Friday, October 15, 2010

Indian Superstars: The Medal Winners

Interpol applause games security

General public might have faced some difficulties due to curbs in their movements amid excessive police presence in the Capital during the Commonwealth Games but the ‘effort’ to ensure foolproof security has earned India applause from the Interpol, the global police body.

Praising the arrangement and efforts which went behind it, the Interpol has stated that the Commonwealth Games in India reached “security milestone” in cooperation with the global police body.

Interpol secretary general Ronald K Noble said, “While there has been much media speculation on India’s preparation for hosting the Commonwealth Games, Interpol wishes to go on the record to commend India from a security standpoint....This impressive security milestone could only have been reached through exhaustive and careful planning by both India and Interpol.”

The Interpol has commended Indian security agencies for their “collaborative” efforts with international law enforcement agencies in ensuring the security of participants and visitors flocking the national capital for the Commonwealth Games.” With India hosting hundreds of thousands of visitors during the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Interpol deployed at the request of Indian authorities a Major Events Support Team (IMEST) to support their security efforts,” he said.

Audit to Begin: Now Culprits may find it hard to sleep

With the successful completion of the Delhi Commonwealth Games, a collective sigh of relief might well have risen over Raisina Hill. The stuttering prelude to the games, marked by a frantic pace to meet deadlines, had kept a fretful government on edge.

More than one senior figure in the government agreed that the emotion was one of pride about India pulling off a big show tempered by the realization that the games had been a close shave. The standing applause from chefs de mission at the Games Village on Thursday morning was hard earned indeed.

While questions are being raised whether the successful conclusion of the event might dull the appetite for a full inquiry into the graft allegations and bungling that all but marred the Games, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s decision to sit in the spectators’ gallery rather than the VVIP box is an unmistakable statement.

Organizing Committee (OC) chairperson Suresh Kalmadi, who has been at the centre of controversies swirling around the games, seemed a man out on a limb at the closing ceremony thanking everyone in the government and even naming the secretaries to the government. In his bid to ensure he got the pecking order right, he got to Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse pretty late.

Not the most articulate of speakers, Kalmadi thanked Delhi mayor Kanwar Sain even though the present incumbent is Prithviraj Sahni. But that is a minor glitch, and the OC chief is likely to be called to account for a lot of dirty linen stuffed into various cupboards. The mood in government is clear: it is now time for a detailed audit.

The ambit of the inquiry is likely to probe irregularities in the tendering for games contracts, the failure of the Delhi government and some Central agencies in delivering results as well as initial findings that construction was substandard.

Both Congress leaders and government sources appeared clear that the corruption and sloth that almost led the Games not happening cannot be allowed to be brushed aside. The corruption charges have been deeply embossed in the public mind and lack of action was going to reflect poorly on the Manmohan government.

In fact, the late surge to ensure that national honor was not compromised was set in motion at a Congress core group meeting on August 13, where Sonia made it clear that the Games have to be rescued and those guilty of mismanagement need to be brought to book. The following day, PM Manmohan Singh held a marathon meeting that set up an empowered committee to monitor the Games.

What has amazed senior officials is that even after the PM’s intervention the attitude of OC bosses did not change much.

After a small pause: bluelines are back on roads

As the Commonwealth Games came to an end, the fate of 1,600 Bluelines which were phased out from central Delhi and routes leading up to Games venues was hanging in balance. Though the buses will be back on the original routes from October 18 as per the official notification, sources say that the transport department, and Delhiites in general, seem to be keen to phase them out from the routes for good.

Right before the Games started, 1,600 Bluelines plying on 132 routes were put off the roads by Delhi government. The routes were those passing through New Delhi district and near Commonwealth Games venues. For some buses, the routes have been curtailed to ensure that they turn back before entering the designated area where no Bluelines will be allowed. The move is aimed at improving the ‘‘image and look’’ of areas which will be frequented by athletes, delegates and tourists during the Commonwealth Games.

With the Games coming to an end, the notification will also cease to have effect from October 18 when the buses return to their original routes. But the city seems to have gotten used to cleaner, disciplined roads while the ‘‘killer’’ fleet was away and this is now also prompting the government to look for a permanent solution. As for now, sources said that the possibility of extending the notification was looked into but this could have led to serious legal implications for the government, which is bound by a court order issued in May which banned the phase-out of Bluelines till the corporatisation scheme took off.

