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Explained: The hue and cry over the Commonwealth Games

August 04, 2010 14:03 IST

With just about two months to go, the 2010 Commonwealth Games to be hosted in New Delhi is mired in controversy over financial irregularity, missed deadlines and substandard construction.'s Sahim Salim gives us a low-down on what the issues at stake are.

What are the Commonwealth Games and when will it be hosted in Delhi?

In November, 2003, India was chosen to host the 19th Commonwealth Games, 28 years after it held the last international sporting event (Asian Games in 1982). The mega event, which authorities promised would be 'the best ever', is set to be held between October 3-14.

Why is there such a hue and cry over the Games now? What is the corruption case and who is being blamed?

With barely a month left for completing the undertaken projects -- one month before the CWG, Delhi will be construction free for cleaner air -- authorities are under fire from all quarters. The Organising Committee is the hot topic in the ongoing session of the Parliament, with the opposition parties demanding Congress MP Suresh Kalmadi's (chairman of the OC and president of the Indian Olympic Committee) resignation over alleged financial irregularities.

The OC, seen largely in a positive note till about two months back, suddenly came under the scanner after India's premier corruption investigation agency -- the Central Vigilance Commission -- came out with a report of glaring financial and quality irregularities of the infrastructure development related to the Games. The CVC report said that higher rates were given for the bids, which then compromised projects with poor site management, delays and poor quality. Following the report, the CVC referred one of the cases to the Central Bureau of Investigation for criminal proceedings against the Municipal Corporation of Delhi for financial irregularities of over Rs 3 crore.

Even the ruling Congress party members have washed its hands off Kalmadi, when External Affairs Minister S M Krishna levelled allegations of doctoring e-mails against the OC.

What are the implications of these irregularities?

Following reports of corruption, many quarters have pulled out of giving financial aid to the OC. The Board of Cricket Control in India has refused to help the OC with Rs 100 crore aid that the latter had requested. The Indian Railways has withheld its contribution of Rs 100 crore asking the OC to give in writing that no amount would go to any outside agency as commission. There was an uproar in the ongoing session of Parliament, with the opposition demanding Kalmadi's resignation. The media is coming out with negative reports about the OC, with claims of access to various reports and documents citing irregularities. The event, supposed to be the nation's pride, is fast finding itself in a maze of missed deadlines, CBI inquiries, CVC reports, sub-standard materials and explanations.

What is the link between Kalmadi and a London company?

The OC is reported to have made a payment of nearly £250,000 (about Rs1.84 crore) to a little known London company AM Films for additional items like mobile video screens, portable toilets, ambulances and barricades for the Queen's Baton Relay on October 29, without proper contracts or documents. Kalmadi had later in a press conference claimed that AM Films was hired after a recommendation by an official of the Indian High Commission in London and showed an e-mail purportedly sent by them. External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, however, met Kalmadi on Tuesday and confronted him with the original e-mails and showed him more e-mails from the commission which indicated that the mails had been tampered with. Following this meeting, the OC decided to initiate a probe into the whole controversy.

Who is T S Darbari?

T S Darbari is the deputy director general of the OC and a close aide of Kalmadi. He is a key face of the OC, heading important functional areas like revenue, marketing and merchandising. Darbari allegedly dealt with AM Films. More trouble followed for Darbari after the sports ministry asked Kalmadi to terminate his services as his name has not been cleared in a six-month-old Kerala customs inquiry against him. Kerala customs had arrested K D Mani at Kochi airport in January this year with a platinum ring studded with diamonds which he claimed was meant for Darbari. Customs assessed the value of the ring at Rs 28 lakh and also recovered an invoice which had Darbari's name on it.

Is Delhi ready to host the Commonwealth Games?

The OC and Delhi government are repeatedly holding press conferences assuring the public that Delhi will be ready to host the Games. Experts and commentators agree with the OC, saying that Delhi will be ready 'in the last minute' while also raising concerns of sub standard quality and player safety.

Since almost all projects have overshot their deadlines, work is going on at a break neck speed. Hurrying things up might just compromise the quality of projects undertaken. Recently, a diver from West Bengal was injured at the newly inaugurated Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Swimming Complex during the National Federation Cup, a test event for the Games. Prior to this, a part of the roof covering the weightlifting auditorium at the newly-remodeled Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium complex, collapsed, during its inauguration. Some stadiums also saw water logging after a day of rains in the capital. 

If the government is not ready, who is to be blamed?

If Delhi does not get ready for the Games or witnesses an accident during the Games, the state's government, OC and all government agencies will have to share the blame. Even the name of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will feature in this list of names as the Comptroller and Auditor General of India had warned him in November, 2009 that the progress of the Games was 'not going in the right direction'.

The state's government will be blamed for not monitoring the Games well, while agencies like the MCD and the Central Public Works Department will be named for using sub standard materials or project delays.

What are the opposition parties demanding?

The opposition parties have raised a storm in the ongoing session in Parliament about financial irregularities. They have demanded Kalmadi's resignation. MPs from the opposition protested in the house after they echoed Mayawati's claims that funds meant for SC/ST were diverted for the Games.

Sahim Salim