Saturday, July 31, 2010

Baseless charges of corruption

CWG corruption: Kalmadi says every paisa accounted for
NDTV Correspondent - New Delhi:  Suresh Kalmadi, the chairman of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee,  has responded to corruption charges. He said he was "pained by the baseless charges of corruption" and that "every paisa spent on the Commonwealth Games was accounted for."
At the centre of the corruption charges, a letter written by Deputy High Commissioner of India in London, Rajesh N Prasad, to the Sports Ministry about allegations of corruption made by the UK government, which says that 25,000 pounds sent from the CWG in India to a company, AM films, in UK, is unaccounted for.

Kalmadi rubbished claims that 25,000 pounds were being paid to the UK-based firm each month. He said the London firm, AM films was picked up after a tender process. The CWG boss also showed mediapersons a letter in which the firm had been recommended by the Indian High Commission in London.
The High Commission denied the charges and told NDTV AM Films was not recommended by them.
Kalmadi also said there  was no cloud cast over the games Organising Committee by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) report.
CVC report has asked the CBI to register a corruption case against certain MCD officials in connection with irregularities in a tender issued for a Commonwealth Games project worth several crores.
The CVC has found serious discrepancies like award of works at higher rates to bidders, poor quality of construction and grant of work to ineligible agencies in different Games-related construction works being carried out by various departments in the capital.
As per the assessment report prepared by the CVC's Chief Technical Examination Wing, large-scale procedural violations, including corruption, have been noticed in 16 projects.
The cost of the projects has been estimated to be about Rs 2,000 crore.
The CWG Organising Committee boss today said, "The CVC report is on inferior quality of work at the venues. We are now in a time when we have to take over venues. So before that we will ask for all approvals and clearances."

Thumbs-up from the top

Manmohan satisfied with CWG preparation
(Press Trust of India) - Even as controversy surrounds the Commonwealth Games for alleged corruption and tardy progress in construction of projects, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today expressed satisfaction over the preparations for the mega event and said it will be a successful one.
"I reviewed the situation with Cabinet Secretary yesterday and I am satisfied that all necessary preparations will be in place by the deadline fixed," he told reporters here.
 "We look forward to a very successful games," Singh said when asked about corruption in the projects for the Games which will be held in October this year.
Incidentally, an inspection by the Central Vigilance Commission has found serious discrepancies like award of works at higher rates to bidders, poor quality of construction and grant of work to ineligible agencies in different Commonwealth Games-related construction works carried out by various departments here.

All cool on the Indian front for CWG

 Nothing to panic in delays in CWG projects: Dikshit
(Press Trust of India) - Dismissing reports that the Commonwealth Games projects were behind schedule, a confident Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on Friday said delays were not something to panic about and claimed everything was as per schedule. "There is no need to panic. All the games-related works are
going as per schedule.
If there are delays, then delays are not something to be panic about. The way we are functioning, we will be able to save some money rather than overspending it (on construction)," Dikshit told reporters here.
Her statement comes a day after she issued a gag order on her cabinet colleagues not to air views about their inspections of the Games' projects and not to allow media persons to accompany them.
Finance Minister A K Walia had yesterday said that the Yamuna Sports Complex (a DDA project), going by the way it is right now, may not be able to meet the August 31 deadline set by the chief minister.
Dikshit also said all civic agencies and government departments are working tirelessly to complete the projects to meet the deadline of August 2010.
"Our target is that by August 10 we will clear all big construction waste heaps from the city. So far, since last fortnight we have removed around 16,000 tonnes of waste.
"Except one or two, all stadiums are almost ready and by the end of next month we will complete all work such as flyovers, buildings, street-scaping and streetlights related to the mega event," the Chief Minister said.
September is going to be utilised for giving finishing touches, Dikshit added.
Refusing to react to former Sports Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar's criticism of the CWG, Dikshit instead said that the city government has endeavored to upgrade the city's infrastructure in the wake of the extravaganza slated between October 3-14.
"All the infrastructural projects have strong legacy value and will go a long way in the improvement of the city infrastructure along with the standard of living of the people of Delhi," she added.

Difficult Times Now

 More Commonwealth Games shame? ED probes cash trail
HT Correspondent , Hindustan Times
Already fighting off countless controversies, the Delhi Commonwealth Games looks headed towards more embarrassment. This time, it’s a money trail that could link the Organising Committee of the Games to a dubious firm in London.
The Enforcement Directorate has launched a probe into the money trail, on a request from UK tax authorities. The trail — involving as much as £2.5 lakh (approximately Rs 1.8 crore) — goes back to the inauguration of the Queen’s Baton Relay in London last October, which was attended by the President of India and the Queen of England.
Organising Committee's general secretary Lalit Bhanot, in an email, denied any irregularities. He claimed the firm was recommended by the Indian High Commission for hiring vehicles. He also denied a monthly transfer to AM Film’s accounts was taking place.
London-based firm AM Films UK Limited was contracted to provide ‘logistical’ support. The job included transport and organising marshals for the Queen’s Baton Relay in London, government sources told HT.
The firm has claimed it was paid the money, £2,47,469, by the Organising Committee.
When the firm tried to claim tax exemption on the money, UK tax authorities contacted the Indian High Commission to verify the veracity of the firm and its claim. UK tax authorities also told the mission there was no written contract between AM Films and the OC, nor was there a tendering process in a letter dated June 7, 2010, government sources have revealed.
The high commission in turn sent the request for information to the sports ministry, which turned over the investigation to the Enforcement Directorate.
TV news channel TimesNow has also reported it wasn’t just the £2.5 lakh but a monthly transfer of £25,000 that A M Films is receiving. The ED is investigating the matter under Foreign Exchange Management Act rules.
Updates by TimesNow

Saina on top of the world

 Saina Nehwal to receive Khel Ratna this year
(India Today)
Saina Nehwal will be the winner of this year's Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, India's highest sporting honour.
The 20-year-old shuttler from Hyderabad has had a phenomenal run in the last couple of years, and worked steadily towards becoming the world No. 2 in a sport monopolised by the Chinese.
An Arjuna Award winner in 2009, Saina will receive the Khel Ratna from President Pratibha Patil on August 29, the National Sports Day. The award consists of a cash amount of Rs 7.5 lakh, a scroll of honour and medal.
"I am really happy. It's unbelievable, a dream come true for me to get another within one year. National awards gives you a lot of motivation and it definitely has inspired me to achieve bigger glories for my country," Saina said.

"I have done well in the last two years and the three titles that I won recently have really boosted my confidence. I am now preparing for the World Championship and I hope to win the title," she added.
Saina is also one of the six brand ambassador for the Commonwealth Games 2010.
National coach and her mentor Pullela Gopichand also heaped praise on his protege and said it is the result of her hard work that she achieved the award.
"Its really a great news. She deserves the award. She had a fantastic last two years and she has put a lot of hard work and the sort of belief she has in herself, I'm confident she will achieve much more in her career," Gopichand said.
Gopichand said next month's World badminton Championship will be a test for Saina as it would decide if she can reach the numero uno status.
"She is world number two now and the number one status will depend on her feat in the World Championship because, the other two important tournaments likw Commonwealth Games and Asian Games unfortunately doesn't count in ranking," he said.
Last year, the Khel Ratna award was given jointly to the trio of Olympic bronze medallist boxer Vijender Singh, wrestler Sushil Kumar and four-time World champion woman pugilist MC Mary Kom.
Saina has recently completed a hat-trick of major titles, winning the Indian Open, followed by Super Series titles in Singapore and Indonesia.
Earlier this year, she became the first Indian woman to reach the semi-finals of the All-England Super Series. The Super Series tournaments are considered badminton's equivalent of a Grand Slam in tennis.
In 2009, the Hyderabadi had won the Indonesian Super Series, the first Indian to do so.
(With PTI inputs)

