The Con Games
The Con Games
There's a popular Indian word, jugaad. Loosely translated, it means improvisations and band-aid solutions that show native inventiveness born out a culture of scarcity and survival. Scarcity and survival may belong to the past but jugaad is still very much an Indian obsession, as the frantic, embarrassing, shameful last-minute rush to salvage the 2010 Commonwealth Games from disaster gets underway.
With just 70 days to go for the prestigious event to kick off on October 3, Delhi, the host city, meant to welcome 15,000 people, including 11,000 sportspersons and officials from 72 countries, looks like a war zone. Deadlines have long past, schedules are haywire and budgets keep expanding-it has shot up ten-fold from the estimated Rs 1,200 crore given in the Delhi bid document.
The city is under siege from multiple agencies, 21 in total, all working at cross purposes and stepping on each other's toes while the mad scramble to give the Capital a face-lift clashes with the frantic construction to get the stadia and other Games-related venues ready on time. The monsoon downpours have only made matters worse, leading to flooded venues, blocked drainage, leaking ceilings, burst waterpipes and seepage everywhere. Here's a reality check.
- The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, which is to host all key events including athletics and weight-lifting, and the opening and closing ceremonies, is struggling to meet its July 31 deadline. Ten days before the scheduled handover to the Organising Committee (OC), the stadium resembles a dustbowl, with open drains and piles of rubble all around and the approach roads still in the early stages of construction. As things stand, only the main arena would be ready by the deadline, with the peripheral work to continue till mid-September, barely two weeks before the opening ceremony.
- The shooting range at Kadarpur in Gurgaon, an official Games venue, has "collapsed". Inaugurated barely two months ago by Sports Minister M.S. Gill, the range had even hosted a test event for the Games but has now self-destructed after the rains. On July 8, dig and Manager (Sports), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), M.C. Panwar (the Range is built on CRPF land) wrote a desperate letter to top sports ministry officials. "Due to the incessant rains on the night of July 4 and 7, the various embankments on the range have collapsed and extensive damages (sic) have been caused. The grassy expanse of lawn overhead the first box culvert has been washed away along with the side foot-tracks."
- At the Yamuna Sports Complex, where the table tennis events will be staged, the false ceiling collapsed and the wooden flooring has been badly damaged because of waterlogging. Both will need to be replaced. The new deadline for completion is now first week of September, one month later than the original deadline of August 1.
- The Siri Fort badminton complex, where World Number 2 Saina Nehwal will be India's biggest medal hope, faces the same problem with the wooden floor having buckled due to seepage. The entire floor will have to be relaid.
- The "new" Dr S.P. Mukherjee Swimming Complex built at a cost of Rs 377 crore, was inaugurated last week with parts of the complex still to be completed. During the inauguration, a waterpipe malfunction sprayed water on the people present there. The walls are already marked by seepage.
- The rains have led to flooding the newly constructed Velodrome at the Indira Gandhi Stadium, a fully air-conditioned indoor timber track, built at a cost of Rs 150 crore.
- The Talkatora Boxing Stadium has major problems with flooding inside because of leakage, while there was more than a foot of water all around outside.
- The vital timing, scoring, result (TSR) equipment will only be commissioned 10 days before the start of the Games, a ridiculous state of affairs since glitches and settings take time to be tested and ironed out.
- Every approach road to the venues is dug up, waterlogged, minus pavements and dividers, and the construction debris has entered the drainage system leading to flooding each time it rains, even for a brief spell.
The Major Dhyan Chand Stadium, venue for hockey, was inaugurated on January 24, after missing the original deadline by four months. Costing Rs 262 crore, 50 crore more than was budgeted, the peripheral work is still on.
- The catering contracts for the Games venues was cancelled last week, meaning fresh bids will have to be submitted and approved, leaving no time for the eventual caterers to prepare and set up operations.
- As if that wasn't enough, some of the world's best athletes, including Olympic and world champion sprinter Usain Bolt, have pulled out of the Games robbing it of much of its lustre and led to an unseemly and very public war of words between Gill and Commonwealth Games Organising Committee Chairman Suresh Kalmadi.