Congress Leader Mani Shankar Aiyyar, speaking last month, said that he would be very unhappy if the Commonwealth Games were a success. “I am thankful to the rain as it has further delayed the preparations for the Games” he said. Aiyyar’s views depicts the common man’s opinion towards the much hyped ‘Commonwealth Games 2010’ which has been ridiculed with titles like ‘Uncommon Wealth Games’, ‘Congress Wealth Games’ etc.
Delhi is all set to host the ‘mega’ sporting event from October 3rd to the 14th. But as the date draws closerr, the ‘Games’ continues to be entangled in controversies. Right from corruption charges and financial irregularities to construction delays and exceeding deadlines, the sporting event seems to have been hit by every controversy possible.
Every deadline set for the event has been extended causing tension for the government, especially the Organizing Committee (OC). Although construction works and clearing of debris were to be finished by the 10th of August, there had been reports that digging up of roads in some of the places had started on the 10th itself. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit has set a new deadline of 30th August for all construction works to be over, but with many roads dug up and major construction work left incomplete in places like Connaught Place, one of the main areas of Delhi, meeting the deadline looks almost impossible.
The Delhi Development Authority reported a few weeks back that it will not be able to provide the specified 2000 flats, which are supposed to accommodate the Commonwealth Games delegates, before the Games. Although negotiations were made later to complete the flats before the Games, it will be a Herculean task for DDA to do so. And with the monsoon season at its peak, heavy rain is expected to further delay the works.
Construction works which have already been completed has also been creating tensions for the OC and the government. Heavy rain earlier this month created leakages and the four major stadia for the ‘Games’ : Yamuna Sports Complex in East Delhi, Siri Fort in South Delhi and Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and the Karni Singh shooting ranges were left waterlogged. This was a slap in the face of Sports Minister MS Gill who, while inaugurating the stadia, had earlier claimed that the stadia would not have to bear any problem due to the rain.
On the other hand, corruption charges against the OC have led the even Commonwealth Games Federation President Mike Fennell to intervene. He called the allegations as a ‘major concern’. The OC has been accused of paying the UK’s AM FILMS over 450,000 pounds for laying on cars and associated services for the London launch of the baton relay last October, without any proper paperwork. Further, revelations have been made that OC has spent a huge amount of money on different products. Treadmills worth Rs. 4 lakhs were hired by the OC at a rate of Rs. 9.5 lakh each. Similarly, daily use products like a single toilet paper roll has been bought at a rate of Rs. 3,750 each. Soap dispenser was bought at Rs. 3,397 when it is easily available at Rs.92. Dustbins normally priced Rs. 111 has been bought at a rate of Rs. 1,167 each.
Besides, the OC has been criticized for not abiding by proper labour laws; not providing proper wages and working conditions to the workers. It has also been accused of destroying slums for construction works leaving many homeless. One of the organizations, Perspective and People’s Union for Democratic Rights has lashed out at the lavish spending of the government on CWG instead of feeding the countless poor. Delhi University students Unions have been protesting against the CWG for using the college hostels for accommodating the ‘Games’ delegates, for which the students were forced to evacuate the hostels.
With construction works still pending, stadia reporting leakages and pressure and criticism from all sides piling up, the road ahead does not look smooth. Already two members of the OC have quit and the chairman Suresh Kalmadi is constantly under pressurized to stand down. Although Prime Minister Man Mahon Singh urged all the citizens to treat the Commonwealth Games as a national festival, it is not sure yet if the people will respond positively to the already troubled event.