Difficult to please FINA

Sub-standard pool, says FINA official
Rakesh Rao(The Hindu)
NEW DELHI: On many counts, the Federation Cup aquatic championship should be seen as a success. Like most other disciplines, barring netball, aquatics, too, had to make do with an unfinished stadium but managed to impress on the technical and logistics front.
The Swimming Federation of India's organising skills, against all odds, came in for praise from World Swimming Federation (FINA) Vice-President Sam Ramsamy, who otherwise stated the obvious that the so-called “world-class” facility at the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee aquatic centre was an example of poor construction.
The SFI took all the pre-event glitches in its stride and bravely did the needful during the three-day event. It could pull it off only because of a well-settled team of officials who have done their job efficiently for over a decade.
Inherent flaws
Given the state of the stadium, with inherent flaws ranging from the diving tower to the grossly ill-planned change-rooms, apparently substandard tiling of the pool, to state a few, SFI General Secretary Virendra Nanavati was obviously a worried man.
“The SFI has kept a low key profile from the very start,” explains Mr. Nanavati, “we were not consulted in any technical matter while the stadium was being constructed. As we all know, the elevator in the diving tower (in use since 1982) was removed stating that the FINA rules did not make it mandatory.
“For the sake of argument, I could have said, the rules don't mention the need for stairs in the diving tower. My question was, why remove the elevator that was in use for 28 years?
“How will we explain the absence of the elevator to the divers when they come here for the Games? Mercifully, now, it seems there is some re-thinking on the subject.”
On the eve of the Federation Cup, A.S.V. Prasad, the Joint Director-General (Sport) of the Organising Committee, did say that he would talk to the civil engineers concerned about the possibility of installing an elevator in time for the Games.
“We could not hold the platform diving event only because the approved anti-skid mat to be used on the platform was not made available. In fact, it was not even ordered from any of the two makers in Europe.
‘Just assurances'
“The SFI has been requesting for the equipment needed for the test event but all we got were assurances,” says Mr. Nanavati, clearly hurt by the treatment meted out to the SFI in the days leading to the Federation Cup.
If Mr. Nanavati had reasons to be defensive, nothing really stopped Sam Ramsamy from calling a spade a spade. The South African found the material used “sub-standard” and the incomplete state of the stadium made him apprehensive whether it was possible to hold the Commonwealth Games in an unfinished pool complex.
The FINA delegate pointed to the four change-rooms and noted the inadequate number of showers, the absence of lockers and lack of space for the swimmers and divers to rest during the day. The low roof and the non-installation of the starting blocks at the warm-up pool also did not miss his attention.
Adverse comments
These adverse comments did not come as a surprise at all. After all, the officials of the Sports Authority of India and the Central Public Works Department have slowly started realising that the swimming complex could well be a major source of embarrassment once the swimmers and divers from the leading Commonwealth Games land here in the last week of September.
With only 65 days left for the start of the Games, it will take some serious damage-control exercise from the concerned authorities. There is little time left to undertake a break-and-make effort to correct the flaws in the remodelled infrastructure.

Reprieve for Hockey India

SC permits Hockey India elections 
J. Venkatesan (The Hindu)
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday permitted Hockey India to hold elections for its executive body but restrained it from implementing the results.
A Bench comprising Justice Altmas Kabir and Justice A.K. Patnaik stayed the interim orders of the Bombay and the Delhi High Court orders restraining HI from conducting elections scheduled for July 28 and posted the matter for further hearing on August 19.
Appearing for HI, senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi submitted that elections were to be held by July 31 and non holding of the elections would have far-reaching consequences. He said the country would not be able to participate in any of the international hockey events for men and women, including the Commonwealth Games.
Senior counsel Indu Malhotra, appearing for the Indian Olympic Association, also submitted that HI — affiliated to the International Hockey Federation — would not be able to send any team for international participation.
The Bench, after hearing the counsels for both parties, directed the matter to be listed for final hearing on August 19 and asked them to complete the pleadings by then.
The Delhi High Court had, on July 28, stayed the election process in HI following the failure of the Central Government to clarify the legal position regarding HI and the Indian Hockey Federation. The Bombay High Court had also stayed the HI elections for three weeks on a petition filed by Mumbai Hockey Association. The special leave petitions by HI are directed against these interim orders.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Piece of advice on hosting international sports events

'Olympics have been a huge stroke of luck'
Pramitpal Chaudhuri, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, July 29, 2010
Jeremy Hunt, Britain's Minister of Culture and Sports, and shadow minister with the same portfolio for three years before that, is overseeing preparations for the 2012 London Olympics and is readying for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. He talked to Pramit Pal Chaudhuri about his experiences

On preparations for the 2012 London Olympics.
We have completed 65 per cent of the construction. Eighty per cent of the contracts have been signed. We should finish all our construction one year earlier than scheduled. And, depending on how you measure it, we are within budget.
On their impact on the British economy.
The Olympics have been a huge stroke of luck. They are a huge stimulus to the economy, taking place just as Britain is in one of its worst recessions. The London Olympics are the biggest construction project in Europe right now.
On the public reaction to the expenditure.
Not unlike what India is experiencing over the Commowealth Games, there is criticism as to whether, for a few weeks' of entertainment, it is worth spending so much money. What will we be left with when it's over? The construction will help rebuild east London, places like Stratford City, full of power stations and wasteland. Thirteen of the 15 poorest electoral wards of London surround the Olympic complex. After the Olympics this area will have, among other things, the largest shopping complex in Western Europe, employing 18000 people and covering 290 acres.
On the Olympics' impact on sports.
We hope the Olympics will leave a sporting legacy in that area. The Olympic stadium will be converted into a football stadium after 2012.  We're hope the stardust of the Olympics will inspire our youngsters to play more sports. Only three out of 10 British school kids play competitive sport today. We have found children love big sports stadiums. They tend to fire people up.
On the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
You have just over 60 days to go. I toured some of the facilities. There are lots of last minute preparation and some hiccups still to be sorted out. All such games, from my experience, follow a certain cycle. There is great excitement when you win the right to stage the games, then in the runup to the actual event there is a dip in support as the arguments buildup and the traffic is disrupted, and then there is a wave of excitement again when the games actually begin.
On the lack of star power at the Commonwealth Games.
As a government, Britain does not decided what individual sports federation do in terms of participation. The problem, as I understand it, seems to lie in the timing of the Commonwealth Games and how they don't contribute to the rankings of the international stars. I would like to resolve this issue. We have a stake, the Commonwealth Games after Delhi are in Glasgow, and attracting big names will be a challenge for us as well. We have begun trying to see how we can firmly root the games in the international sports calendar.
Advice to any government that wants to stage the Olympics.
First, get the sums right. Two years after Britain won the bidding for the Olympics we had to triple the budget. Second, give some thought to the eventual dip in public support. London hasn't seen as much of a dip as expected because of the message of the games: that this as much about the legacy of transforming east London as it is about the glory of the event.

