With just one month to go now before the 19th Commonwealth Games begin in India, newspapers around the world still report that the stadiums and surrounding infrastructure will not be completed in time.
Large parts of the capital, over which the games will be spread, still resemble building sites with massive dugouts and piles of debris that render the city’s normally traffic-choked roads even more impossible to negotiate in the monsoon downpour.
The Financial Times writes that some of the already completed venues were apparently done so shoddily that they have already suffered damage from the rains. In the scramble to meet the deadline, most other work is also being done in such a slapdash manner that it is likely to already be in a state of advanced decay before the games are over.
India is officially spending around US$2.2bn to host the games, though unofficially experts estimate the investment will actually be three times that much, drawing from funds from other parts of its budget. Now – before the games even start, Indians are starting a nasty debate over whether its been worth it.
Equations, a Bangalore-based non-governmental organisation focused on equitable, sustainable tourism that benefits local communities, has just issued a report slamming the government’s official estimate that the games would draw nearly 140,000 visitors to the city as grossly exaggerated.
It also said the games had been used as a brazen excuse for land-grabbing and dislocating Delhi’s poor. “Massive infrastructure investments for mega sporting events….seems to be a method to transfer resources to lobbies of realtors and power-elite in the name of sports,” the group said in a statement
Rahul Bedi, writing in The Times, points out that almost all Olympic venues in China were ready about a year before the games. And while Beijing set out to wow the world with structures such as the iconic Bird’s Nest stadium, the handful of completed, albeit pedestrian, Commonwealth Games sites, are already falling apart under the impact of a few light monsoon showers.
Other venues have sprung innumerable leaks and to make matters worse, weather forecasters have predicted heavy rains for the duration of the games in October.
But that’s not all.
Indian officials admitted safety certificates for most newly built stadiums had been faked. Reports have revealed all the construction quality certificates inspected so far had been fake or “suspect”, raising serious concerns for athletes’ and spectators’ safety during the 12- day sporting extravaganza.
“Fake certificates were routinely issued to pass substandard work and material,” an official of the Central Vigilance Commission told the Times of India.
Other certificates were “suspect”, the official said.
“We have not yet been able to gauge the financial implications, but it is certain to have led to very big gains for vendors and contractors.”
The Indian sports minister, Mr MS Gill, told parliament that the cost of organising the Games had risen by a factor of 17 since the bid was made in 2003.
The Times of India also reports that the New Delhi Government has admitted 42 labourers have died in connection with work on various Commonwealth Games sites in the national capital, while 18 others have suffered injuries while working at different sites of Delhi Metro.
The country has yet another reason to feel disappointed: in addition to Queen Elizabeth, who has declined to inaugurate the games for the first time in four decades, several top athletes are not taking part. These include Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest runner from Jamaica, and Scottish cyclist and Olympics champion Chris Hoy.
TravelSnitch tried to contact the Indian Tourist Board to speak to anyone who could perhaps give us some insight into some of the…positive things that were happening in New Delhi in association with the games. The new improvements to the international airport for instance, and new hotels like the the 260-room Leela Palace Kempinski. And no one, not one soul, returned any of our calls or any of our emails. And we tried for three weeks.
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