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The Con Games

The Con Games

In the face of all this, the optimism is eerie and almost surreal. Kalmadi, a politician and businessman, struts around declaring that "this will be the best games ever." Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has hit the panic button but insists that Delhi will be a world-class city. Other officials in charge of various events and organisation run around like headless chickens, hoping that a miracle will happen. It won't.

On July 19, Chairman of Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) Michael Fennell sent a frantic email to Kalmadi seeking details of corrective actions taken following reports of monsoon showers damaging the newly built shooting range and the false ceiling at another Games venue. Kalmadi is still waiting for the Sports Ministry to revert about the extent of the damage to the stadia. When he does get the details, it is highly unlikely he would want to share it with the watching world.

The question anyone will ask looking at the chaos and organisational mess is: Does India actually plan to host the mega sporting event in the country? The anticipation has been quickly replaced by cynicism and concern. In fact, within the Government and the Congress party, questions are being raised whether such exorbitant expenditure and effort on the event worth it.

According to the latest estimates from the Sports Ministry, the Games, including the stadia, infrastructure, logistics and security, will cost the country around Rs 12,000 crore.

his does not include the money being spent by the Delhi Government on beautification and infrastructure projects. It also excludes the money spent by civic authorities such as the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and the New Delhi Municipal Corporation, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), Airports Authority of India and Ministry of Tourism on upgrade of hotels and accommodation.

An independent study says that by the end of the Games, the country would have spent anywhere between Rs 40,000 and Rs 50,000 crore. The first budget for the Games, approved by the Cabinet in April 2007 was Rs 3,566 crore. The initial estimates for the event have gone terribly awry and the OC is now scouring for funds and sponsors. The entire proposed expenditure for sports infrastructure was to be Rs 150 crore. An expenditure of at least Rs 4,500 crore has already been incurred on construction and repairs of stadia, and much of it is incomplete.

The stadia is not the only worry. The Games Village is not ready either. Built at a cost of nearly Rs 1,100 crore, the first deadline was December 2009, later shifted to March 2010 and finally to July 31. The work in the Village slowed down in December 2008 when Emaar MGF claimed that it had no money due to the global meltdown.

The DDA, its PPP partner, had to cough up Rs 766 crore as a bailout package. The eviction of 3,000 students from their hostels indicates that the Village will not be ready and last minute alternate arrangements are being made.

In fact, there is not a single aspect, which the OC or the Sports Ministry can claim has been completed to satisfaction. The OC is still not sure how it will feed the sportspersons, athletes, officials and referees outside the Games Village. With more than 30 lakh meals expected to be cooked during the fortnight of the Games, it's one of the most important functional areas of the event.

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