Olympic icons throw weight behind Delhi
Siddhanth Aney, Hindustan Times

You might think having a conversation with three Knights of the British Empire (or two Knights and a Dame to be precise) would be intimidating. Lord Sebastian Coe, Sir Steve Redgrave and Dame Kelly Holmes though, on their whirlwind visit to India, were far from it. They spoke candidly about India,

Two years to go for London 2012, how do things look?
Coe, chief of the London 2012 organising committee and the second fastest man over 800m in history: We are slightly ahead of schedule, but there is still a massive amount of work to be done. Hosting a multi-disciplinary event is a huge undertaking. It is not easy anywhere in the world, whether it is London, Atlanta or New Delhi. We've got a number of top businesses involved from the start and will keep involving the community in every step. 
Delhi's preparedness
Coe: We were briefed on preparations, and we have seen a couple of venues. The organisers are in the best place to comment on the preparedness. There will always be difficulties, but I am sure Delhi will host a great Games.
Holmes, the third woman in the history of Olympic sport to win 800m and 1500m at the same Games; also president of Commonwealth Games, England: The people of Delhi and India are so warm and hospitable; I have no doubt they will host a fantastic event and that they will witness some great competition. Security, of course, an issue, but that is true of any venue. In India, you have the advantage of some fantastic technological expertise to deal with these concerns.
In the world of professional, big-money sport what is the relevance of the Commonwealth Games?
Redgrave, one of only four Olympians to have won a gold at five consecutive Games: It is an opportunity to showcase Olympic sports. Not everyone can be great at cricket, so when you get the opportunity to play a new sport, grab it with both hands. The most important thing is to have fun. I am a terrible golfer, but I still enjoy playing golf with friends. This will be a chance for Indians to see and hopefully experience new sports.
Holmes: The Commonwealth Games are a massive platform for athletes to experience multi-discipline events and can be a huge stepping-stone. For sports like squash and netball, this is the Olympics, so they are actually trying to be the best in the world. It's huge, and will always be relevant.
Why is it that a number of big names have pulled out of the Games?
Redgrave: The big names are not that important. Unlike the Olympics, where sometimes the gap in standard between participating teams is huge, here the playing field is more level, so it is a chance for young athletes to shine. Even if established names do not come, the level of competition will be high.
Holmes: One reason why some people have pulled out is because of scheduling. Chris Hoy(cyclist) had to pull out because of the European Championships, which is a qualifying event for the Olympics. Then there is the question of where the Games fit in with players' training schedules, so there is nothing we can do. But the Games have always been the birthplace of new stars.
How important is the legacy?
Coe: One of the main reasons that support for London 2012 has not dipped is that the revival of east London will be a major part of the Games' legacy. It is the same for Delhi. Apart from everything else, the stadia created for the Games must become a hub of sporting activity and remain so for many years.

Indian Olympic Association have to make ammends

IOC asks IOA to amend constitution
Special Correspondent - The Hindu
IOA has been told to carry out amendments and report back by mid-August
The suggested changes mainly pertain to the composition of the NOCs

NEW DELHI: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has directed the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to amend its constitution to fall in line with the Olympic Charter.
The IOA has been told to convene its General Assembly meeting and carry out the amendments in order to report back to the IOC by mid-August.
Significantly, there is no mention about restricting the terms of office-bearers of the IOA or an age cap for its officials as required under the Union Government guidelines.
The far-reaching amendments, suggested by the IOC, mainly pertain to the composition of the National Olympic Committee (NOC), with the IOC clearly asking the IOA to amend its constitution in such a way as to include only National Sports Federations (NSFs) as its voting members.
The IOA at present has the State Olympic associations also as its voting members, an obvious structure aimed at ‘vote bank politics' that has been practised and perfected over the years in the apex sports body.
No immediate consensus
The available office-bearers of the NSFs in Delhi, apart from several senior IOA and State-level officials, met on Wednesday to discuss the issue arising out of the IOC diktat, but there was no immediate consensus about convening a General Assembly meeting to take up the matter.
The IOC directive comes just over a month after the IOA met Union Sports Ministry officers in a ‘mediation dialogue' at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, in the presence of IOC officials.
The meeting followed weeks of confrontationist postures adopted by the IOA over what it called was an attempt by the ministry to erode its autonomy and that of the NSFs.
The meeting brought into focus the total inadequacy of the IOA statutes to follow the Olympic Charter.
The IOC stated that the Indian NOC would implement the basic principles of good governance and the Government would be expected to respect the autonomy of the Olympic Movement in India.
“Following this meeting, the NOC has immediately undertaken the revision of its statutes. This process is ongoing and is expected to be finalised very soon,” an IOC spokeswoman had stated earlier this month.
The IOC's proposed amendments would require the IOA to have 34 National federations, two IOC Members (Randhir Singh and Ashwini Kumar, the latter being an honorary member) and two representatives of the Athletes' Commission as its members.
The IOC has suggested that the IOA form an Ethics Commission and an Arbitration Commission, apart from the Athletes' Commission.
The Executive Council of the IOA may comprise the president, vice-president, two secretaries, treasurer, Athletes' Commission representative and the two IOC members apart from four other members.
Currently there are 41 members in the IOA executive including the principal office-bearers.
The IOA does not have any representative from the athletes as demanded by the Olympic Charter, either in the Executive or the General Assembly.
It had been violating this provision of the Charter for over eight decades of its existence (formed and recognised by the IOC in 1927).
The Charter provides for representation of Olympians, active or retired, in the NOC's executive.
The Charter stipulates that the voting majority in an NOC and its executive shall consist of the votes cast by the NSFs. On questions related to Olympic Games, only votes cast by the NSFs and the executive would count.
An NOC may also include as its members multi-sports groups and other sports-oriented organisations or their representatives, as well as nationals of the country liable to reinforce the effectiveness of the NOC or who have rendered distinguished services to the cause of sport and Olympism.
The IOC has reportedly stated that the State associations could be treated as sub-committees but not as members and they should not have voting rights.
An NOC can, at its discretion, also elect representatives of government and public authorities as its members.
The IOC has said that it expected the IOA to amend its constitution, sign it and dispatch it for the IOC's approval. One cannot recall when the IOC went through such an exercise in respect of the IOA's constitution.


Aiyar stands by his anti-CWG remark; to speak more after Oct 15
Headlines Today Bureau
Despite being snubbed by his party, former Union sports minister and Rajya Sabha MP Mani Shankar Aiyar on Thursday reiterated his anti-Commonwealth Games stand.
Saying he was happy to have said that the Games should fail and that his statement was being discussed in every household, Aiyar however said that he would now keep mum over the issue till October 15, until the sporting event concludes.
"Now that everybody is talking about it, I think, now I do not need to say anything more and I have promised that I will keep my mouth shut because somebody asked me to do so as they will successfully organise Commonwealth Games. Now, I will open my mouth on October 15," Aiyar said.
A day after the reports of Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) taking note of alleged irregularities in several Games-related works, Aiyar ridiculed his detractors who called him anti-national over his remarks on the conduct of CWG.
Taking a dig at Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Suresh Kalmadi, Aiyar said, "Whoever has said this (anti-national), his talks are a matter of jest."
Aiyar denied that the Congress leadership had passed a gag order against him. "High command has not told me anything. This is my own decision that when my views on the issue are being heard in all households, then what is the need to issue more statements," he said.
Aiyar had on Tuesday said, "I am delighted that it is raining as it will cause difficulties for the CWG Federation."
His comment was widely criticised, including by some prominent leaders of his party. Kalmadi, himself a Rajya Sabha MP, went up to saying, "India would not have got the world class stadiums had Mani Shankar Aiyar still been the sports minister."
Meanwhile, main opposition party BJP has found more ammunition in the raging war of words over the Games. BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should intervene and reveal the truth.
Rudy also claimed that Aiyar might be eyeing a Cabinet berth through his outrageous comment.
- With PTI inputs

Indian soccer's and Mohun Bagan's golden moment

99 years ago, Indian football's moment of glory 

Monideepa Banerjee - NDTV:

