Friday, February 20, 2009

Games chaos Created Panic among Broadcasters

Games chaos Created Panic among Broadcasters NETWORK Ten and Foxtel representatives have dashed to New Delhi on an unscheduled visit this week amid fears that the 2010 Commonwealth Games hosts will fail to meet commitments to the official broadcasters.

The team leader for Channel Ten and Foxtel, Bob Kemp, told The Australian in New Delhi yesterday that the broadcasters "clearly have some issues with some areas and that's why we're here for discussions".

"We're taking the opportunity to meet various members from the organising committee across a whole range of issues from accommodation to technology, venue preparedness and security," Kemp said.

"We're a little more nervous about some things than we are about others."

Ten beat the Nine Network in a fierce bidding war last year for the exclusive broadcast rights to the Commonwealth Games, which it will share with pay-TV network Foxtel.

While Delhi organizers sought yesterday to placate the nervous rights holders, a picture is emerging of a shambolic organization that is way behind schedule on key construction and organizational deadlines. The event's main private developer is said to be in financial strife and the cash-strapped state of Delhi announced this week it would be forced to put all non-Games infrastructure projects on hold.

Accommodation for the anticipated flood of international visitors for the event is also under a cloud, the Delhi Development Authority conceding this week that only one-third of the promised new 6000 hotel rooms would be ready on time.

Plans to build six new hotels in the capital have reportedly been scrapped because of the current financial crisis.

Security remains a key issue in the wake of the November Mumbai bombings, which are understood to have forced a major review of previous arrangements.

The fate of the Games village is under a cloud after Dubai-based developer Emaar MGF was reported to have approached the DDA for a financial bailout.

A DDA official said this week that no decision had been made on whether to grant the request. The Government has already granted Emaar MGF a nine-month deferral on the repayment of a $15.8million loan from the State Bank of India.

The locations for the Games' main venues are also in doubt. Environmental cases are pending over the alleged illegal destruction of more than 1000 trees to build squash and basketball courts and the construction of the Games village on the Yamuna River floodplain, in contravention of an environmental assessment that found it would cause serious flooding and effect Delhi's already dwindling water supply.

The Supreme Court last Friday ordered a reassessment of the plans for the basketball and squash courts.

Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive Mike Hooper said yesterday the federation was relying on guarantees from the organizing committee and all levels of government that environmental concerns had been addressed and the village would be delivered on time.

"We have to rely on the assurances we're given," Hooper said. "There's no alternative. We have openly said that time is no longer our friend.

There's no time for procrastination, we must take decisions and move forward, and I would like to think that all stakeholders have got that message."

Hooper dismissed reports suggesting that Melbourne was on standby to host the games should Delhi fail to meet its deadlines. But with Delhi's Games organizing committee due to deliver its next progress report in May, he said the federation would be looking for clear signs that it was on target.

Delhi's Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit admitted last week that she was not happy with the preparations for the 2010 Games, just 18 months from the event.

"Some of the projects have been delayed, which is worrying. But I hope things will be in place before the event as it's a question of the country's reputation," Dikshit said. She added that with so many stakeholders involved, there was great scope for chaos.

While India's central Government in its interim budget this week announced a funding boost for Commonwealth Games projects, Delhi's cash-strapped state Government has been forced to freeze all non-Games projects until after the event.