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Shoddy infrastructure plagues India?s reputation

Despite initial doubts about the structural integrity of venues, a mass volunteer walkout, poor tickets sales and attendances, and labour violations, the 19th Commonwealth Games did proceed in Delhi from 3 to 14 October.

However, India?s reputation as a powerful emerging economy took a battering as the Commonwealth Games organising committee failed dismally to meet the deadlines for the completion of all venues in the lead up to the Games (indeed, some infrastructure works were continuing only days out from the opening ceremony!). Any ambitions that India may also have to one day host the Olympic Games were also deflated by the international coverage of unfinished, unclean sectors of the Commonwealth Games Village, the caving in of a section of drop ceiling in the weightlifting venue and the much publicised collapse of a pedestrian footbridge leading to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

Even days out from the opening ceremony, reservations persisted about the safety of 16 major structures built or renovated for the Games, including the venues for badminton and squash, hockey, boxing and diving, several overpasses carrying hundreds of thousands of vehicles per day, and large stretches of elevated road leading to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. The chief technical examiner of India?s highest government watchdog the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) found evidence in July that safety certificates at these projects had been falsified to cover poor quality work and structural defects. The CVC found that 12 concrete samples had failed strength tests, inferior concrete had been used on projects, reinforcement anti-corrosives were substandard and electrical systems were potentially dangerous.

Five days out from the opening ceremony, many of these projects had still not been retested.

On top of this, the CVC ruled that amongst the ?irregularities? encountered at Commonwealth Games projects, work contracts had been awarded at higher prices, there was poor quality assurance and management, and work contracts had been awarded to ineligible agencies. There were also allegations of corruption within the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee in the procurement and awarding of contracts for the construction of Games venues. Joint director T S Darbari and deputy director-general Sanjay Mahendroo were suspended in August over financial irregularities relating to the Queen?s Baton Relay and the committee?s treasurer Anil Khanna resigned after his son?s firm secured a contract for laying synthetic courts at a tennis stadium. As of July 2010, 129 works in 71 organisations were inspected.

The collapse of the footbridge outside Delhi?s national stadium on 21 September injured 27 labourers. P&R Infraprojects, the company building the bridge, was subsequently blacklisted by the Delhi Government and banned from being awarded future government projects.

However, Delhi?s Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit did little to cover herself (or Delhi) in glory by remarking that the footbridge was only intended for spectators and not athletes!

John Coates, who was the senior vice president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) when Sydney hosted the Olympics in 2000, said that India should not have been awarded the Commonwealth Games. He rejected claims Delhi?s protracted monsoon season had added to the delays in construction and preparation, saying, ?You can?t ever cut any slack when your focus should be on the best conditions for the athletes.?

He also claimed that the Commonwealth Games Federation needed more monitoring resources to ensure that cities were up to hosting the event. ?The problem is the Commonwealth Games Federation is under-resourced. It doesn?t have the ability to monitor the progress of cities in the way the Olympic Committee does.?

Mr Coates was adamant that the IOC would never have allowed the building programme in a host city like Delhi to fall behind schedule in the first place because it has a strict monitoring unit, including the IOC Co-ordination Commission, which makes regular visits to the host city to check on progress.

Sources: Aggregate Research, Sify Sports, MX (Melbourne)

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