Kolkata:  A golden moment in Indian football may sound like an oxymoron to generations fed on a healthy diet of sleek soccer, most recently at the FIFA World Cup. Where the only Indians were those cheering in the stands.  
But 99 years ago today, India won its first battle for Independence on the football field. It was on July 29, 1911, that Mohun Bagan - 10 of its players barefoot, only one had shoes - defeated the British Army's East Yorkshire Regiment team 2-1 to win the IFA (Indian Football Association) Shield for the first time. They played bigger men, better shod, and won. (Watch)
The Kolkata-based soccer club began the centenary celebrations today with the release of a stamp to mark that moment.   
It was as exciting a game as any played today by players who cost their clubs millions. Perhaps more, because Mohun Bagan played that day with freedom on the mind. 
The British team was one goal ahead. Mohun Bagan captain Shibdas Bhaduri scored an equalizer. Then, with just two minutes to go, Abhilash Ghosh hit the second goal to defeat East Yorkshire 2-1.  
"Indian football was born on 29 July, 1911, and at the same time India got a taste of Independence", says Anjan Mitra, Mohun Bagan secretary.  
Chuni Goswami, a former Mohun Bagan captain says, ""It was the spirit, I am sure, not the equipment. There were no boots...barefeet...and the boys were not very strong compared to them. I am sure it was a sense of freedom fighting that carried them for the whole match." 
In these parts the story is part of folklore.  
"After Mohun Bagan won the 1911 shield, someone asked, when will that British flag come down. An Indian pundit said, it will come down when Mohun Bagan wins the shield the next time. Incidentally, Mohun Bagan won the shield in 1947, the year of Indian Independence," notes Sanmit Sarkar of the Sabuj Maroon Swapno fan club.  The Mohun Bagan club was born in north Kolkata and the field where the team first played is now lost to high-rises. But the spirit of July 29, 1911, is alive, the club shall have you know.

What is venue readiness?

Sports Minister claims 16 of 18 CWG venues complete
 New Delhi, Jul 29 (PTI) The continuing construction work might present a grim picture but Sports Minister M S Gill today asserted in the Parliament that 16 of the 18 venues for the Commonwealth Games are "complete".
Replying to a question, Gill said, "Most of the sports venues have been completed and Test events held. The remaining are in advanced stage of completion and will be completed well in time for the Games. An amount of Rs 4460 crore has been approved for upgradation/renovation/creation of sports infrastructure."
Gill also gave a status report on the venues preparedness and except for the Yamuna Sports Complex (Table Tennis arena) and Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (Weightlifting complex), all the other venues had completed written against their status.

Level Field says: What is venue readiness? In layman terms and Media understanding, it is that the venue is fully ready for the full facilities at the venue to be used for competition. However, here in Delhi for the Commonwealth Games, venue readiness means when the venue owners (Government agencies) hand over the venue after their contractors have completed the venue (actually field of play) to the Organising Committee (OC) of the Commonwealth Games. However, when the venues are handed over and inaugurated, the over-lays (all vicinity surrounding the venue) are not in place. This is the responsibility of the OC through their appointed contractors to get it ready. This is where the problem has risen, where the overlays have not been completed as the venues were just handed over, but the Media invited for inauguration of the venue or Test events. With debris strewn all over outside the Stadium, roads not laid and landscape not  ready, naturally the Media highlight these as shortcomings and say that the venue is not ready.
In all fairness to the OC, it is only a matter of time before the venues - which are indeed state-of-the art stadiums (minus the little damage caused by the rainy season) - will be fully ready - maybe a little late than scheduled - but nevertheless in time for the Games in October.

CWG to Olympics to India?

After CWG, India must bid for Olympics: Sir Redgrave 

New Delhi, Jul 29 (PTI) Impressed with India's preparedness for the upcoming Commonwealth Games, five-time Olympic gold medalist rower Sir Steve Redgrave today said the country should take forward the legacy of the October 3-14 megaevent and bid for the Olympics in future.
"After the Commonwealth Games if India feel they have the infrastructure, then go for the Olympics. Having Olympics in India would be absolutely amazing. The enthusiasm would be much higher than the Commonwealth Games. India should take forward the Games legacy and bid for Olympics," said the legendary English rower who had won gold medals at five consecutive Olympics, starting from 1984 to 2000.
"I think may be three years later after the Commonwealth Games, they (India) would feel that yes we are ready for that (Olympics)," Redgrave said.

Another CWG Scam?

 CWG: Crores wasted on medical facilities, guess who's paying?
An NDTV investigation reveals how your money is being squandered on medical equipment bought by the government at absurd prices.
View the exclusive report by NDTV here

Ticked off in the name of the Games

 CWG are India's Games not of Mani or Kalmadi: Shukla
Press Trust of India - New Delhi:  Coming down heavily on critics of the upcoming Commonwealth Games, Congress MP Rajiv Shukla on Thursday said the multi-discipline event belonged to India and not to any individual.
A lot of people, including former Sports Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, are staunch critics of the Games who believe that the country did not need the event and all the spending on it was sheer waste of money.
The bickering reached a crescendo when Aiyar said he would be unhappy if the Games will be conducted successfully and reacting to it Organising Committee Chairman Kalmadi termed the fellow Congress leader as anti-national.
Shukla said it's time that everyone forgets the difference and work towards a brilliant organisation of the Games, scheduled for October 3-14 here.
"These are India's Games not of Mani Shakar's or Kalmadi's. This is not the time for criticism or counter criticism. Only 60 days are left and now we all should work towards a successful conduct of the Games," Shukla told reporters outside the Parliament.
"The issues can be discussed after the Games," he added.
The build up to the Games has already been marred by delay in the completion of the venues and reports of alleged corruption in the creation of infrastructure.

    Pat on the back for CWG preparations

    Dame Kelly Holmes and Sebastian Coe praise Delhi preparations
    By Duncan Mackay
    British Sports Internet Writer of the Year

    July 28 - New Delhi's preparations for the Commonwealth Games have received a massive vote of confidence from Sebastian Coe, the chairman of London 2012, and Dame Kelly Holmes, the double Olympic champion, who were today briefed on the progress being made.
    The delegation, which also included five-time Olympic champion Sir Steve Redgrave and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, are part of the large party from Britain led by Prime Minister David Cameron on a visit to India designed to strengthen ties between the two countries.
    Dame Kelly, the President of Commonwealth Games England (CGE), has consistently backed Delhi to be ready for the Games, which are due to open on October 3, and used this visit as another opportunity to encourage them, praising the progress the Indian capital has made.
    She was particularly impressed with the Athletes Village, which Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi claimed will be better than the one at the Olympics in Beijing two years ago.
    "It is really beautiful," said Dame Kelly.
    "I think, the accommodation will be of top class.
    "The infrastructures will certainly encourage the coming generation to take up sports.
    "This is no doubt a good thing.
    "But for that the facilities should be maintained properly.
    "I very am encouraged by the plans I’ve heard from Mr Kalmadi and believe the Commonwealth Games in India will be a fantastic event.
    "Hosting the Games in Delhi provides an opportunity to promote sport, and the benefits that it can bring, to millions of children in the country."

    Coe (pictured right with Hunt and Sir Steve), meanwhile, who flew overnight to Delhi having yesterday led the celebrations for the two-year to go anniversary of London 2012, sympathised with the frustrations the Indian organisers are currently facing.
    "Yes, this is a challenge every city organising a big event faces," he said.
    "Hosting such a multi-discipline event is a very critical task.
    "The problems never get solved quickly.
    "I wish the Delhi Commonwealth Games Organising Committee all the best and hope to see a dazzling show."
    Hunt was also impressed with what he saw and left reassured by Kalmadi that the athletes would be safe during the Games.
    "We're impressed by the attention being paid to detail," he said.
    "Sixty-four days is not a long time [until the Games start], which makes this attention to detail more impressive.
    "I’m sure that India will deliver a successful, safe and secure Commonwealth Games in October. 
    "Mr Kalmadi has assured us that the country is ready to welcome athletes from around the Commonwealth and host a great festival of elite sport.
    "I’ve reiterated our commitment to work closely with the Indian Government and the Organising Committee to help in any way that we can.”

