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Are the preparations for Commonwealth Games 2010 on time? Clock Is Ticking

Updated: January 30, 2010 10:32 am

With the countdown having begun for the country’s biggest-ever spectacle—19th Commonwealth Games in the capital—it has not been easy going for the critical comments that have been pouring in on the preparations for an event of this magnitude.

            As sportspersons from about 72 member countries of the Common-wealth arrive here for the fortnight long event from October 3 to 14, it is indeed going to be an event of such size that the capital’s 14 million may not have witnessed. Though the games organisers are optimistic that all preparations are going on schedule and specially as the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee Mr Lalit Kumar Bhanot said that as far as the sports aspect of the Commonwealth Games-2010 is concerned, the preparations so far for the holding of 17 events to be featured in the games are not only on time but rather ahead of schedule.

            However, a similar optimism could not be said to hold good for the preparations. Though the preparations appear to have improved in the last two months, the Common-wealth Games Federation Co-ordination Commission (COCOM) said that the multi-discipline event still risks failure. While the government figures in December estimated Games expenditure at around Rs 79 billion ($1.6 billion), including money spent on infrastructure and on last year’s Commonwealth Youth Games, Delhi government has asked for an additional Rs 2,000 crore from the central government as it is facing a serious resource crunch due to massive spending on infrastructure projects.

            “The cost estimates were done one-and-a-half years ago and all of them are undergoing revision,” VK Verma, Director General of the Games said. “The government is very aware that there should not be any compromise.” Even the Chief Minister of Delhi, Mrs Sheila Dikshit expressed apprehension about the Games saying that she felt nervous as the days for the start of this sporting spectacle got nearer and one cannot but agree taking into account the security factor. Not sounding pessimistic, but, with the continued terrorist threat and the recent spate of terrorist strikes on sporting events with the latest being in Angola where the Togo team was attacked by a terrorist group, well Delhi too would be now having a security blanket.

            As per indications, it would not only be the local police but the defence forces are also likely to be mobilised specially the army and air force with the latter to carry out air surveillance in the capital. “While substantial progress has been demonstrated by OC (Organising Committee) and its delivery partners since last COCOM, it is clear that successful delivery of the Games remains at risk in many key areas,” the panel chaired by Commonwealth Games Federation treasurer Austin Sealy said in his report after visiting the capital from December 14 to 16, 2009.

            Making it clear that things should have been put in place by now, the report said, “Many of these risks are atypical of an OC at this stage of preparations and they require the OC executive and the government to initiate immediate and ongoing remedial work with expert assistance in some areas.” Though the performance of Indian sportspersons has been like a wildly swinging pendulum going from a high to a low, what needs to be seen is whether the infrastructure being constructed for the Common-wealth Games is in the post-games period used for the purpose for which it was built. As has been witnessed in the past, the stadia and other venues built for the 1982 Asian Games, which was the last big sporting event in the capital apart from the individual sporting events like World Table Tennis championships or World Billiards Championships, are used for only political rallies.

            Considering the fact that billions of rupees are spent on constructing the infrastructure for sporting events of such magnitude, it does become imperative that they are used only for the purpose for which they are made. What is making people apprehensive is whether the infrastructure like flyovers, metros, roads, hotels and business plans that are taking shape would be for the purpose for which they are constructed or some vested interest would grab them after the games. With millions of rupees being spent in building the Games village where over 3,000 athletes and officials would be staying during the Games would be used for housing participants who come for any sports events to be staged subsequently such as the 2011 cricket world cup.

            Well, it does not seem so since there is already a move to auction the flats constructed for the sports-persons and here again it would be those with big bucks who would bag these luxury apartments. In fact it would be ideal to have a permanent Games Village where sportspersons coming for major events can be accommodated with the place having a mini-stadium and other facilities for the sportspersons to have practice.

            However, even as the preparations for the Commonwealth Games were on, it faced a major problem when a parliamentary committee report said that not enough has been done to prepare for the expected influx of visitors. It said that affordable hotel rooms looked likely to be in short supply in the city and added to this now comes reports that guest houses meant to accommodate tourists are far from ready with the capital already short of 30,000 rooms. “There appear (to be) utter lack of coordination, determination and sense of urgency amongst the agencies engaged in providing facilities to the tourists who will be visiting India in connection with the Commonwealth Games,” said a parliamentary panel on transport, tourism and culture in its report.

            However, the Sports Minister Mr Manohar Singh Gill had sought to compare the preparations for the Games to a big, lavish Indian

wedding. “I use an absurd analogy…this is India and we’ve weddings, monsoon weddings, the Indian style,” he told a business forum. “Till the previous evening we will run around…then stand together the next day and sing wedding paeans. “Next October is not that far away,” he said. “The schedules are something to watch, we (the government) certainly do. Although it started late, we’re working hard. They will make it.”

            However, one of the positives that has happened is that the Games village being built on the banks of the Yamuna, which had been a subject of a legal case after a petition raised environmental concerns has been cleared and construction is proceeding.

            In fact, this had been a major cause of concern, as New Delhi could have lost the right to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games if organisers were forced to shift the athletes’ village from its present location, the CGF said.

By Srikrishna

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