Seven years ago Suresh Kalmadi and Company brought the Commonwealth Games to India and pitched it as New Delhi's ticket to leapfrog into the big league of global cities as the host of a world-class sporting event.
Exactly 30 days remain before we can see if the event is as "world class” as they had promised, and if Delhi has really taken that long jump of development.
As of now, though, the scene holds no promise. One of the many Commonwealth Games jokes doing the rounds among Delhiites is that it now looks like putting together a big fat Indian wedding at a short notice on a giant construction site.
Time is short, so things are happening at lightning speed on a makeshift basis. A few days ago, for instance, when the cyclothon test event took place at Connaught Place, the New Delhi Municipal Council overnight stalled the massive redevelopment work for a day, removed all the debris and hid the unfinished construction behind hurriedly erected barricades and curtains.
A day later, the infamous mess in the CP was back, leaving Delhi gasping for some order.
This hurry appears to be taking a toll on the quality.
The stadiums, which were supposed to provide an international standard to our sports infrastructure for decades, are beginning to show ominous signs.
Their tiles are falling apart, the half done paint job is peeling off at place, the roofs are leaking while walls are already showing signs of seepage.
The organisers and the venue owners are engaged in a blame game to shift the responsibility.
The Organising Committee on the other hand is on a procurement spree — from bags to raincoats to washing machines to stickers, stationaries and even uniforms for the marching contingent of the Indian athletes at the opening ceremony.
Thanks to the last minute purchasing, even vendors are jacking up prices knowing well that the OC does not have the time to wait or negotiate. But as is the case with big fat Indian weddings, the organisers are confident that things will fall in place eventually.
"A month is enough time. We are on track,” Kalmadi told the foreign media, which has been highlighting Delhi's state of preparedness, or the lack of it for months, on Thursday. "Leaving aside some minor glitches, the infrastructure are in place and they are world class.”
The Delhi government, which is finishing civil works of its own, is certain that things will be completed soon.
"I don't think the quality of work has been compromised in any way. The finishing jobs are supposed to be done in a hurry so that the infrastructure can be put to use sooner,” said Rakesh Mehta, chief secretary of Delhi.
Guarding games venues & stadia
Though Delhi police have started conducting anti-sabotage drills at all the 13 venues, it will get just a week to completely lock down the venues and stadia.
The most crucial security step where the police and paramilitary forces would be deployed will, however, not happen. The police had claimed they would need to take over the venues at least a month before the event. But due to the delay in completion of the projects this was delayed.
STATUS: Only the Games Village will be handed over to the police on September 7.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has sanctioned a force of more than 12,000 personnel for the Games. The force has undergone special training for the Games.
STATUS: The new force is ready.
The Delhi Police have finally got the cargo scanner, which would be set up outside the Games Village. A screening system with a tunnel opening, the scanners will be used specifically to check trucks entering the village area.
STATUS: It will be installed once the police takes over the Games village next week.
A mini remote-operating vehicle can detect and defuse bombs and explosives. The robot can trace explosives and put it in a 'total containment vehicle' to defuse bombs.
STATUS: It has not been delivered yet.
Sixty-eight dogs of different breeds are part of the police team. The dogs have undergone training at BSF camps in MP and Punjab.
STATUS: The dogs have completed training. They are now at dog squad in east Delhi.
Unfinished business all around the Capital
In NDMC area, horticulture work including streetscaping is on the verge of completion. But with streetlights being installed, a number of saplings planted earlier are damaged and will have to be re-planted. Streetscap-ing was delayed due to the constant digging around the footpaths. Agencies hope to finish the work just before the Games.
Total of 5,500 stainless steel, colour-coded signages have been installed by the NDMC in their area. These have been installed in the roundabouts, major roads and corridors at a cost of approximately R20 crore. The PWD has also installed several signages. In MCD area, the civic agency has just started installing the signages.
Although the cleaning up work was to begin by September 1, the deadline has been pushed further as civic agencies are still carrying out construction work including digging at various sites. At most of the sites, even the construction waste has also not been removed making it impossible for the cleaning work to start.
With construction work still being carried out on many stretches, street furniture is yet to be installed. Street furniture, being installed on BoT basis, includes information kiosks, benches, toilets, advertisement panels, and dustbins. Work will only start after mid-September and MCD will install furniture on only 12 roads rather than 24.