Encouraged by the response to the phase-out, the transport department is confident that the enhanced DTC fleet can meet the transportation demands of the city. Commuters, too, are a happy lot. ‘‘The DTC buses move a bit slower but are overall better than the Bluelines. They are more comfortable, the seats are not broken and the conductors don’t pick up fights with people on the way,’’ said Veena Prasad, a resident of Paschim Vihar.

Even motorists feel movement of traffic is smoother without the buses. ‘‘The Bluelines were a major nuisance on the roads. Traffic moves faster and there is less trouble on roads,’’ said Ashwani Kumar, resident of Niti Bagh.

The city has sufficient number of buses and another 2,200 DTC buses on Games duty will also be added to the fleet after October 14. Traffic experts feel with such a large number of buses present, there is no need to wait till the corporatisation scheme takes off to get rid of the Bluelines.

People Celebrated the Games Spirit in Durga Puja

Shera may have been conspicuous by his absence at the Commonwealth Games, but at a Durga Puja pandal in Mayur Vihar not one, but many mascots were seen dancing to the traditional dhak.

The Milani cultural and welfare association in Mayur Vihar, which has the Games as its theme, has constructed a pandal that looks like Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. ‘‘Since India has performed exceptionally well, we decided to celebrate the spirit of sports this Durga Puja,’’ said Mrinal Biswas, pandal secretary, Milani cultural and welfare association.

Inside the pandal, posters of various sports adorns the walls, just as JN Stadium. The national flags of the 12 top countries judged on the basis of their performance in the Games also find pride of place. ‘‘We started preparation around one-and-a-half months back. We had to study the JN stadium and the way it has been lit up during the night and replicate it,’’ said Biswas.

This year, a majority of pandals are celebrating 150 years of Rabindranath Tagore. Some have created a small replica of his house, while others are organizing special programmes to celebrate the poet’s life and work. ‘‘We will stage a play written by Tagore called Bir Purush Dal. One day we will hold a special show on Rabindra sangeet,’’ said M K Dasgupta, general secretary, Purbachal puja committee.

Similarly, Mela Ground committee in CR Park has Tagore’s life as theme. ‘‘This is a tribute to Tagore. This year, we are promoting local talents. Due to security concerns we have kept the celebrations a low-key affair,’’ said Pranab Chaudhuri, member of the Mela Ground committee.

This festive season, some feel, is the right time to educate people on issues like global warming. So, the Kali Mandir committee is organizing a puppet show to educate people about the harmful effects of global warming and what we can do to stop it from destroying our planet. ‘‘It’s not just children, but adults too who need to be educated about global warming. We have called a group from Kolkata for this,’’ said Anjan Mukherjee, member of Kali Mandir committee.

Many puja organizers complained that this year they had to restrict the number of cultural programmes as they did not get sponsors.

Games Tourists Explored City on Foot

The public holiday on Thursday offered tourists the perfect opportunity to head out and explore the city. With the usual maddening crowd staying off the roads all markets and offices were shut on account of the Games closing ceremony most visitors went sightseeing and made the most of their last day in Delhi.

Fabio from Italy, who was here to help out with lighting arrangements at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, was spotted at India Gate with Simone and Patrick from Germany. Complete strangers till Wednesday, the three of them met each other at their guesthouse and decided to go around the town together.

‘‘We were all here for work and could not find the time to see our host city. But our stay has now come to an end. Markets were closed on Thursday and the roads were also empty so we decided to go sightseeing. We visited Jantar Mantar and stopped by at India Gate. We enjoyed a lot,’’ said Fabio. In some areas, even restaurants were shut and the city wore a deserted look.

The Adamsons from Scotland also decided to go sightseeing and took the hop-on, hop-off buses. ‘‘We were hard pressed for time and could not see any of the popular places in Delhi. Our stay is nearly over and we are returning to Scotland now, so we decided to visit the various tourist sites here. We liked everything about Delhi but the security was really heavy,’’ said Bill Adamson, whose son is part of the Rugby team.

Delhiites, too, managed to catch up with family and friends. Charanjeet Singh enjoyed his holiday with family in Connaught Place. ‘‘We are a joint family and hardly get time to go out together. Since Thursday was holiday, I decided to take out all the children to Akshardham after which we came to CP.’’ The huge screen installed at Inner Circle attracted many passersby. ‘‘We just saw the hockey final at Dhyan Chand Stadium. We are very proud of India despite the defeat. We came to CP and might stay longer to see the closing ceremony on the big screen.’’

