100 days to go, Delhi all set for CWG
New Delhi: Just 100 days are left for the Commonwealth Games to begin. As the Indian capital gears to host its largest sporting extravaganza, the crucial pieces are beginning to fall in place - albeit a little late in some cases. Stadia are getting completed, Metro links becoming operational, security plans finalised and related infrastructure projects nearing completion.
The organising committee is confident of putting up a good show for the October 3-14 Games, for which a whopping Rs.15,000 crore (Rs.150 billion/over USD 3 billion) has been allocated. Its confidence is boosted by the successful completion of recent international sporting events - hockey, shooting, boxing as well as IPL cricket matches in the capital - which were considered test events for the Games.
The Games will have 17 disciplines to be held at six venue clusters and five stand-alone stadia in the metropolis of 17 million people, one of the most crowded in the world. A majority of the stadia have been inaugurated, but there still remains a question mark over completion of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies will be held.
The sale of tickets started early this month, and the official ticketing agency, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corp (IRCTC), is expecting to sell 1.7 million tickets.
The Indian government has assured that all work related to the Games will be completed in time.
"I am chairman of the Group of Ministers on the Commonwealth Games and I can say with confidence that all projects related to the Games will completed by June end," Urban Development Minister S. Jaipal Reddy said last week.
Despite the minister's assurance, some areas are a cause of worry.
Over 100,000 visitors are expected during the Games, but there is a shortfall in the number of rooms ready for them. According to official figures, 40,000 rooms are required. But so far the government is sure of only about 8,227 of the 10,981 "definite"' rooms.
The Delhi government and civic bodies are running against time to complete Games-related projects - roads, flyovers, bridges, underpasses, parking places, beautification and street scaping - to make the capital look like - what the authorities never tire of saying "a world-class city".
Of the total 24 infrastructure-related projects, 10 have been completed while the rest are likely to be completed by July.
The Public Works Department (PWD) is behind in completing the street-scaping work. At some main city roads in south Delhi, street-scaping work is progressing at a snail's pace with roadsides and footpaths dug up and rubble strewn all around.
The civic body is also carrying out 40 Games-related projects worth Rs.1,000 crore (Rs.10 billion/USD 225 million). They include construction of parking facility in various parts of the city as well as the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
A cause of major concern is Delhi's chaotic traffic and the poor public transport system. The authorities have decided to have dedicated lanes for the Games traffic to ensure quick movement.
"The Games lanes will be marked with paint, just like the bus lanes are now," Ajay Chaddha, Joint Commissioner (Traffic), told IANS. "There will be relevant signages too. We will be providing regular guidelines and information on whether the Games lanes are operational and at what time. The lanes will be for movement of Games officials, athletes and other related traffic."
Delhi Metro, the capital's showpiece which is expected to cater to thousands of spectators during the Games, is the only agency running ahead of others in completing its projects.
The only Metro projects that remain to be completed before the Games are the Central Secretariat-Badarpur line and Airport Express Link. Both are scheduled to be completed by September.
The Indira Gandhi International Airport will have a brand new Terminal 3 (T3) with world class facilities. It will be formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh July 3.
Several countries scheduled to participate in the Games have raised concerns over security, but the government has firmly said that they need not have any fears. The authorities have approved installation of an integrated security system (ISS), estimated to cost Rs.370 crore (Rs 3.7 billion/85 million USD), to cover all the venues.
According to Delhi Police commissioner Y.S. Dadwal, the police are "totally prepared" for the Commonwealth Games and have promised "an absolutely safe" sporting event.
The Commonwealth Games Organising Committee is training 30,000 volunteers to present Delhi's culture and etiquette to visitors. The authorities are also training thousands of bus, taxi, and auto drivers to converse in English and be tourist-friendly.
A big worry is the air quality during the Games, being touted as the first Green Games.
The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, has developed a System of Air Pollution Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) that will start functioning in a couple of months. The IITM is expected to put up 60 weather stations across the capital to generate hourly weather updates during the Games.
Delhi environment secretary Dharmendra has said the government may close industries during the Games to reduce pollution levels.
Wait is over; Queen?s Baton 2010 Delhi arrives in India
WAGAH BORDER, 25 June 2010: The Queen?s Baton 2010 Delhi has arrived in India! The long wait came to an end as Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) President Lt. Gen. Arif Hassan handed over the baton to Mr. Suresh Kalmadi, MP, Chairman, Organising Committee Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi and IOA President at the historic Wagah Border between India and Pakistan.
A colourful ceremony marked the baton?s arrival as this was the first major event of the XIX Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi on Indian soil.
The baton then passed through the hands of dignitaries including Mr. Mike Fennell, President of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF); Mrs. Sheila Dikshit, Delhi Chief Minister; Mr. Shivraj Patil, Hon?ble Governor of Punjab; Sardar Prakash Singh Badal, Punjab Chief Minister; Mrs. Sundhushree Khullar, Union Sports Secretary; Mr. Mike Hooper, CGF CEO; Olympic Medalist Mr. Vijender Singh and four time World Women Boxing Champion Ms. Mary Kom among others.
Speaking on the occasion Mr. Kalmadi said, "It's a great day for sports in India. The baton has gone 170,000 kilometres all around the Commonwealth. We have received it in a very big manner. It's a big day for India and Pakistan. It is because of Pakistan's efforts that India got the Games and it shows that our relationship with Pakistan will improve if we concentrate on the sporting angle," he added.
Mr. Kalmadi reiterated that everything is on track and all the infrastructure is coming up nicely. "I am grateful to Mr. Fennell and Mr. Hooper, who have been supporting us. This also happens to be 100 days before the Games. Let me tell you that everything is in place, including the infrastructure. Everything is on track," he said.
POA chief Hassan said the Games would help in getting rid of the hostilities between India and Pakistan.
"It's a historic moment for us. It would get rid of the hostilities of the past," he said.
It was so unlike a military check-post at Wagah Border. Amidst the tight security arrangement for the event, festive mood was at its prime. Wagah border adorned a colourful look and enthusiasm was visible at the face of all Indian and foreign spectators who turned up to cheer the baton in large numbers. Spectators welcomed the baton with chants of ?Chak De India?.
The ceremony showcased traditional dance forms of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir and other states. Folk music, vocals and colours added to the celebratory mood of the event.
Sufi singers Wadali Brothers from India and popular singer, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan from Pakistan, also performed at the ceremony to mark the baton?s arrival.
The baton will now travel across the country covering a distance of 20,000 kilometres, will pass through the hands of more than 5000 Batonbearers across 200 cities and thousands of villages using all modes of transport including land, air and sea, before arriving in Delhi for the grand Opening Ceremony of the Games on 3 October 2010.
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