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Will Delhi be ready for C'wealth Games?

February 26, 2009 14:43 IST

India's hopes of using the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games to showcase its capital have hit fresh trouble with a parliamentary committee saying not enough has been done to prepare for the expected influx of visitors.

Affordable hotel rooms looked likely to be in short supply in the city, the committee told organisers, who are already facing criticism for delays in preparations for the Games.

"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 the panel on transport, tourism and culture in a report issued this week.

It said it was dismayed that the Delhi government had not sent its proposals to the tourism ministry until November and urged authorities to improve road and air links and security for tourists.

The report is a new blow to organisers of the October 2010 Games, who are already having to cope with the credit crunch, delays in building work and environmental protests.

Sports Minister Manohar Singh Gill last week compared the slow build-up to a big, lavish Indian wedding.

"I use an absurd analogy...this is India and we've weddings, monsoon weddings, the Indian style," he said at 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."


The Games were initially seen as a great opportunity for India to demonstrate its growth into a modern nation and its place as an economic rival to China but those hopes have dimmed.

Government figures in December estimated Games expenditure at around 79 billion rupees ($1.6 billion), including money spent on infrastructure and on last year's Commonwealth Youth Games.

Preparations have been hit by the financial meltdown, however. Private builders have sought funds from the Delhi government, who in turn have sought federal help and the initial budget faces revision.

"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 there should not be any compromise."

In November, the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) raised concerns over the slow pace of work, which forced this year's World Badminton Championships to be moved to Hyderabad.

Boxing officials want the Commonwealth championships due to be held towards the end of this year to be postponed because the venue in New Delhi being built for the Games is not ready.

The Games village being built on the banks of the Yamuna, one of India's major rivers, is the subject of a legal case after a petition raised environmental concerns.

"New Delhi could lose the right to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games if organisers are forced to shift the athletes' village from its present location," the CGF said in November.


Despite the problems, organisers remain upbeat.

"The organising committee is confident all the competition venues and Games village would be completed as per the target dates set for completion," vice-chairman Randhir Singh said on Tuesday.

"At most of the training venues work has already started while at the remaining [venues], work will be started shortly, but everything will be completed in time," he told a news conference at the netball venue under construction.

"We're all fighting hard to make sure we are making the right programme to hold a great Games," he said. "One or two things were left behind but there is ample time to catch up."

Test events are planned for between February and June next year, before a dry run of the Games in August.

Games officials said the parliamentary report is based on old data and might not entirely reflect the present situation.

"It is for the government, I think they will manage things," Singh said. "The Delhi government has said everything will be completed, it is a legacy issue for the government. Everyone is free to say what they want."

N Ananthanarayanan in New Delhi
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