Delhi's Chief Minister is nervous about the hosting of Commonwealth Games in the capital but the event's Organising Committee head Suresh Kalmadi assures that all is well with the preparations despite umpteen delays.
In an interview to PTI, Kalmadi claimed that Delhi will host the Games more successfully than Manchester (2002) and Melbourne (2006). "There is no need to push the panic button. We are going to have the best ever Commonwealth Games. I would like to assure the entire country that all the pending work would be completed within the set deadlines. The Delhi Games would be better than Melbourne and Manchester," Kalmadi, who is also the President of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), said.
Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit had recently created a flutter by saying that she was nervous about the preparation and was praying to god for a successful Commonwealth Games.
Kalmadi, however, brushed aside the concerns. "That you have to ask her. From my side I can assure, we won't let you down. We are working harder collectively towards achieving our goal," he said. The under-fire OC chief, who has faced all-round criticism for delays in construction work at the Games' venues and some public relations gaffes, said the success of the event would also reflect in India's performance.
"When I say that Delhi will host the most successful Games, it includes our performance and not just the organisational capacity", Kalmadi said.
"I hope that we will be in top four. Central government has alloted Rs 678 crore for training which is a huge amount. The preparations are on the right track and we are hoping for the best results," he assured.
Coordinating the functioning of multiple agencies involved in the preparations is a massive task but Kalmadi insists that the challenge has been met successfully.
"I have got a good team and I call it Team India which includes the central government, the Delhi government, sports ministry and of course the IOA. We enjoy full support of the Commonwealth Games Federation," he said.
The public spat with the Commonwealth Games Federation CEO Mike Hooper notwithstanding, Kalmadi said he was on good terms with the CGF, rejecting suggestions that the bitter war of words in the past couple of months has had any impact on preparations.
"We have better understanding now. Some differences always occur before every major event, it happened in Melbourne also. But it did not affect the preparations. Now I have full support of Hooper and other CGF officials," he said. The Commonwealth Games Coordination Committee recently made some unflattering comments about the city's preparations but Kalmadi says the Co-Com has been given comprehensive assurances by the Sports Ministry.
"It is natural on their part but we still have eight months to go. Their major concern is about infrastructure and sports ministry has assured them about it," Kalmadi said.
"The Australian Commonwealth Games Association was most critical of us till some time ago but now even their CEO Perry Crosswhite has stated that Delhi has the capacity to host the best ever Commonwealth Games," he added.
Detailing the timeline for the completion of three major venues for the event, Kalmadi said the re-set deadlines would be met.
"Only Nehru Stadium, where the opening and closing ceremony will be held, National Stadium, the venue for hockey, and the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee swimming complex are behind schedule," he stated.
"As far as the Nehru Stadium is concerned, we have some additional work because of the opening and closing ceremonies. But it would be ready be June end. The National stadium will be ready by the end of this month and our hockey team will practice their from February 1 for the FIH World Cup. Once the infrastructure gets ready people will forget about these controversies and nobody will have an opportunity to point fingers at us," he said.
Kalmadi also allayed fears that countries like Britain may not send their best teams for the Games due to security concerns.
"Britain CGF has assured us that they are sending their best team and all the media reports about them pulling out are false. We had a security commanders' conference in Delhi and CGF is satisfied with the measures. We are optimistic about having a safe and secure Commonwealth Games," he said.
Kalmadi conceded that Games are the biggest challenge of his long career as a sports administrator.
The IOA is fully behind me. All the stakeholders involved coordinate well. This is the biggest challenge of my life and I am ready to face it. It has been 25 years, we have not hosted any Games. The technology has evolved so much that it has given us the best opportunity to show the world what we are capable of," he said.