of the Games both in terms of participating athletes and costs incurred. More than 6,700 athletes and officials are participating in the Delhi Games as against 5,766 athletes and delegates at the Melbourne Games, according to the Organising Committee. The expenditure on Games-related works has been pegged at Rs.36,000 crore, according to conservative estimates.

The next 14 days will also be a testing time for the Capital's citizens who will have to negotiate stiff traffic and security regulations as they go about their daily lives.

Over 28,000 Delhi Police personnel and 195 companies of Central para-military forces have been deployed at the 41 Games-related venues for the duration of the international sporting event.

The traffic police have issued an advisory on their website for Sunday's opening ceremony with suggested routes for those wishing to avoid Games-related traffic restrictions.

The advisory also guides spectators travelling to the Nehru Stadium on the various modes of public transport available.

The commencement of the Central Secretariat-Sarita Vihar corridor of the Delhi Metro railway on Sunday will be a big relief to commuters as the Nehru Stadium will be connected by the new line.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Government has notified that all shops and commercial establishments in the Capital will remain closed on the opening and closing days of the Commonwealth Games. Earlier, the Government had notified that all schools and colleges would remain closed during the Games. With these measures, the Government is hopeful that it can tackle the security and traffic situation.

Delhi Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta on Saturday clarified that restaurants and fast food eateries, hotels, movie theatres and chemists are exempted from closure on Sunday while shops, malls and commercial markets have been prohibited from transacting business.

Though the opening ceremony is scheduled to start only at 7 p.m., the traffic police have advised spectators to reach the venue sufficiently in advance to reach the areas in the stadium earmarked for them. The ceremony is expected to last two to three hours.

The opening ceremony is also being kept a closely-guarded secret with not many details forthcoming. A song and dance show encapsulating 5,000 years of Indian culture is one of the events planned for the grand opening ceremony on Sunday.

Oscar Award winner A. R. Rahman is also expected to perform his theme song for the Games.

The nearly Rs.40-crore aerostat will be the star attraction at the opening gala.

Fool-proof security cover for the Games: Police

Describing it as a moment of great challenge, Delhi's Police Commissioner Y. S. Dadwal on Saturday said his force was leaving no stone unturned to make the Commonwealth Games a success. The leave of all the policemen has been cancelled from September 15 and the entire force is on its toes round-the-clock.

Mr. Dadwal said a multi-layered and multi-dimensional arrangement had been made to provide a fool-proof security cover. The police, with para-military forces at their disposal, are providing security to over 40 venues. These include 12 competition venues, 11 training and six non-competition venues (including the Games Village), four locations at the India Trade Promotion Organisation, eight hotels and Delhi airport.

This apart, security is being provided to the entire fleet of buses ferrying athletes and delegates. There has been a substantial increase in the deployment of traffic police and security personnel across the city. The police have also hired 900 vehicles and a large number of “unmarked” vehicles are being used for incognito patrolling.

To ensure that the security personnel manning control access points at the venues do not face any language problem, all the orders for them have been translated into Hindi.

Mr. Dadwal said though a significant chunk of police personnel have been diverted for Games-related duties, they still have adequate manpower for general deployment. While 4,000 personnel have been posted in the districts, over 6,000 semi-trained men in khaki have also been put on the streets.

The air space is now under constant surveillance of the Indian Air Force. Over 28,300 accredited Delhi policemen, quick reaction teams, commandos, National Security Guard commandos and Special Weapons and Tactic team besides 195 companies of para-military forces have been deployed for Games-related arrangements.

Chemical, Biological, Radiation and Nuclear teams of the National Disaster Response Force are also carrying out combing exercises at the venues, besides anti-sabotage checks by bomb detection and disposal squads. Over 3,000 CCTV cameras have been installed.

The Police Commissioner said there was no specific intelligence input on any terror threat, but all possible precautions had been taken.

Delhi Government keeps its date with Games

The Public Works Department of the Delhi Government on Saturday completed all its 24 Commonwealth Games-related project with the opening of all the flyovers on the U.P. Link Road that would connect the Games Village with Noida, where some of the cycling events would be held.

