Thursday, June 10, 2010

Athletes to be served by Village Caterer at Games venues

A week after an English daily Times of India reported that none of the firms except the one selected for the Commonwealth Games Village short listed for the catering tender has been given a letter of award or signed contract, OC spokesperson Lalit Bhanot said there wasn’t enough money to pay them and it must look at ‘‘reworking the scope of work”. The organizing committee (OC) top brass, including Chairperson Suresh Kalmadi, will be in London for a Commonwealth Games Federation meeting, delaying resolution of the impasse.

However, when the OC signed the contract with the consortium led by Delaware North for the Commonwealth Games Village earlier last month, the cost of the contract was over Rs 100 crore, say sources. ‘‘The Village contract itself is worth much more than the original estimate. Add the cost of the contracts for the sporting venues like Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and National Stadium which comes to over Rs 70 crore, and the estimates go completely haywire,’’ said the sources.

They said the escalating costs prompted the OC to approach the Centre last week for a further loan of Rs 1,000 crore, a request that was turned down. Said a ministry official, ‘‘The government has already given a loan of Rs 1,620 crore to the OC for organizing the Games. The OC officials were told that they would now have to utilize their own resources to meet any cost escalation.’’

The result: sources say the OC is working to change the scope of the job that the firms would be handling. ‘‘The idea now is that instead of the venue caterer providing meals to athletes and officials, these would be packed at the Village itself. After all, the Village kitchen would be making 2,500 meals every hour anyway, so why have the venue caterer also provide meals to athletes,’’ said a source. That’s not all. There’s also talk of providing a pruned down menu at the venues, even at the opening and closing ceremonies.

The idea, however, has sent alarm bells ringing within the OC. Officials claim the talk of bringing down service levels could be a grave mistake as currently the standards maintained are of international level.