Saturday, October 10, 2009

Delegates Happy with the preparation but expressed concerns over some issues

As delegates from 71 countries started their inspection of Commonwealth Games venues on Thursday, Delhiites could easily have mistaken it for a state visit. Security was tight and the delegates were always ringed by attending Organizing Committee officials and volunteers. With mounting speculation over India’s preparedness to host the 2010 Games, the OC made extra efforts to keep the delegates away from the media. At the end of the day, the verdict was trotted out: OC declared that the visiting delegates had found the infrastructure ‘‘impressive’’ and called forth four delegates to back up its claim, even as it hustled out the rest away from the media glare. The tight security, however, failed to stop adverse comments, with some of the delegates admitting that the city’s preparedness wasn’t up to scratch. A delegate from the British Virgin Islands claimed that while it seemed that work was going on at a fast pace, ‘‘a lot more needs to be done’’.

That seemed to be the sentiment of Commonwealth Games Federation chief Mike Fennell as well. Asked whether he felt things were moving in a positive direction, Fennell smiled: ‘‘I would simply say it was a busy day’’. He was generally tightlipped. ‘‘I don’t wish to comment as we are not two sides. It is a process and everyone is trying to make it work for the Games,’’ he told TOI. The pace of work seemed to be the sticking point, as sources said that delegates enquired about how long it would take for all the venues to be ready. The questions came despite the tour having started with two venues that are relatively on time — the Commonwealth Games Village and Thyagraj stadium. The Village elicited a positive response from the visiting delegates — most felt it would turn out to be one of the best Villages in the Games’ history. The Thyagraj venue was also praised for its appearance, said sources.

The rest of the visit though made for a rough ride for the OC, sources said. While Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi stadiums were appreciated, the second half of the day saw delegates visit the Talkatora stadium, the national stadium and the S P Mukherjee aquatics pool. The latter is where delegates expressed apprehension, sources revealed. The SPM venue is one of the projects lagging behind considerably.

The day ended with a visit to the OC office, where delegates from Fiji, Cameroon and Mauritius were trotted out by the OC to express their delight with the preparations.

Fennell nods off at presentation

Commonwealth Games Federation president Michel Fennell, who has been keeping a hawk eye on preparations for the 2010 games, was caught napping on Thursday during inspection of a venue. At the Thyagraj complex, a slide-show was arranged and Fennell was seen napping, along with a few other members of the delegation and he woke up towards the end of the presentation.
Games Village draws applause

Canada struck a discordant note with its delegate finding it hard to give any positive feedback but there were many among the 70 officials in the review team who expressed their satisfaction over the pace of work and said Delhi can definitely do it

India probably isn’t doing all that badly on the Commonwealth Games front. Though CGF chief Michael Fennell isn’t too convinced — he recently penned down his apprehensions about the preparations for the Games in a letter to the prime minister — many of the 70-odd delegates who are in the city for an inspection evidently felt otherwise. There were exceptions like Canada, the country which had lost out to Delhi in 2003 when pitching for the Games at Hamilton.

The Games Village got a definite thumbs-up and other buildings too were pronounced to be doing okay with the representatives expressing a conviction about projects finally meeting deadlines, thanks to the large manpower. However, it was the logistics, the ‘‘software’’ of the Games, that raised some concerns, largely because of the delayed submission of the transportation plans. Overall though things were pronounced satisfactory.

The Canadian outburst came with a long list of woes, the most pronounced of which seemed to be India’s failure to have done block-booking of seats in airlines to fly in athletes and its reluctance to use overseas manpower for the Games. ‘‘There are issues we have about ticketing, accreditation, transportation, sports organization and communication. There are a wide variety of international experts available in all these fields. We are using them for organizing the Winter Games at Vancouver. It is a practice worldwide for host countries to take advantage of this expertise. India is not doing that,’’ said Andrew Pipe, the Canadian delegate. On the transportation front, he said: ‘‘India had missed the federation’s internal deadlines. We came with many questions which have not been answered yet and not getting satisfactory answers can have serious implications.’’ Probed on what these deadlines were and which ones were yet to be met, he did not specify.

Not many it seemed had contracted his cynicism. Vivian Gungaram from Mauritius is very clear that the Commonwealth Games Village here is ‘‘much better than the one in Melbourne’’ and as for transportation, if India managed to put the same system in place as it had done on Thursday morning, it would be ‘‘marvelous’’. Both he and David Ojong from Cameroon agreed that comparing India with Melbourne in terms of preparedness a year ago is not fair because that was three years ago and everything was different, most of the entire world’s financial situation.

Ojong said: ‘‘There is some concern about the buildings meeting deadlines but the kind of manpower you have it is obvious you will do it. Thyagaraj Stadium is in fact unique.’’ Thyagaraj is a fully green structure.

Chris Jenkins who had come from Wales confessed that he was ‘‘impressed’’ with the Village but also said that it is obvious many of the buildings ‘‘have missed original deadlines. But that’s not so much of a worry as is the operational side of it. We have offered our help and we are very supportive of India. But the operational sides like accreditation, IT infrastructure etc have to be still worked on.’’

More funds for Games

The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved additional fund for the expeditious completion of capital’s infrastructure for Commonwealth Games. On a day when the CWG Federation delegation inspected proposed venues to take stock of Delhi’s preparation for the Games, the Cabinet decided to allot more money. ‘‘There are certain areas in which the organizers are lagging behind and that’s why the Cabinet decided to allot some extra fund so that infrastructure is ready well in time,’’ a source said.
Delegates Happy with the preparation but expressed concerns over some issues