Commonwealth Games chief welcomes graft probe

The chief organiser of the Commonwealth Gamesin New Delhi has welcomed an Indian government investigation into allegations of corruption and mismanagement that surrounded the event.

The day after Thursday’s closing ceremony Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ordered the probe into construction costs, payments to contractors, equipment leases and other alleged financial irregularities.

The Games were hailed as a success in India despite a budget that ballooned to an estimated six billion dollars and a desperate last-minute dash to finish facilities, amid widespread criticism of the preparations.

“We welcome the initiative and hope that it will be comprehensive, covering all aspects,” Suresh Kalmadi, chairman of the Delhi 2010 organising committee, said late Saturday.

“The organising committee will be happy to provide all support to the panel.”

Kalmadi, a political veteran who has headed the Indian Olympic Association for 14 years, was booed at theopening and closing ceremonies after becoming the public face of the Games’ troubled build-up.

“We welcome the initiative and hope that it will be comprehensive, covering all aspects,” Suresh Kalmadi, chairman of the Delhi 2010 organising committee, said late Saturday.

“The organising committee will be happy to provide all support to the panel.”

Kalmadi, a political veteran who has headed the Indian Olympic Association for 14 years, was booed at theopening and closing ceremonies after becoming the public face of the Games’ troubled build-up.

The Games were hit by uncompleted athletes’ accommodation, shabbily constructed new venues and a series of organisational glitches ranging from poor ticket sales to delayed sports results.

In his statement, Kalmadi said Indians had “done themselves proud” at the Games, adding that athletes, team officials and the foreign media had eventually heaped “widespread acclaim and praise” on the host city.

The Mail Today on Sunday printed details of tenders that were far above the estimated cost of renovating stadiums.

According to figures that the newspaper said it obtained under Right to Information laws, 20 million dollars was needed to update the main hockey stadium — but a tender was awarded for 33 million dollars.

A panel of investigators headed by a former chief of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) will submit its report to Prime Minister Singh by January.

On Sunday, Delhi’s public works minister Raj Kumar Chauhan also welcomed the probe. “Already our departments have been told to prepare details of all the projects,” he said.

The October 3-14 event involving 71 nations was the costliest Commonwealth Games in history, with an initial budget of two billion dollars that was estimated to have swollen to three times that size.

The soaring costs and highly publicised construction delays fuelled intense criticism of the Games organising committee, especially Kalmadi.

An Indian anti-corruption body in August reported a plethora of problems with construction work, including the use of poor-quality materials and dubious contracts.