    But Hunt warned that he was powerless to make the top athletes attend the event, even after Kalmadi urged him "to send the top athletes to the event".
    "We don't really have control over what the athletes feel to do," the Minister said.
    "But we are going back with a strong message and we will encourage British athletes to come to the Commonwealth Games."
    Earlier this week, England's triple Olympic gold medalist Bradley Wiggins added his name the growing list of competitors who have announced that they will not be attending the Games.
    He joined fellow cyclists Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton, world heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis and, most damaging of all, Jamaica's treble Olympic and world champion Usain Bolt.
    Dame Kelly claimed the event was strong enough to withstand the loss of the top names.

    "The Commonwealth has helped a number of sports persons to come to the limelight,," said Dame Kelly, who won the 1500m at the 1994 and 2002 Commonwealth Games.
    "If you win even a bronze medal in a Commonwealth Games, people come to know your name which helps you. "So the Games is important in its own way and two-three pull-outs don't matter.
    "Its a massive platform for the young ones."

    Commonwealth Games not a side show: Coe

    Press Trust of India - New Delhi:  Commonwealth Games have never been a "side-show" and the people of the capital would get a chance to watch the stars of tomorrow in action during the October 3-14 mega event here, feels legendary British athlete Sebastian Coe.
    "Commonwealth Games is certainly not a side-show but the world's third largest event. It's a high-quality sporting competition with so much honour associated with it. I am sure that the Games will leave a long-lasting legacy that people would remember throughout their life," Coe said.
    "In a number of ways, winning a medal in CWG is quite tougher than winning medal in many events. To win a medal in sprint, 800m, 1500m or 5000m is not a child's play.
    "Many of the household names in sporting world today had make their first image in this tournament only. I am sure that the people of Delhi would be watching the stars of tomorrow," said Coe, who had won 1500m gold at the Olympic Games in 1980 (Moscow) and 1984 (Los Angeles).
    The Englishman said Indians should now get ready to watch some spectacular performance by the athletes like Asafa Powell during the Delhi event.
    "Many stars are coming to the Delhi Games such as Asafa Powell who had made his debut in this event only. So this event has its own importance and no one can deny this," Coe said.
    Coe, who is part of the delegation of the visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron, said that it was nice to find the organisers in a relaxed mood with the event round the corner.
    "It's good to see them so calm and relaxing with just 63 days left. I can say the Organising Committee is ready," he said.
    The 53-year-old middle distance runner also feels that it is the time the media as well as the people of the country back the OC so that the Games becomes a success.
    "It's time for India, it's media and people to get really excited and feel proud about the Games. World's third largest event is coming to your shores and you all should be happy.
    "This is a great opportunity not only for sports but also the culture and tradition. An extraordinary story would going to be written about the Indian economy also," Coe said.
    Coe, whose mother was born in India, added that hosting a mega-event like the CWG or Olympic Games was always a big challenge.
    "We have a very good team working hard day and night to make the London Olympic Games a success. We still have a lot of works to do in these two years. Venues are structurally complete but interior works have to be done to turn them into the Olympic venues," said Coe, chief of the 2012 Olympic Games Organising Committee.
    "I want to see greater participation by young people in Olympics and para-Olympic sports. I want to showcase cultural and traditional legacy that we have nurtured," said Coe.
    Coe, who visited a city school today as part of London 2012 International Inspirational Programme, said the initiative has involved six million young people worldwide and is a huge success in India also.
    "This programme is hugely successful for us. Our aim is to get 12 million young people involved into sports and the physical education activities in the run-up to London 2012.
    "This is our first visit to India and response is good. Practice of sport in the communities can break social barriers and provide greater cohesion," he added. 

    Thursday, July 29, 2010

    Interesting times ahead for England sports

    Sports agency merger has "risks" says Campbell
    Source: Sports Journalist Association (England)
    Monday's Government announcement of the merger of sports funding agencies UK Sport and Sport England, has received a mixed welcome from sports administrators, many of whom look to UK Sport’s record of delivering sporting success in the past decade.
    Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State at the Department of Culture, Olympics, Media and Sports confirmed that he will go ahead with the plans outlined in the Conservative manifesto.(Read the statement here)
    The announcement comes just as London Olympic organisers are about to mark two years to go to the start of the 2012 Games.
    Baroness Campbell, chair of UK Sport, issued this statement:
    “The news that the Department is planning to merge UK Sport with Sport England goes further than we had previously expected.
    “What is crucial now is that all sides engaged in this decision understand not only the issues but also the risks involved in such a move. We will as always play our part in seeking the best solution for sport and seeking to make the delivery system as efficient as possible.
    “But equally we are very aware not only of the existing effectiveness of our operation but the incredible strides we have taken in high performance sport over the past decade, and the significant progress made in developing a system that is not only delivering results like those seen in Beijing but also making the UK the envy of the sporting world.
    “With London 2012 on the horizon, it is vital that we continue to build on this and don’t distract preparations for home nation success in two year’s time.”

     Read BBC's Matt Slater's take on the merger:

    As dull but worthy stories go it is hard to top a tale about the merger of two non-departmental public bodies.
    But trust me, Monday's announcement that Sport England and UK Sport are to become a single agency (they hate the word quango) is less boring and more important than it sounds.
    Before I explain why, however, I should probably tell you what they do.
    Sport England funds grassroots projects and is responsible for boosting participation in sport and protecting the country's playing fields.
    UK Sport bankrolls  Team GB's Olympic and Paralympic Preparations. It is all about elite activity and sits at the top of British sport's participation pyramid.
    Clearly, there is some crossover in what they do but the two areas of expertise and responsibility are pretty separate.
    Between them, they spend about £200m of public money a year at the moment, with much of this coming from the National Lottery.
    Mo Farah and Chris ThompsonRecent Evidence suggests the current funding model is producing golden results for British sport
    The problem, of course, is that the country is skint. If we cannot afford to build hospitals and schools, Sport England and UK Sport will just have to get used to the idea of hot-desks and sharing the photocopiers.
    The Coalition Government argues it has a cast-iron commitment to funding elite athletes and believes this new merged body could actually lead to more investment in sport with increased contributions from the lottery and the private sector.
    There is a certain logic to Sports Minister Hugh Robertson's assertion that it cannot be the most effective use of public money to have two separate bodies in separate London offices but I still question the timing and reasoning behind this decision.
    Let me explain why:
    First, we have spent decades bumbling along at the elite level, achieving the occasional success despite the "system", only to get our acts together in the last decade and properly invest time and money in our best sportsmen and women.
    The results have been incredible, with Team GB moving from 36th in the Olympic medal table in Atlanta in 1996, to 10th in Sydney and Athens, to fourth in Beijing.
    UK Sport is held up around the globe as an example of how you run elite sport. Having borrowed ideas and people from abroad, the world is now copying us.
    Second, Sport England has been constantly interfered with over the last decade as ministers have changed strategies and targets. The last couple of years, however, have seen the latest "trust the sports" approach start to work.
    Duplication of effort has been trimmed and participation levels are rising, albeit slowly.
    Three, as you may have noticed, the Olympics are now just two years away. This is both the biggest piece of work and greatest opportunity British sport will get in most of our lifetimes.
    Is this really the best time for the government to be asking the two most important agencies in this area to be worrying about a merger?
    Four, grassroots sport in the UK is a devolved issue. Sport England has counterparts in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. UK Sport, however, works across the nations.
    Jeremy HuntCulture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has to make cuts to his department's budget
    Any marriage of convenience will have to accommodate this complexity. Will a merged English one-stop shop work any better with the Celtic fringe than the current grassroots/elite split?
    Yes, I know we have spent the last month bleating about the World Cup, Wimbledon and any other sporting event we shamefully failed to win, but we consistently fail to see sport as a solution to some of our most glaring problems: childhood obesity, diabetes, social exclusion, teenage crime and so on.
    These are serious issues and they require serious, joined-up solutions.

