Monday, February 2, 2009

India Kazakhstan racing against time for sporting glory

India Kazakhstan racing against timeSecurity concerns notwithstanding, India and Kazakhstan are both racing against time to achieve international sporting glory and recognition over the next two years. While India is gearing for the Commonwealth Games to be held in New Delhi between October 3 and 14, 2010, Kazakhstan is going full steam ahead with preparations for the Seventh Asian Winter Games to be held in Almaty in 2011.

For the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, around 500,000 additional tourists from over 70 nations are expected. This is the first time the Games will be held in India. India will be the third developing country to host the event (after Jamaica in 1966 and Malaysia in 1998). It is also the second time the event will be held in Asia (after 1998). The Games will see the participation of over 8,500 athletes and officials.

On the other hand, the Asian Winter Games in Almaty, Kazakhstan, will see 800 athletes from 30 countries competing for gold medals in eleven events to be held between January 30 and February 6, 2011. According to sources, the Kazakh Government has set aside an initial budget of 726 million dollars for the event, which speaks volumes for the prestige that is being attached to event by the Kazakh Government, and particularly by its President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

The inaugural ceremony is expected to be held at the Indoor Stadium in Astana, which has space for 30,000 spectators. Astana is also building an indoor ice rink with 15,000 seats Events are proposed to be held in both Astana and Almaty. While all indoor events, including ice hockey, speed skating and figure skating, will be held in Astana, Almaty, popularly known as the Apple City, will feature events like ski mountaineering, ski flying, biathlon, sport orienteering contests and others.

Almaty will reconstruct the Medeu ice-skating rink and the Shimbula ski area. It will also build ski jumps and clear a new ski track for the biathlon.

Kazakhstan’’s Tourism and Sports Ministry is now training referees for the winter sports events with the support of international sports federations.

As far as the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi is concerned, the State Government is spearheading a host of activities, ranging from sending the city’’s auto drivers to finishing school to using the help of the Quality Council of India (QCI) to certify 1,000 eateries in the city after they give assurances about providing cuisine measuring to international standards.

The project, headed by the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI), is set to be implemented over the next few months. Sources claim the certification criteria, which are in the process of being drawn up, would be implemented in the beginning as a voluntary scheme.

The Phase-II construction of the Delhi Metro, which is progressing at a fast pace, will provide easy Metro connectivity to 10 out of 11 venues of the Commonwealth Games 2010.

The venues include: Games Village, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Delhi University, Thyagaraj Complex, Siri Fort Sports Complex, National Stadium, Indira Gandhi Sports Complex, Talkatora Indoor Stadium, Yamuna Sports Complex and R K Khanna Tennis Complex.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has already completed 25 percent to 57 percent of the work on all the Metro lines passing by Games venues, and it is expected that all routes will be functional by September 2010, a month before the Commonwealth Games are scheduled.

In fact, five lines are set to be opened in 2009 itself. The DMRC is also planning to start feeder bus services to all Games venues which are not adjacent to Metro stations.

As far as the auto drivers are concerned, 200 of them have so far been selected and are being put through health checkups and finishing schools.

“Visitors across the world would come for Commonwealth Games. Our auto drivers should be groomed in a manner that none complains. We have to make them presentable,” says S N Srivastava, Joint Commissioner of Police, Delhi Traffic. He adds that they will receive specialized training on soft skill and traffic rules, making them more reachable and commuters happy.

There are many stakeholders involved in the Commonwealth Games, and therefore, the task before the authorities is both monumental and problematic. Senior officials from all ministries associated with the Games, led by the home secretary, will jointly chalking out plans to make the event tourist-friendly, and the current recession notwithstanding.

For example, the travel and tourism industry has estimated a huge shortfall of about 30,000 rooms required for around 150000 additional visitors to the national capital for the Commonwealth Games. The additional rooms required to accommodate them would need an investment of about Rs.150 million.

India’’s foreign exchange earnings from the tourism sector is likely to grow by 20 per cent to 16.91 billion dollars by 2010, primarily due to huge tourists inflow expected during the Commonwealth Games.

The Delhi cabinet has started an ambitious project in association with a prominent US institution for public health.

The Delhi cabinet has cleared a Rs.100 million project to be enforced by the government in association with the Bloomberg Global Initiative (BGI) to cut down the use of tobacco during the Games, and to make the National Capital Region (NCR), which includes Delhi and satellite townships smoke-free before the event.

The Delhi Government is all set to sign a memorandum of understanding with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA for exchange of technical know-how and facility building to set up Air Nicotine monitoring devices in some planned locations of the capital.

According to the available statistics, tobacco continues to be the second major cause of death. Nearly 45 per cent men and seven per cent of women in Delhi have the habit of smoking.

Facing a dip in revenue generation in the wake of global economic meltdown, the Delhi Government has approached the Centre for additional funding to complete various projects related to the Games. In a meeting with Planning Commission Deputy Chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia last week, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit sought Rs.5000 million as assistance to complete various projects related to the Games.

According to initial government figure, around Rs.7.9 billion (1.6 billion dollars) would be the total expenditure on the Commonwealth Games.

Union Sports Minister, M.S. Gill has informed a meeting of the Co-ordination Committee for the 2010 Commonwealth Games that a proposal on the increased cost of stadia would soon be taken to the Cabinet. The Minister told the meeting which he chaired that the expenditure finance committee was making a detailed assessment of the estimates before finalizing the revised costs.

Burgeoning costs won”t be a constraint for hosting the upcoming Commonwealth Games and the government is prepared to loosen the purse strings to ensure that the mega event is a success, Gill said.

Gill, however, warned it didn”t mean reckless spending and the money would only be released after closely examining the proposals. He was speaking after reviewing the progress of work at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium in Delhi last week.