Thursday, November 19, 2009

2010 CWG going to prove a Very Tough Examination for Delhi

A year from now, the eyes of the sporting world will be on India, as the country's capital prepares to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games Oct. 3-14.

With the one-year countdown officially on, there are serious concerns that Delhi won't be able to pull it off.

"Two years before the Games, I had told the organizing committee that time was not your friend," Commonwealth Games Federation president Mike Fennell told reporters after an October meeting of representatives in Delhi. "And now, one year before it, I say, time is your enemy."

India has never hosted an event of this magnitude.

The 1982 Asian Games were held in Delhi, but that event was much smaller than the Commonwealth Games, which will feature athletes from 71 countries of the former British Empire competing in 17 different summer sports.

Delhi organizers must act quickly to hire experienced foreign consultants in logistics, infrastructure and ticketing, Fennell said.

With so much national pride invested in the event, the call for more outside help is a tough pill to swallow for organizers.

"A lot of in-house expertise has grown in India that is best in the world," Delhi organizing committee spokesman Uday Sahay said.

Organizers are prepared to hire additional foreign consultants, Sahay acknowledged, but in most areas, India feels it is capable of providing its own expertise.

Construction delays causing concern

As workers put in the final panes of glass and size up the solar panels at Delhi's shiny new netball stadium, engineer Umesh Bhansal beams with pride.

"We feel proud," he said. "But we are also under tremendous pressure to complete all the venues by December."

Bhansal's tasks seem to be going according to schedule, but it's a different story at many other venues.

Weeks before it's due for a final inspection, the national field hockey stadium is far from ready.
The playing surface is a messy mix of grey and maroon, full of mud and gravel. The bleachers are still missing — no seats for spectators, just row upon row of stone steps.

With so much work still to be completed, and so little time left before the test events in early 2010, this place should be a hum of activity, with the beeping of backhoes and grinding of hydraulic tools. But on the autumn day that I visited, it was virtually silent, except for the persistent sound of raindrops that had turned the site into a mud pit.

As the laborers lounged under the bleachers, small half-naked children provided the only action, playing around the scaffolding.

The cranes stood idle.

A report in July indicated that 14 of the 19 venues were at risk of not being finished in time for the fall construction deadline.

But according to organizers, only two venues, cycling and rugby, are running behind their construction schedule, and even those are still expected to be completed by the spring, months before the Commonwealth Games begin.

"The [federation] added a lot of other parameters to the existing ones," Sahay said in an attempt to justify the delays.

"In cycling, they said it had to have a wooden track, but we had already made a concrete track. To make the adjustments, it takes time. And, that was perceived by media that things [were falling behind deadlines]."

Gridlock a security concern

The roads leading up to the stadiums aren't in great shape either.

Many concrete overpasses and bridges remain in a constant state of construction, acting as pylons and obstacles for vehicles trying to navigate Delhi's labyrinth of streets.

The perpetual gridlock has officials worried, especially since some reports have indicated that the roadwork might not be completed in time for the Games.

The incomplete venues and transportation headaches stand in the way of security officials, as they desperately try to construct detailed safety and evacuation plans.

"We're confident that they're going to get it done," Sgt. Mark Bolduc of the RCMP said after a meeting of Commonwealth security officials in September.

It's a huge concern for Indian officials, especially after England pulled its badminton team from the world championships in Hyderabad in August because of security worries.

Message control

Keen to steer the attention to other areas and combat the negative press, organizers are trying to regain control of the message.

"There are more to the Commonwealth Games than just security and infrastructure," Sahay quips. "We have the whole green Games issue, cultural programs and housing projects."

Indeed, these Commonwealth Games could be among the greenest, with energy-efficient stadiums using less electricity than those at past events. Cultural programs and celebrations will likely be spectacular in a country renowned for its colorful festivals.

But the practicalities of venues and roads are still first and foremost on the minds of top federation officials.

Too soon to panic

Canadian officials aren't panicking, but they are concerned.

"I think all of us find it intriguing," said Andrew Pipe, president of the Commonwealth Games Association of Canada.

"India has been such a dynamic commercial powerhouse that has got such great corporate citizens like Tata and Unisys, but it is having some of these problems.

"I think president Fennel's comments are designed to catalyze or galvanize activity on the part of the Indian government, the Indian hosts and the Indian community in Delhi so that those concerns prove to be ill founded."

At least a few of the engineers supervising the construction in Delhi are feeling the heat.

The criticism in the media and from senior federation officials are speeding up the work, Bhansal says. But there's no need to panic, according to Pipe. The fall deadlines for venue construction had a built-in buffer zone, and the Games aren't until next October.

Delhi organizers remain confident despite the criticism from Indian media outlets and federation officials.

But they are searching for ways to silence those critics — accepting more foreign help and embarking on an aggressive marketing campaign — to ensure the country's dream doesn't turn into a public relations nightmare.


jokes said...

Yes indeed very tough job.May i correct you now only you have 180 days to complete/meet the targets
to hand over the stadias. Not one year?
Revise your targets accordingly.
remainig days beyond 180 days required for trial and fixing the teething problems for smooth functioning of the stadia according to my vision.