    Shame Games? Con Games? Disaster Games?

    Read India Today's cover story on the Commonwealth Games here

    Indian Hockey Elections Postponed yet again!

    World body bats for HI, wants elections soon
    Shubhodeep Chakravarty, Hindustan Times
    The wait for the elections to Hockey India (HI) got longer on Wednesday. Stay orders in the Delhi and Mumbai High Court resulted in HI deferring its polls by at least two weeks. What is disconcerting is that even if the orders are vacated, HI will surely miss the fourth deadline of July 31 set by
    Despite the confusion on Tuesday when the government observer for the polls was recalled, HI had decided to go ahead with its schedule.
    FIH vice president, Antonio von Ondarza, was also present on the occasion and was visibly disappointed after HI decided to adjourn its annual general meeting in the wake of the court orders. "I had hoped to share a drink with the newly-elected members. Instead, I am flabbergasted at the turn of events," he said.
    Ondarza was surprised that the matter of the Indian Hockey Federation was being brought up again despite a ban imposed by the international body. "IHF was banned 10 years ago. Why is it being brought back into a position of power is something that is beyond me."
    It is another matter that the FIH had not banned IHF but asked it to merge with its women’s counterpart and hand over affiliation to the Indian Hockey Confederation (IHC).
    The Delhi High Court had earlier deemed IHF as the only recognised body of hockey in India.
    The fate of the sport lies in delicate balance as Ondarza warned that provisional acceptance given to HI on the condition of holding elections by July 31, might be withdrawn. This would mean that both the men and women’s teams could be debarred.
    The first casualty would be the women’s team that would not be able to take part in the World Cup in Argentina in August. "Although unfair to the athletes, I am answerable to the stakeholders and have compulsions," said Ondarza. But he did indicate that if HI was able to get the stay vacated and conduct elections in a week, FIH might yet give its consent.
    HI secretary general, Narinder Batra, was confident of conducting polls within days if the stay was vacated. "We have always wanted to conduct polls as per the FIH deadline. We will try and get the stays vacated but saying anything more on a matter which is sub-judice, would not be appropriate," he said.
    IHF president, KPS Gill, seemed to favour truce and said it was time to stop mudslinging. "I appreciate the government’s efforts and don’t find the need to go into debates anymore. I will meet Antonio von Ondarza on Thursday to discuss present matters," he said.

     Bombay HC stays Hockey India elections for three weeks
    Compounding the problems for Hockey India, the Bombay High Court today stayed the HI elections for three weeks on a petition filed by Mumbai Hockey Association. MHA lawyer Vijendra Jabra told PTI that a stay has been granted on the elections scheduled today in New Delhi as HI violated the HighCourt's earlier order.
    In January, the High Court had directed Hockey India to consider MHA's application for recognition within six weeks. However, HI did not comply with the order, so MHA had filed a fresh petition.
    The court today stayed the elections and will hear the matter in due course, he said.
    Hockey India, which has the recognition of International Hockey Federation (FIH), has to complete its election as stipulated by the world body by July 31, failing which India would be barred from participating in international tournaments.

    High Court raps Centre over status of Hockey India
    New Delhi, Jul 28 (PTI) The Delhi High Court today came down heavily on the Central government for not complying with its order regarding recognition of Hockey India (HI) and said that elections in it might be postponed.
    Despite the High Court's order that HI is a private body and Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) the only recognised body of the sport, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports said that both IHF and HI are recognised bodies.
    Furious over the stand taken by the government, Justice S Murlidhar said that it's a breach of the court's order and directed the government to issue fresh letter clarifying its stand by this evening.
    The court directed the Joint Secretary (Sports) Injeti Srinivas to appear before it at 3 pm with a clarification on government's stand regarding status of HI.

    Security Check for CWG

     Representatives of 31 nations to take stock of CWG security
    New Delhi, July 28 (PTI) Security heads of 31 participating nations, including Pakistan, will tomorrow take stock of the security in Commonwealth Games village and venues where a four-layer protection will be provided during the fortnight-long mega sporting event here in October.
    Eight heads of state have confirmed their participation while four more are expected to attend the Commonwealth Games for which, however, no credible terror threat has come yet.
    Live security demonstration will be given to the representatives of the Commonwealth countries tomorrow at the Games village at Yamuna Bank and Jawaharlal Nehru stadium where the opening and closing ceremonies will be held.
    "They will be shown four-layer security procedure, how to frisk spectators, check vehicles, foil possible terror strike and rescue and evacuation drills," an official said.Over 10,000 athletes from 71 countries and 500,000 spectators are expected to take part in the Games to be held from October 3-14.

    Cutting it even thinner!

    Some of CWG stadia may not finish by Aug 31: govt 

    New Delhi, July 28 (PTI) Under mounting attack for tardy preparations for Commonwealth Games, Delhi Government today admitted delay in several key projects and said works in some of the stadia may not be completed within the final deadline of August 31.
    Delhi Finance Minister A K Walia, after taking stock of progress of work at Yamuna Sports Complex, one of the key venues of the event, said government was not satisfied with pace of work at several under-construction stadia.
    "We are not satisfied with progress of work (in some of the stadiums). They (the construction agencies) are saying all the works will be completed before the deadline. But there are doubts," Walia said.
    The minister also admitted that there has been delays in several key projects being implemented by the city government. Delhi government had undertaken projects worth over Rs 10,000 crore to improve infrastructure in the city ahead of the Games.
    Critical time lines for Venue teams:
    July 15 onwards - Overlay contracts and Installation commence at venues.

    Sept 15 is the venue lockdown date - meaning handing over the venues to the Delhi Police for final security clearance.

    Aug 25- Sept 15 is Venue Specific Training - where all Workforce (paid staff and volunteers) integrate and have specific training related to the sports at the venues.

    Sept 23 - Sports Training Starts - where teams train at the competition venues

    Now the deadline for readiness will certainly put a spanner to all the plans!

    Matter of opinion?

     CWG stadiums have no fault: Sports Minster M S Gill
    New Delhi, Jul 28 (PTI) Sports Minister M S Gill today rubbished media reports that claimed that some of the Commonwealth Games venues were incomplete and faulty.
    Gill said that all the venues are architectural and engineering marvels and no leakage or fault has been found at any of the Games venues.
    "The fact remains that all these stadiums have no fault.
    There is no leakage, nothing anywhere and the architecture and engineering marvel is the first time to be seen in India," Gill told reporters outside parliament.
    "Go to the Shyama Prasad Swimming complex, go to the Nehru stadium and look at the essentials. There is no serious faults in any of the stadiums," Gill said.

    Giving your lifes for the CWG

    'Work on CWG sites in national capital claims 42 lives'
    Press Trust of India
    New Delhi, Jul 28 (PTI) The Government today said 42 labourers have died in connection with work on various Commonwealth Games sites in the national capital while 18 others have suffered injuries while working at different sites of Delhi Metro.
    Actions have been taken against employers in connection with such accidents, which were found to be technical in nature, Minister of State for Labour Harish Rawat informed the Rajya Sabha in a written reply.
    He said 78 prosecutions have been filed and 41 convicted for violating the provisions of safety and health measures.
    To another question, he said as per a Delhi High Court directive, the city government has undertaken the work of registration of building workers and till March-end, 25,682 construction workers have been registered. They include those engaged in Commonwealth Games project and the Delhi Metro.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010

    Will Good Men succeed?

