It’s a photo finish as govt scrambles to save Games

With Delhi’s Commonwealth Games facing mounting international criticism for slipshod preparations, athletes dropping out and foreign leaders offering bleak assessments, the government on Thursday launched a last-ditch effort to save the floundering event.

Seeking to inject a sense of urgency, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called sports minister M S Gill and urban development minister Jaipal Reddy for a review along with Delhi CM Shiela Dikshit. All three have been less than impressive in delivering on Games-related projects and stress was laid on coordination even at this late hour.

The meeting was convened even as CWG Federation chief Michael Fennell arrived for critical interactions with the Organizing Committee and is due to visit the Games Village on Friday. Scathing criticism of the Village as “unlivable” by foreign teams had exposed OC’s claims about the “world class” facility. While Fennell is not meeting the PM, he will meet cabinet secretary K M Chandrasekhar.

The “operation salvage” began in the morning itself with DDA handing over charge of the Games Village to the Delhi government. Now 40 officers will oversee work at the 32 towers and supervise staff from various agencies ^ MCD, DDA, L-G’s office and private cleaning companies.

These teams will check facilities like electricals, plumbing, carpentry, housekeeping, cleaning, replacement of consumables and lifts. Delhi government also sought the assistance of housekeeping supervisors from five-star hotels and some 250 additional MCD cleaning staff were pressed into action at the Village.

Sources said the PM’s meeting aimed at ensuring the last mile was covered swiftly. He did not intend the Games being taken over from the Suresh Kalmadi-led OC as the cabinet secretary was in any case given charge of running the show. But with leaders in a “denial” mode — both Reddy and Dikshit described the embarrassing collapse of the foot overbridge at JLN Stadium as minor — there was no time to be lost.

While the OC and Kalmadi have been targeted for mismanagement and alleged corruption, they are not responsible for bits of false ceiling that fell off at JLN or the foot overbridge collapse. The poor state of the city’s roads, half-done footpaths and pavements, incomplete practice venues and hasty construction was due to agencies like DDA, MCD, PWD, CPWD and NDMC goofing up. “Everybody needs to pitch in,” said sources.

The unrelenting stand of countries like New Zealand and Australia whose prime ministers have spoken of a terror threat and said they would back any decision their athletes take, tough questions posed by envoys of CWG nations and the mess at the Games Village proved to be the last straw as far the government is concerned.

Sources said that while conditions had improved at the Village, with work being done by private cleaning companies as well as MCD staff, work was not over. The home ministry has, as part of security considerations, said all work must be over by Saturday. “Out of 34 towers, 32 will be used now. Work done so far has been appreciated by advance teams, especially from New Zealand and Canada,” sources said.

On Thursday, chef de missions and team managers from New Zealand, Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland and Australia held detailed discussions with Dikshit and top bureaucrats and Delhi government assured that clean-up of the Village towers and external areas would be complete soon.

Officials said the decision to get DDA to hand over charge to the Delhi government was due to the foreign delegates’ reluctance to go along with the assurances offered by the OC. Kalmadi, who visited the Village for the first time since reports came out about the state of the towers, claimed, “I am happy with the progress made by my team, with the support of government agencies.” – timesofindia