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Commonwealth is worried

The world is watching Delhi. And what it has to say is embarrassing. Commonwealth Games 2010 is expected to showcase Delhi as a global super city. HT Correspondent reports.

delhi Updated: Sep 22, 2009 00:11 IST
HT Correspondent

The world is watching Delhi. And what it has to say is embarrassing. Commonwealth Games 2010 is expected to showcase Delhi as a global super city. At present, however, the Capital is inviting criticism from the international media for its lack of preparedness in organising the event on a scale seen at Melbourne in 2006 and definitely not by the standards set by Beijing Olympics last year.

“The 2010 Commonwealth Games Are a 2009 Mess for New Delhi” says The Washington Post of September 16. The US daily quotes a government report to say that stadium designs, hotel rooms, sporting venues and roads are not fully ready.

“India’s preparations for its biggest-ever sporting event are embarrassing” says The Economist of September 17. “India’s preparations for the games are a shambles. Most visibly, 19 main sports venues are construction sites.”

What is inviting the attention of the international press is the letter to the Games’ organising committee by Commonwealth Games Federation chairman Michael Fennell. He had said he was “extremely worried” about preparations and that there was a “serious risk” it would not live up to the organisational standards of the previous two games in Manchester and Melbourne. UK’s The Guardian (August 9) also raised concerns of security arrangements for the Games.

The Washington Post says the Games’ main sporting venue — Jawaharlal Nehru stadium — originally built for the 1982 Asian Games — may not stand at all and the adjoining ‘weightlifting auditorium’ is a low-level concrete mess.

UK’s The Independent (September 20) quotes an HT report to say that India had walked away from its promise to host a World Cup shooting event because the shooting ranges wouldn’t be ready.

“The seat of the world’s largest democracy has become one of the largest civil constructions sites on the globe,” Pakistani daily Dawn (September 4) said. It says some boxing, field hockey and shooting events could prove to be an embarrassment if contractors do not hand over the venues on time.

Almost all of them blame bureaucratic procrastination and red tape for the delays.

“Why is India, even as it demands, and gets, more respect in the world on the back of recent economic progress, making such a hash of this? It is not because it is poor. With an expected operating budget of 16 billion rupees ($335m), these games will be among the best financed ever,” The Economist said. The reason, it says, is that most big decisions are taken by a small group of senior officials, including allegedly timorous and slothful bureaucrats, with no specialist understanding of their tasks.

The Independent says India’s “stifling bureaucracy” refuse to accept help and advice from overseas. The multiplicity of authority has also attracted attention.

“New Delhi’s complex, multilayered administrative structure is one of the biggest hurdles. Dikshit’s elected government does not have control over land use, municipal bodies, slum redevelopment, sanitation, heritage sites, police or traffic. But if anything goes wrong... she faces public ire,” says The Washington Post.

However, not all coverage predicts a doomsday scenario.

“These things always happen. We are not panicking,” The Daily Telegraph (September 18) quoted Commonwealth Games Australia CEO Perry Crosswhite. He is confident all venues would be ready in time.

“Things are now moving in the right direction.... I’ve got the feeling that things are under control,”the Dawn quoted Fennell.

“Would you call off a wedding just because the ring has reached late?” Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit asked The Washington Post. “There is no looking back. In fact, our plan is to get the city ready to bid for the Olympics in 2024.”