    Can Pargat make it to the president's post? 
    The Hindu
    S. Thyagarajan
    Chennai: An Olympian and former captain has thrown his hat in the ring for the post of President. It signals a desire to streamlining governance. For Pargat Singh, the only hockey player with the distinction of leading the country in two successive Olympic Games, the contest against the 83-year-old Vidya Stokes is more than a crusade to regain the country's hockey profile.
    Small wonder, the elections to Hockey India, scheduled on July 28, are in focus.
    Pargat's credentials to don the mantle and give a new direction to hockey, languishing for two years for want of professional governance, cannot be disputed. Long after his playing days, the former defender, who was feared, respected and admired by the opposition, seeks the mandate from the ‘privileged' representatives of hockey's fraternity. Pargat has a vision, commitment and a well-crafted programme to revive, revitalise, probably, revolutionise, the administration in every layer.
    Vidya Stokes stakes her claims — supported by a powerful IOA section that created an entity called Hockey India, trampling many a democratic norm — on the strength of her long association with women's hockey. More importantly, Ms. Stokes has held several political offices as minister, speaker and governor. But surprisingly, Ms. Stokes is unwilling to accept Sports Ministry's guidelines, one of which imposes the age restriction of 70. Ms. Stokes and her backers have chosen to defy this provision when raised by the Ministry's election observer. HI rejected Government funding. This is an act of desperation to stay in the fray.
    A sport like hockey, or for that matter, any discipline besides cricket, cannot survive without Government's financial assistance. Sadly, this defiance is becoming a norm. How these units will raise the wherewithal to promote sport they want to serve in as office-bearers in anybody's guess. Suffice it to say, the players, in every segment, will be the victims. The decision to spurn government's financial assistance is probably based on the illusion that the ministry cannot, or will not leave players in the lurch for competitions and training fearing public backlash.
    The question is whether Pargat Singh can overcome the odds, real and created, on Wednesday. From the time of the suspension of the IHF following the 2008 debacle in Chile, every move of the IOA was orchestrated to suit a specific matrix. The haste with which the FIH acknowledged the formation of Hockey India without applying its mind triggered a slew of court cases. The Delhi High Court judgement upholding the IHF appeal against its suspension was a setback for the IOA. Even within the FIH there is a school of thought that it needlessly slithered into the quagmire of India's hockey politics without a clue to coming out untarnished.
    In the two-year rule, HI has had to wade through a maze of problems starting with players' protest over unsettled payments, the huge mess before the World Cup in several organisational aspects from ticketing to media relations, polemical exchanges with the Sports Ministry, the imbroglio over preparing the eligible list of voters leading to a plethora of court cases, and the recent embarrassment of accusations of sexual harassment against the women's coach, M.K. Kaushik. By no stretch of imagination is this an illuminating report-card for a unit that chooses to forego the Ministry's financial support to side-step the guidelines.
    Meanwhile, the FIH, for all the humiliation it suffered during the World Cup — the media walked out leaving the President, Leandro Negre red-faced — has allotted the 2011 Champions Trophy to India. Who made this bid and on what authority is unclear. Does the FIH believe that everything will be smooth by then and the Indian administration will become a model of proficiency? It is optimism, terribly misplaced.

    Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium inaugurated

    Shubhodeep Chakrayarty,Hindustan Times

    After years of hard labour and toil, the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium was finally inaugurated on Tuesday, 68 days before the start of the Commonwealth Games. The excitement during the opening ceremony was befitting the reputation the main venue deserves.
    Dignitaries have repeatedly graced CWG venues and showered praises on the ‘architectural marvels.’ The Nehru Stadium truly justified every bit of accolades that came its way.

    “It is a remarkable piece of construction that will make not just people in Delhi but the entire nation proud,” said Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit.
    View NDTV's report here on the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, which will be the showpiece venue for the 2010 Commonwealth Games was inaugurated on Tuesday but the look and facilities have evoked mixed emotions so far.

    The Rs 961-crore project had repeatedly missed deadlines due to varied reasons, including construction of a tunnel beneath the entire length of the stadium. With a two- tier seating capacity of 60,000, the athletics venue features nine synthetic training tracks, state of the art lightnings, is earthquake resistant and will house the National Dope Test Laboratory. The unique feature though is the membrane cable-roof costing a whopping Rs 100 crore. It has been built with new support extending up to 71 metres into the stands and without any perpendicular support from inside.
    Initially built for the Asian Games in 1982, the stadium has been renovated by CPWD with help from international consultants from six countries. Even though the renovation took over two-and-a-half years, the stadium was given prime importance, as it will also host the opening and closing ceremonies.
    “The workers and engineers involved deserve special credit for putting in immense hard work in meeting high standards of engineering,” said Sports Minister MS Gill.
    He further said that the Organising Committee will be handed over charge of all the stadiums on August 1 while the weightlifting venue will also be inaugurated in a couple of days. Formal completion though is still some distance away as some stadia have reported minor damages due to the early morning showers on Tuesday.

    In Contrast to CWG woes

     London marks 2-year countdown to 2012 Olympic Games
    Associated Press
    London:  London celebrated the two-year countdown to the London Olympics on Tuesday by launching a search for games-time volunteers and opening some of the venues to let athletes test out the facilities where they will be competing for medals after the opening ceremony on July 27, 2012.
    Organisers were determined to prove the multi-billion-dollar project offers good value for money at a time of economic austerity.
    Despite a severe economic crisis and government budget cuts, London looks on track to deliver in 2012. The external building work of key arenas is finished, sponsorship revenues are on target, plans are in place to ensure lasting use of facilities, and British politicians, media and the public remain largely on board.
    "Believe me, it's going to be a knockout, it's going to knock your socks off, it's going to be, I think, the greatest Olympic Games ever," London Mayor, Boris Johnson, told reporters.
    Olympic athletes provided a glimpse on Tuesday of what fans can look forward to when the greatest sports show comes to town on July 27, 2012.
    Four-time US Olympic champion Michael Johnson raced against a group of local school kids for fun on a temporary 60-metre track.
    Former NBA player John Amaechi shot a few hoops at the basketball arena much to the delight of visitors at the temporary basketball venue.
    British cyclist Chris Hoy, who holds four Olympic gold medals, took a few spins around a temporary track inside the as yet unfinished velodrome.
    The government recently ordered relatively modest cuts of 27 million pounds (41million US dollars) in the budget of the Olympic Delivery Authority, the body responsible for building the venues.
    The overall construction and infrastructure budget stands at 9.32 billion pounds (14.3 billion US dollars).
    The largest cost is going toward the development of the 2.5-square-kilometre (1-square-mile) Olympic Park in the Stratford area of east London.
    A deprived industrial area of the capital is being transformed into a new complex that will be turned over to the public after the games.

    Forcing to retract?

    Mani's bitter attack and 'retraction' 
    Senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar on Tuesday said that he would be happy if the Commonwealth Games are not a success and then retracted a little.

    Level Field says: Watch the NDTV interview below and decide for yourself if Mani Shankar Aiyar actually retracted or was forced to retract! As Mani Shankar's says in this interview, the second part of his statement was conveniently left out to brand him as an "Anti-Nationalist". Mani Shankar's statement that he will be happy if the Commonwealth Games fails was because he strongly feels that if it is a success, then efforts will be made to host the Asian Games and Olympic Games, which he feels will be wasting more public money. He strongly feels that the huge amount of money being spent for these Games, could be better used to address the many other problems faced by India - starting from poverty and better living for Indians in general. Is that wrong to wish? You be the judge!
    Watch the interview here.