PWD Minister Raj Kumar Chauhan said the Department has completed projects worth Rs.4,000 crore for the Games. Most of these projects are of permanent nature and would benefit the public even after the Games.

The Minister said the U.P. Link Road project was a major work that had been allocated to PWD with a short deadline. “The main hurdle in this project was the refusal of Uttar Pradesh Government to hand over some land to Delhi. Still we did it and as against the original estimated cost Rs.334 cores, the project has been completed in less than Rs.300 crore,'' he said.

Mr. Chauhan said as part of the project the work on widening of the bridge at Chilla Regulator at the Noida entry point was also undertaken. “The completion of the U.P. Link Road project has reduced the travel time in East Delhi significantly. People would now be able to cover the distance from Kashmere Gate to Noida in just about 20 minutes because the road is completely signal-free. This when the road passes through some hitherto most crowded junctions like ITO Chungi, Raja Ram Kohli Marg flyover, Geeta Colony bridge and Ring Road by-pass, which have all been made signal-free now.''

The Minister said PWD has worked hard to construct various important projects for the Games. “The Barapullah elevated road is a miracle of engineering. The four-kilometre-long road has been completed within 20 months. Normally a project of this size takes around three years,'' he said.

The elevated road would next be extended up to INA in South Delhi and Mayur Vihar in East Delhi, he added.

Mr. Chauhan said the Ring Road by-pass project has been another major achievement of PWD as this Rs.600-crore project has reduced the density of traffic on this important road significantly. Besides, PWD has also completed improvement of Road No. 56, construction of Ghazipur and Apsara Border grade separators and flyover at Shyamlal College in North-East Delhi.

He said the Department has also installed street lights on 450 km of roads and signages on 403 km of road. It has also constructed three stadiums which have been completed and handed over to the Organising Committee. The Chhatrasal and Ludlow Castle stadiums were renovated while Thyagaraj Stadium is a new construction.

As for the streetscaping work, Mr Chauhan said it has been done on 50 km of road where a lot of greenery has been added.

Delhi-based designers prepare dresses for Games ceremonies

Delhi-based designers Ashima and Leena Singh have designed 4,000 dresses for performing artistes who would feature during the opening and closing ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here this Sunday and on October 14.

The duo had to make a number of presentations before Wizcraft International Entertainment recommended their collection to the Games Organising Committee. The collection will be presented in three segments during the ceremonies.

It was a pleasant surprise for them to get the prestigious assignment for the cultural extravaganza. “But it was also a herculean challenge as preparing 4,000 outfits needed plenty of planning, work and skill,” says Leena Singh.

They were given an interesting idea and finally managed to execute it to the satisfaction of the Wizcraft International Entertainment team.

“A lot of hard work went into the collections as we, assisted by a team of 400 karigars, worked day and night. We took up the challenge of preparing the dresses as we wanted to make our country proud,” she said.

It took them exactly eight months to come out with the collection. They have also designed shoes to go with the outfits.  The collection is an amalgamation of Indian and modern styles and will showcase the country's rich cultural diversity.

Commonwealth Express returns home

After halting at 45 stations across the country to spread awareness about the Commonwealth Games and inspire the youth, the exhibition train “Commonwealth Express” has returned to the Capital.

Indian Railways are the lead partner for the Commonwealth Games and to mark the event, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee had flagged off the exhibition train from Safdarjung station here on June 24.

The train will be stationed at Pragati Maidan railway station from October 3 to 14 for the public to view the exhibition. The exhibition timings are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Olympic Committee chief in New Delhi for CWG

The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Jacques Rogge and wife Anne arrived here on Saturday as a special invitee for the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games 2010.

Chief of staff Christophe de Kepper and around 20 other leading IOC officials, are accompanying Rogge.

The IOC chief is scheduled to leave on Monday after attending the opening ceremony of Commonwealth Games.

During his stay, Rogge will meet the delegates of some of the Commonwealth Games countries. He is also expected to visit the Games venues and village.

Rogge remains hopeful that the Games will be a success.

back to top