For those living near Lodhi Road and Sewa Nagar, a clear view of JN Stadium from their terrace meant having guests over. Radha Sharma, a resident of Sewa Nagar Railway Colony, said her cousins from Shimla came over specially to watch the closing ceremony. ‘‘First we had guests for the opening ceremony and now more people have come to watch the closing event,’’ said Radha.

Medals won by Indian Shooter Mistakenly placed in Oz Athlete Baggage Created Panic

On Wednesday, India almost ‘lost’ two medals, which were won by one of its ace shooters, to Australia. Heena Sidhu, who had won gold in 10m air pistol team event and silver in individual event, spent a few anxious moments after her bag containing the medals was mistakenly placed in the baggage of an Australian athlete by security officers during the compulsory baggage checking at the Games Village.

According to sources, the incident took place after Heena had returned to the Village after winning her silver medal on Wednesday. ‘‘She was carrying clothes and training kit along with her medals. The bag she was carrying was identical to that of an Australian athlete. The unintended exchange took place at the baggage scanning area managed by Delhi Police,’’ said a senior venue officer. The cops said they began checking CCTV footage as soon as they were intimated by the Indian officials about the missing bag. ‘‘We traced the bag to tower 34 of an Australian athlete. We contacted her and asked her to return the bag as she was not its real owner. She was taken aback as she had not even checked that bag. She willingly gave back the bag and took her own bag from us. Everything inside the bag was found intact, including the medals, which was handed back to Heena,’’ said an officer.

The cops said they contacted Heena and Indian contingent at the Village and apologized for the ‘‘inadvertent error.’’

Though Heena could not be contacted, her shooting partner and gold medal winner, Annuraj Singh, confirmed the incident. ‘‘Everything is all right now. We are proud of Heena’s achievements. The problem has been solved to everyone’s satisfaction,’’ said the ace shooter.

At the cost of 70 crore: did the helium balloon worth its cost

It was bought for Rs 38 crore and was supposed to be the highlight of the opening and closing ceremonies. The helium balloon cost the taxpayer almost Rs 70 crore in total. Yet, on Thursday evening, as the Delhi Games 2010 came to a close, the aerostat merely ended up being a glorified backdrop for the various acts at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

Hovering above the grounds, the aerostat described by the organizers as the biggest helium balloon in the world was not even a significant part of the various acts that followed through, far from being the star of any segment. Used more as a prop, with faded pictures and video streams beamed along the sides, the balloon was literally a shadow in the background of the glittering show. For a show that aspired to deliver on the raised expectations of the opening ceremony, the balloon almost seemed an afterthought.

Not perhaps the best closing shot that the organizing committee (OC) would have wanted of this white elephant, specially considering the OC is hoping to find buyers for the aerostat once the Delhi Games 2010 is over. In an earlier interview with an English Daily Times of India, head of Delhi 2010 OC Suresh Kalmadi had admitted that the OC was going to dispose of the aerostat as soon as the Games was over and had already started looking for buyers. Kalmadi had said, ‘‘It’s the property of the OC. We are planning to sell the balloon after the Games... hopefully, this would go towards adding to the revenue OC would have in the end. Incidentally, the OC has taken a loan of Rs 1,620 crore from the Central government to organize the Games — which the OC had promised to pay back with revenue from sponsorships and ticket sales. Unfortunately for the OC, the sponsorships were nowhere near the expected figure, though the committee claims revenue in the region of Rs 700 crore has been generated to date.

The aerostat’s less than glittering show on Thursday evening, however, could not have been the best advertisement for the OC. The opening ceremony had a dedicated segment on the balloon, complete with the beats of Nagadas introducing the aerostat as it ascended to the top of the stadium, hovering 25m above ground. For many, the aerostat set the pace for the rest of the evening in the opening ceremony. For the spectators gathered at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the balloon ascension and the fireworks accompanying it seemed to be like the call to start the celebrations even as it was total paisa vasool. The underbelly of mirrors reflecting the lights on the field of play had only added to the sense of drama.

But on Thursday, that feeling was markedly absent. Most spectators were enthralled with the laser show and the Vande Mataram segment in the closing ceremony even as the Bollywood brigade represented by Shankar Mahadevan, Shiamak Davar and Kailash Kher brought the capacity crowd to its feet. Rohan Bhardwaj (name changed), a volunteer and spellbound spectator of the closing ceremony, said, ‘‘I had expected more of the balloon this time. After all, it’s a great presence in the middle of the field.