    Government respects Sports autonomy

    Sports Ministry withdraws observer for Hockey India elections
     Press Trust of India
    New Delhi:  Abiding by the Delhi High Court's directive, the Sports Ministry on Tuesday withdrew its observer for tomorrow's much-awaited Hockey India elections.
    In a letter, the ministry stated that it decided to withdraw its observer, SK Mendiratta from the poll process on the instruction of the High Court, which on Tuesday said IHF was the solely representative of the national game in the country and HI was a private body.
    "The government election observer's presence at the Annual General Meeting of HI, which is scheduled to be held tomorrow, does not in any manner reflect government's endorsement of the election process or its outcome. However, in deferrence to Honourable High Court's directives, the government has decided not to depute the government election observer to oversee the elections," the letter signed by Joint Secretary Injeti Srinivas said.
    The government has also taken note that during the scrutiny of nominations for the election, HI took a stand that they were not bound by the government guidelines relating to age and tenure limits.

    "The government is of the view that every National Sports Federation is fully bound by the government guidelines for it to function as an NSF and perform the public function of selecting the national team and deputing it for participation in international competitions," the letter said.
    "In the present situation with two recognised NSFs in place for the promotion of hockey in India, only one of which namely HI, enjoying the required support of the International Hockey Federation (FIH), the government will comply the directions of the High Court to obtain the co-operation of IHF and IOA and any other body that may have been set up to resolve the matter in the best interest of hockey in the country," the letter added.
    The Sports Ministry's decision came after the Delhi High Court, earlier in the day, asked the government not to associate itself with tomorrow's election as HI was a private body.
    The High Court said IHF is the sole recognised body for the game in the country as it had already quashed the government's notification for de-recognition of the KPS Gill-led sports federation.The High Court had on May 21 set aside the Centre's decision to de-recognise IHF and the Indian Olympic Association's (IOA) de-affiliation of the federation.

    Level Field says: Wonder if officers or even heads from the Sports Commission or National Sports Council being present at National Sports Associations general elections is legal. Afterall these agencies are Government agencies.

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    Nobody can spoil the Commonwealth Games!

    Responding to Mani Shankar Aiyer's remarks against the Commonwealth Games, Suresh Kalmadi said, "If Aiyar had been the Sports Minister, no stadia would have been ready." 
    View here NDTV's interview with Suresh Kalmadi

    Other reactions:(Headlines Today Bureau)
     Kalmadi slams AiyarWhile the Congress tried to play down the former minister's statement, the CWG OC chairperson and himself a Congress MP, Suresh Kalmadi, hit back at Aiyar for his taunts on the preparation for the gala sporting event scheduled in October.
     Kalamdi said that India would not have got the world class stadiums had Mani Shankar Aiyar still been the sports minister.
    "Everyday he is coming on one channel or the other. Mr Mani shankar Aiyar, nobody can spoil the Commonwealth Games," Kalmadi said tersely, adding, "If Aiyar would have continued as the sports minister, no stadium would have been ready."

    Delhi CM promises to deliver
    Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit however declined to comment on Aiyar's remarks. Instead, she promised to prove her critics wrong.
    Dikshit said that her government has left nothing to chance. She also promised to deliver on the CWG deadline by Sepetember.

    Congress embarrassed
    Lok Sabha Member and son of Delhi chief minister -- Sandeep Dikshit -- however reacted to Aiyar's statement. "So what if he is a Congress party member. I don't take him seriously. Those who do, should listen to him," he said.
     Party spokesperson Manish Tiwari said, "It is his personal view. He is a nominated member. I will not say anything on his statement. Organisation of Commonwealth Games in Delhi is a matter of pride for the country."
     Another senior Congress MP Jagdambika Pal said, "These issues should have been discussed in party forum not outside. At this time leaders should back up the government so that the Commonwealth Games go well."

    Opposition flays Aiyar
    Not only the ruling party, but even the main opposition party BJP also took cognisance of Aiyar's statement. The party, which has also raised questions about the preparations and the manner in which funds are being used, said irresponsible statements should not be made on the issue."The central and state government should understand that prestige of the country is associated with the Commonwealth Games. Irresponsible statements should not be made on the issue," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
     Taking exception to Aiyar's remarks, Samajwadi Party said that those opposing the Games were doing so for "sadistic pleasure".
    "We are not sadists. Those who are opposing the Games are doing so for sadistic pleasure. Such language should not be used. We are in favour of the Commonwealth Games but the huge funds which have been blown up should be investigated. The Games could have been held for much less," SP spokesperson Mohan Singh said.

    Sports autonomy!

    Delhi High Court calls Hockey India a private body
    Press Trust of India
    New Delhi:  The Delhi High Court on Tuesday said the government should not associate itself with the election in Hockey India (HI) due on Wednesday as it is a private body and held that Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) is the only recognised body for the sport in the country.
    Directing the government and the HI to issue a clarification by this evening to all the state sport units that it is a private body, Justice S Murlidhar said that Wednesday's election will be allowed only when the confusion regarding its status is cleared.
    "The election of July 28 would go on only when the clarification is made by the government and the HI," the court said, adding, "If they don't issue a clarification, the election will not go on."
    The court also asked the government to withdraw its observer appointed to monitor the HI election.
    The High Court said the IHF is the only recognised body in the country. It had earlier quashed the government's notification for de-recognition of the sports body.
    During the proceedings, the court pulled up the central government for not taking proper steps for removing confusion regarding the status of HI after its judgement.
    "It seems that the government allowed holding of elections but why is the government supporting the Hockey India. It would create further confusion," the court said.
    "If the government has not recognised you (HI), then why is it allowing you to conduct elections. The government should not be involved in the election of a private body," it said."A message should go to all the state units that there is only one recognised federation and that is the IHF," the court said.
    The High Court had on May 21 set aside the Centre's decision to de-recognise the IHF and the Indian Olympic Association's (IOA) de-affiliation of the Federation.

    Detractors of CWG or Realists?

    Hope Commonwealth Games flop, says Mani Shankar

    NDTV Correspondent

    New Delhi:  Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar has said that he will be unhappy if the Commonwealth Games are a success. He also added that anyone who's patronising the Games cannot be anything but evil. His analysis elicited caustic reactions from his own party, the BJP, and Suresh Kalmadi, the man in charge of organizing the Games in India.
    On a cloudy day with rain showers in many parts of Delhi, Aiyar offered, "I am delighted in a way because rains are causing difficulties for the Commonwealth Games. Basically, I will be very unhappy, if the Games are successful because then they will start bringing Asian Games, Olympic Games."
    Aiyar who has in the past served as the country's Sports Minister, has been a vocal critic of the Games. "Those who are patronising the Games can only be evil. They cannot be God," he said.
    By (job) definition, Kalmadi is a part of that axis of evil in Aiyar's world-view. He struck back with, "If Aiyar had been Sports Minister, no stadia would have been ready." 
    Kalmadi is, however, on somewhat thin ground. Each day brings new reports of venues being flooded. Some stadia have needed major renovation during the monsoon season, just weeks after they were declared ready for the Games.
    Aiyar said the whopping expenditure- at 35,000 crores, these are reported to be the most expensive Commonwealth Games ever  - is a matter of shame.     
    "Just imagine if we would have spent the Rs.35,000 crore in providing training to the children, we would have won medals in every international sporting event," Aiyar added.
    The Congress was quick to dismiss Aiyar's comments.
    "I do not take him seriously," said Congress MP Sandeep Dikshit, whose mother, Sheila, is the Chief Minister of Delhi and therefore has considerable prestige at stake with the Games.
    The BJP, which has also raised questions about the preparations and the manner in which funds were being used, said irresponsible statements are best-avoided.
    "The Central and state government should understand that prestige of the country is associated with the Commonwealth Games," declared BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad.