A large sign greets passersby at the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Swimming Complex (most Delhiites still call it the Talkatora pool). It grandly states that the brand new facility has a deadline of June 16, 2009. June has come and gone, so have July, August and half of September; the project though, is barely half done, if that.
Actual work on the ambitious new pool began last year, on August 17 (again, we have the date courtesy a signboard) years after it was originally envisaged. Only designer pillars and an outer layout are in evidence, the stadium is yet to see any serious interior work.
The 2010 Commonwealth Games will host 71 nations, including Australia and England, who have some of the top swimmers in the world. Swimming will be a major attraction with stars like triple Olympic Champion Stephanie Rice expected. But the pool they’ll be swimming in doesn’t even exist as of now. And once that pool is ready, it also needs complex underwater technical equipment to be installed and tested. It’s a long and difficult process.
The pool project, a joint venture between the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) and the Ahlluwalia Group, has now been given a new December deadline but it’s a date they are unlikely to meet. No one will come on record though; on-site engineers have apparently been asked not to talk to the media, and are just willing to say they are “uncertain” as to the deadline and equally “unsure” about how much work is done.
So it comes as a pleasant surprise to see the Talkatora Indoor Stadium, just a few metres away, which will play host to some of the world’s best boxers. You can almost feel the confidence of the project managers and engineers there.
Under the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), this stadium is that exception — it’s all set to meet its December deadline.
“The work is on track and there is no stopping us. The outer structure has been renovated and some designer changes are being made. The interior renovation is in the final stages. Around 78 per cent of work is complete and it will finish by December,” said an engineer, who declined to be named. Just in case.