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India’s Bid to Challenge China’s 2008 Beijing Olympics Is Poised to End in Embarrassment
The false ceiling of one of the main sporting venues for the event has collapsed because of monsoon rains as problems pile up eight weeks before the opening.
BY ANANT SHETH
Tuesday, 3 August 2010.
NEW DELHI, India—What began as an event to launch India’s new image is turning into a nightmare. Only eight weeks to go on the start of Commonwealth Games Delhi 2010, sports buildings are not ready, officials are exchanging accusations of corruption, and the seasonal torrential rains have exposed the shabby work that has gone into the preparations that were seven years in the making and are still not complete.
This adds to the worries of athletes from 71 nations who will arrive here in a few weeks. Already reports from insurgencies engulfing almost half of Indian states are not encouraging [three crude bombs exploded in Kolkata on 2 Aug.] Separatist fighters in some 14 Indian states have intensified attacks on government buildings, not to mention the massive revolt by the people of occupied Kashmir against the Indian army.
Militants from a Hindu terror group say they plan to attack Australian sports figures in retaliation for attacks on Indian migrants in Australia. Other insurgents have vowed to disrupt the games to draw attention to their causes.
‘DELHI IS A MESS’
An Indian news website reports that a beautification drive in New Delhi ahead of the games has turned the city into a mess. Corrupt government officials conniving with contractors have made things worse.
The situation was captured by Economic Times, in a report titled, ‘Commonwealth Games: Delhi’s missed deadline:
“Meant to showcase India as a world class sporting venue, the Commonwealth Games could end up being an unforgettable embarrassment for the country given the shoddy build-up which has turned host city Delhi into a giant construction site. Tons and tons of rubble are piled on pavements as civic agencies race against time to finish the so-called beautification drive, while the Games’ venues present an equally grim picture of unkept promises that were made when the hosting rights were won amid much fanfare in 2003.”
In the same report, this is how the reporter describes the progress at Talkatora Stadium, one of several venues for the games:
“At the Talkatora Stadium, which has been renamed S P Mukherjee complex, loose tiles and grills, scattered iron rods, unfinished staircases and rubble outside the gates remind of India’s failure to meet construction deadlines which were revised several times (…) The flooring of the passage into the area, is in a mess with tiles lying broken. The dressing room of athletes looks more like a storage room with the ceiling missing, and pipes and cables lying unattended above it. The railings, which are yet to be welded, are lying on the floor. Cables, which are strewn around, add to the chaos. “
Another building for the games, the Karni Singh Shooting Range in the Indian capital, looks something like this:
“As for the Karni Singh Shooting Range at Kadarpur, a few spells of rain had left the area in a dilapidated state. And yesterday also [1 Aug. 2010], one downpour was all it took to flood the range. The corridor and floors were slippery, making it impossible to walk. Debris are lying on the site with soggy soil adding to the unkempt look. Labourers could still be seen working on various embankments on the range which was damaged due to the incessant rains on the night of July 4 and 7. The chain-linked fences have come down at various places. The construction work at the ranges started on October 25, 2008 with a financial projection of Rs 150 crore and the organisers claimed to have finished it months ago.”
GAMES FUNDS STOLEN
Some members of the organizing committee colluded with officials in the Indian government to siphon off 200,000 pounds through a British company.
The chief of the organizing committee, Mr. Suresh Kalmadi, took out the money and paid it to A M Films, a British film company already under probe for fraud in another case. He said he was only following instructions from the Indian Ministry for External Affairs.
According to Indian news television channel NDTV:
“It’s now a full blown war between the Chairman of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (OC) Suresh Kalmadi and India’s Foreign Ministry. Kalmadi has now released what he says is more evidence that the Indian High Commission recommended the firm, now under the scanner of the UK government.”
Yesterday, the AFP news wire service reported that Indian police used water cannon to disperse opposition activists protesting on Monday in New Delhi against corruption during preparations for the Commonwealth Games.
Accusations & Counteraccusations
Last week, the chief of the New Delhi city government warned her colleagues not to publicly discuss the shoddy preparations.
Indian ministers have been trying to deflect responsibility for potential failure in preparing for the games by shifting blame to other parts of the Indian government.
An Indian newspaper, Indian Express, embarrassed Ms. Sheila Dikshit, mayor of New Delhi, by publishing a report titled, ‘Keep Mum About Games Work: Sheila Tells Ministers, Again’.
SECURITY RISKS PERSIST
Indian officials were annoyed again today when one of the key security consultants of the Commonwealth Games Federation accused New Delhi of failing to observe international standards in ensuring security for the upcoming event.
The Australian security company Intelligent Risks has been hired by the federation to assess security-related issues in India.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald:
“In Delhi, Intelligent Risks has also been undertaking periodic reviews of security planning for the Games under an agreement between the federation, the organising committee and the Indian government. Fergus said his company was doing this extra work because, “[Indian authorities] were a bit slow in getting the planning up to the level that was expected and in fact required under the technical plan … given to each host city”.
‘Are the Commonwealth Games
a waste of national money?
This provocative headline appeared in one of the largest Indian newspapers, Times of India, which conducted a debate over the issue and allowed its readers to participate online.
On 27 July, it reported that 76% of its readers agreed.
This is how Times of India described the somber mood in the Indian capital two months before the commencement of the games:
“What started as a matter of national pride now seems to be coming in for flak from various quarters for a budget that has quadrupled in the last seven years to a government panting to meet deadlines, not to mention public inconvenience. While the Commonwealth Games haven’t even started, many are already looking forward to their end. The country no longer seems to be enjoying its status as the next Games venue, rather, worrying more about how the expenditure will burden a common man’s pocket. So, is hosting the event a waste of national money?”
The situation is so bad that a columnist for Times of India, Mr. Jay Kumar, wants the government to bury corruption stories until after the event in order not to embarrass India.
He wrote: “… the spectre of national shame and international ignominy is haunting India (…) this is not an opportune time to initiate a probe as it would only disrupt and politicise an already complicated event.”
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