The creative team for the closing ceremony obviously didn’t think so. For a prop which at one time was supposed to take drummers up into the sky as the show opened, the aerostat’s final appearance was almost an anti-climax. Even the mirrors seem to have disappeared, leaving only a balloon reflecting images behind.’’

On closing Ceremony Laser Light Steals the Show

If the aerostat was the star of the show at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, the honor belonged to the dancing laser lights at the grand finale on Thursday. The lasers had the arena to themselves for a mere seven minutes but played a significant role in creation of the magical ambience that was the signature of the ceremony which was more relaxed and in many ways more fun than the opening ceremony 10 days ago.

Through the Agni-glory of sports (martial arts show), Vande Mataram and Glasgow segments, the lights gently played around the field. The eeriness associated with the Loch Ness Monster or the spectacular sight of schoolchildren paying a tribute to their motherland in the colors of the national flag was created by these lights. These reached a feverish pitch immediately after the screen had flashed the ‘See you in Glasgow’ sign.

They twisted, turned, created waves in hues of violet, blue, green and every colour of the rainbow and suffused Jawaharlal Nehru Stadim in a supernatural glow. They created illusions of spiraling tunnels at one moment and sheathed the 60,000-odd spectators in a blanket of light at another. It was almost like light had become a three-dimensional object. ‘‘It almost felt that one had entered a zone where nothing but lights were allowed, like in a dream,’’ said 15-year old Vasuki Aiyer, struggling for words to describe the spectacle.

The music was appropriate to the occasion. There were vocals by Shankar Mahadevan and drums, to whose tunes the lights which seemed to have become animate objects gyrated. It was something that Delhi had never seen before.

The aerostat featured lights in geometric patterns but there was hardly anybody who could take eyes off the antics of the lights themselves to look at the projection of the helium balloon.

There has been much more song and dance about the aerostat but today it was little more than a prop. On the other hand, the lights created such an atmosphere of supernatural beauty that it was unbelievable. ‘‘It was like I was in the kingdom of lights where every resident was doing its best to entertain me,’’ said Supriya Sinha, a resident of R K Puram.

The show, which cost the Organizing Committee Rs 1.5 crore, a fraction of the Rs 40-crore bill that the aerostat notched up, was staged by the German firm, Tarm Showlaser, that had enthralled audiences at the closing ceremony of the recently held FIFA World Cup in South Africa among other international events. They had also performed at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the Athens Olympics in 2004.

Australian Cricket Team Lost: Oz athletes take out frustration in Games Village

Oz athletes take out frustration in Games Village, destroyed electrical fittings and furniture, washing machine: What a Shame

New Delhi: At the top of the medal tally and the undisputed champions of the Commonwealth Games, the Australian team, sadly, didn’t show any sporting spirit when their cricket team lost the Test series to India on Wednesday.

Enraged by the humiliating loss, some athletes, according to highly-placed sources in Delhi Police, went berserk, destroying electrical fittings and furniture in their tower in the Games Village on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Not just that, policemen posted there say they also shouted slogans against batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar, who played a pivotal role in ensuring India’s victory in the Bangalore match, and flung a washing machine down from the eighth floor of their tower.

Their hooliganism started on Tuesday when Sachin scored a double century. ‘‘The housekeeping staff tried to stop them but to no avail,’’ said a senior police officer handling security inside the Village. Stunned by the little master’s stellar performance, they first damaged electrical fittings and fixtures in their block.
On Wednesday, when India brainwashed Australia 2-0 to keep the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, the Australian athletes reportedly threw a washing machine down from the eighth floor, said a senior officer. Mercifully, no one was injured.

Delhi Police, which received a complaint about this vandalism, tried to downplay the incidents to prevent them from snowballing into a diplomatic embarrassment for Australia.

On reports that some Australian athletes went berserk inside the Games Village after their cricket team lost the Test series to India, a senior officer posted there said that they have not received any complaints from Organizing Committee (OC) which owns the property inside the Games Village. ‘‘Therefore, we have not registered any case,’’ said a senior police officer.

Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat said: “No complaint has been received. We have found a broken washing machine from the block where the athletes were staying. We are trying to establish as to how the machine reached there.”

OC officials didn’t pursue the matter. ‘‘We have not given any complaint and the matter has been sorted out after discussion with the Australian chef-de-mission,’’ said an official. When asked whether the Australian athletes have tendered any apology, he declined any comment.