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100 days left, Delhi gets its act together for Commonwealth Games

Just 100 days are left for the Commonwealth Games to begin. As the Indian capital gears to host its largest sporting extravaganza, the crucial pieces are beginning to fall in place - albeit a little late in some cases.

delhi Updated: Jun 23, 2010 15:08 IST

Just 100 days are left for the Commonwealth Games to begin. As the Indian capital gears to host its largest sporting extravaganza, the crucial pieces are beginning to fall in place - albeit a little late in some cases. Stadia are getting completed, Metro links becoming operational, security plans finalised and related infrastructure projects nearing completion.

The organising committee is confident of putting up a good show for the October 3-14 Games, for which a whopping Rs 15,000 crore (Rs.150 billion/over $3 billion) has been allocated. Its confidence is boosted by the successful completion of recent international sporting events - hockey, shooting, boxing as well as IPL cricket matches in the capital - which were considered test events for the Games.

The Games will have 17 disciplines to be held at six venue clusters and five stand-alone stadia in the metropolis of 17 million people, one of the most crowded in the world. A majority of the stadia have been inaugurated, but there still remains a question mark over completion of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies will be held.

The sale of tickets started early this month, and the official ticketing agency, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corp (IRCTC), is expecting to sell 1.7 million tickets.

The Indian government has assured that all work related to the Games will be completed in time.

"I am chairman of the Group of Ministers on the Commonwealth Games and I can say with confidence that all projects related to the Games will completed by June end," Urban Development Minister S Jaipal Reddy said last week.

Despite the minister's assurance, some areas are a cause of worry.

Over 100,000 visitors are expected during the Games, but there is a shortfall in the number of rooms ready for them. According to official figures, 40,000 rooms are required. But so far the government is sure of only about 8,227 of the 10,981 "definite"' rooms.

The Delhi government and civic bodies are running against time to complete Games-related projects - roads, flyovers, bridges, underpasses, parking places, beautification and street scaping - to make the capital look like - what the authorities never tire of saying "a world-class city".

Of the total 24 infrastructure-related projects, 10 have been completed while the rest are likely to be completed by July.

The Public Works Department (PWD) is behind in completing the street-scaping work. At some main city roads in south Delhi, street-scaping work is progressing at a snail's pace with roadsides and footpaths dug up and rubble strewn all around.

The civic body is also carrying out 40 Games-related projects worth Rs.1,000 crore (Rs.10 billion/$225 million). They include construction of parking facility in various parts of the city as well as the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

A cause of major concern is Delhi's chaotic traffic and the poor public transport system. The authorities have decided to have dedicated lanes for the Games traffic to ensure quick movement.

"The Games lanes will be marked with paint, just like the bus lanes are now," Ajay Chaddha, Joint Commissioner (Traffic), told IANS. "There will be relevant signages too. We will be providing regular guidelines and information on whether the Games lanes are operational and at what time. The lanes will be for movement of Games officials, athletes and other related traffic."

Delhi Metro, the capital's showpiece which is expected to cater to thousands of spectators during the Games, is the only agency running ahead of others in completing its projects.

The only Metro projects that remain to be completed before the Games are the Central Secretariat-Badarpur line and Airport Express Link. Both are scheduled to be completed by September.

The Indira Gandhi International Airport will have a brand new Terminal 3 (T3) with world class facilities. It will be formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh July 3.

Several countries scheduled to participate in the Games have raised concerns over security, but the government has firmly said that they need not have any fears. The authorities have approved installation of an integrated security system (ISS), estimated to cost Rs.370 crore (Rs 3.7 billion/85 million USD), to cover all the venues.

According to Delhi Police commissioner YS Dadwal, the police are "totally prepared" for the Commonwealth Games and have promised "an absolutely safe" sporting event.

The Commonwealth Games Organising Committee is training 30,000 volunteers to present Delhi's culture and etiquette to visitors. The authorities are also training thousands of bus, taxi, and auto drivers to converse in English and be tourist-friendly.

A big worry is the air quality during the Games, being touted as the first Green Games.

The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, has developed a System of Air Pollution Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) that will start functioning in a couple of months. The IITM is expected to put up 60 weather stations across the capital to generate hourly weather updates during the Games.

Delhi environment secretary Dharmendra has said the government may close industries during the Games to reduce pollution levels.

First Published: Jun 23, 2010 15:06 IST