CWG Preparations IV: Egos, red tape delay stadia work

NEW DELHI: First it took inordinately long to decide whether or not new stadiums should be built for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Then, when after much deliberation, it was decided that most of the existing venues, which were built for the 1982 Asian Games, would be completely sportzpoweroverhauled/upgraded, came various hurdles.

Competitions will be held at 11 venues, including the one for shooting in Gurgaon, while athletes will train at several additional places that are being either built or spruced up. Like at the 1982 Asiad, the showpiece Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium will again host the opening and closing ceremonies, besides the track and field events, lawn bowl and weightlifting events.

At all the venues, the major problem was the delay in starting work, mainly due to the tussle between top officials of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the Sports Ministry. The Parliamentary Standing Committee took cognisance of this in its May 2007 report. “The committee notes that major works related to the Games are yet to begin; these were expected, according to the ministry, to start from June-August 2007. The committee expresses its apprehension about timely completion of various stadia, Games Village and other facilities. The committee, therefore, recommends to start the civil and other works at the earliest and be completed positively by the end of 2009 so that our sportspersons have the opportunity to familiarise themselves with facilities/equipment/grounds much in advance,” it said. Chances for that to happen now are, sadly, remote.

With less 18 months left for the Games, almost all the venues are currently running behind schedule -- thanks to the red tape, general carelessness and ego clashes. Amidst the gloom, Sports Minister MS Gill tries to put up a brave face – even injecting a dose of humour – when he likens the delay as a typical Indian tendency and hoped that eventually everything would be in place. Terming it as an “absurd analogy”, he relates the delay in Games projects to the ‘Monsoon Wedding’ film when everything finally falls in place at the last moment.

It’s not just the delays, but haphazard and ambiguous planning too has been starkly evident at every step. Perhaps, its best manifested at the Siri Fort Sports Complex that will stage badminton and squash competitions but is staring uncertainty as a venue. When the organisers allowed mindless cutting down of a large number of trees in the forestland within the vast complex, people living in the vicinity moved the Supreme Court to stop the savagery. Luckily the construction has not been stopped, but the court-appointed committee has recommended a Rs 50 million fine for the organisers’ “blunder”. The last word remains to be said on the venue.

The biggest question mark, however, is against the cycling velodrome in the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex. The delay has been caused mainly because two factions are currently fighting to be the real national federation. This has put back the construction work considerably at the velodrome.

A classic case of neglect and carelessness since the 1982 Asian Games, the velodrome was the last venue where work started, at the turn of this year! First, tenders were floated late and then its progress was tied with the red tape. Now, everyone is keeping his fingers crossed as it has been given an extended deadline. The timber track will be built by another company. No one will be surprised if the Rs 1.15 billion project fails to meet even the 31 March, 2010, deadline and causes a major embarrassment to India.

IOA president Suresh Kalmadi, however, tries to assure that all venues would be ready soon. "I'm confident that all New Delhi venues will be ready by the end of December. They'll be then put through test events and all problems sorted out in six months before the Games are to take place," he says every time media confronts him. At the moment, his priority is getting back into Parliament.


Due to the delay in competing construction work at the stadiums, the test competitions that are to be staged to check the venues have started to bear the brunt. A few tournaments have already either been shifted from Delhi or postponed.

The Commonwealth Boxing Championships was scheduled to be held at the Talkatora Stadium in December 2009, but has been postponed to February/March 2010. The World Badminton Championship had to be shifted to Hyderabad because Sri Fort Sports Complex – the venue for the Games – is in a flux. Both were the test events. If there are further delays at these and other venues more test events could meet the same fate.