Posts Tagged ‘Commonwealth Games’

High corruption at the Commonwealth games spawns tales of conspiracies

December 22, 2010

Today came the startling news that two inmates serving life sentences at Delhi’s notorious Tihar jail claim that the jail authorities gave them weapons to kill 2 of the 3 members of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee currently being held at the jail on corruption charges.

Tihar Jail

The Hindustan Times reports:

Two inmates serving life sentences at Tihar Jail have claimed that the prison authorities gave them weapons to murder two former senior officials of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) lodged in the prison with them. In an application to chief metropolitan magistrate (CMM) Vinod Yadav, Amit and Nishant who are facing trial in a murder case, have said, “The jail authorities inside jail number 4 and ward number 11 approached us with weapons on December 20, 2010, and asked us to murder the two Commonwealth Games officials lodged in the jail with us.”  On personally meeting the judge, the inmates identified the officials as TS Darbari and Sanjay Mahendroo, who are lodged in Tihar following corruption charges.

Their application stated, “The jail officials threatened us with dire consequences if we do not comply with their orders. We are also receiving threats to our life inside the jail premises.” Amit’s mother Munni Devi has also filed an application in the magistrate’s court claiming her son and Pawan were being threatened inside the jail.

The application also claimed that a Delhi police official, who had come to the prison on Monday, recovered the knife from their cell. But they have not identified the officer before the magistrate. “The country-made pistol that was given to us was displaced by the jail authorities. We seek the court’s help to protect us from this ongoing exploitation at Tihar,” the application read.

Following this, the judge has directed the station house officer of the Hari Nagar police station to file a report in the incident and investigate the claims of the Tihar inmates.

Sunil Gupta, PRO of Tihar Jail, told Hindustan Times, “These are hardcore criminals lodged in high security jail. No weapon was recovered from the jail premises and their application is a farce. There was no conspiracy.”

Speculation now is that:

  1. The lifers made up the story merely to create a distraction from their own murder trial, or
  2. Other officials in fear of new confessions have placed a contract on the lives of the officials being held, or
  3. Politicians who fear being implicated in the mesh of corruption surrounding the games have placed the contract, or
  4. the officials under arrest have themselves arranged for the “confession” to develop a sympathy factor before they come to trial.

Tihar Jail is itself notorious for the mal-treatment of many prisoners and for the comfortable living conditions for inmates with money and clout. So the allegation that Tihar jail officials were involved in something like this is not – in itself- so incredible!!

There will be many more twists and turns in this corruption scandal.

Commonwealth Games: The inquest begins

October 17, 2010

The “last minute syndrome” is a unique and peculiar asset in India

The Games were supposed to cost under Rs 2,000 Crores (about 450 Million$).

The actual cost is likely to be around Rs. 30,000 Crores (about 6.7 Billion $).

About 500 Million $ has probably been paid for fictitious work, over-invoiced and overpaid to contractors, skimmed off or pocketed by individuals connected to the Organising Committee headed by Kalmadi. Some individual fortunes have been made and squirrelled away into Swiss and Channel Island and Caribbean bank accounts.

CWG Delhi Closing ceremony: image


The investigations have begun. Some scapegoats will have to be found. Shrill voices are questioning whether it was worth it or not. There is no shortage of suggestions about how all the money could have been better spent.

For example Vir Singhvi writes in the Hindustan Times:

We could have overhauled healthcare in our cities. We could have built thousands of new schools. We could have overhauled the chaotic traffic system. We could have spent that money on recruiting more policemen and giving them the facilities they need. We could have built hundreds of new courts and recruited more judges to reduce the backlog in our judicial system.

But I have a somewhat different take.

None of the predicted or feared catastrophe’s occurred. There were no terrorist attacks. There was no epidemic of dengue fever. The facilities at the Games village largely functioned well.  The logistics were chaotic to begin with but also largely functioned satisfactorily. As the performance of India’s athletes started bringing in the medals at the Games, the crowds which were initially absent started showing up. The opening ceremony was well carried out but the logistics on the opening day were chaotic and stressful for many athletes. But this was transformed by the time of the spectacular closing ceremony in front of a packed house.

In transforming an apparently hopeless situation into a qualified success by means of India’s patented “last minute syndrome” some heroes appeared. Sheila Dikshit the Chief Minister of Delhi and Dr Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister can I think be credited with the success of the final mobilisation of effort. Politicians who were busy distancing themselves from the Games the week before it started were clamouring to be seen at the closing ceremony. The Delhi Police must take a bow not only for the security aspects but also for the handling of traffic. The organisers (and even the newly activated Committee who were now under the whip) and all the officials and “volunteers” and even the Delhi population pulled out all the stops. Many private contractors with their contract labour carried out a minor miracle on the last few days.

And this brings me to my point. One of the key issues in India is not – in the first instance – the availability of funding. The Indian weakness is in implementation, in using the money available well. Whatever the Games cost, the money was forthcoming when needed. About 10% was probably wasted. But because of the attention and pride (or more accurately the potential loss of face), a fiasco was averted. The “last minute syndrome” was activated. Implementation, and rather effective implementation, took place.

Even if there had been no Games and even if all the money had been poured into health care or traffic improvements or overhaul of the judicial system it would have achieved virtually nothing. Without attention and without visible deadlines to create a potential loss of face and -therefore – without a means of activating the “last minute syndrome” the money would have been frittered away.

It would be much more constructive if, instead of moaning about what could have been, every project being implemented in India could figure out a way of creating the real deadlines which could activate the “last minute syndrome”.

Commonwealth Games- Australians dominate the medals but athletes leave Delhi on a sour note

October 15, 2010

The Australian team totally dominated the Games with their haul of 177 medals including 74 Golds. But some of their athletes seem to have been involved in vandalising the Games village. Just high jinks perhaps.

Rank Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
1. Australia 74 55 48 177
2. India 38 27 36 101
3. England 37 59 46 142
4. Canada 26 17 32 75
5. South Africa 12 11 10 33

Zee News reports that

Some Australian athletes destroyed electrical fittings and furniture in their tower in the Games Village on Tuesday and Wednesday.
According to a newspaper report, the athletes shouted slogans against Indian ace batsman Sachin Tendulkar, who was named ‘Man of the match’ and ensured India’s victory in the Bangalore match, and tossed a washing machine down from the eighth floor of their tower.
According to newspaper sources in Delhi police, this hooliganism by Australian athletes started on Tuesday when Tendulkar scored a double century to force Australia out of the match. Irked by this match-winning performance, they first damaged electrical fittings and fixtures in their block. The report also says that Delhi Police, which received a complaint about this vandalism, has downplayed the incidents to prevent them from growing into a diplomatic embarrassment for Australia.
Meanwhile, confirming these vandalism reports, Australia’s Commonwealth Games boss Perry Crosswhite on Friday denied involvement of any Australian athlete in the incident at the Games Village.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

An Australian athlete was sent home from the Commonwealth Games for bad behaviour this week and a washing machine was dropped from a balcony in Australia’s section of the athlete’s village after the closing celebrations.

No one was injured by the washing machine but Perry Crosswhite, Australia Commonwealth Games association chief executive, said he was disappointed by the incident on Thursday night.

“We don’t know who did that,” Crosswhite told journalists today. “Delhi police came around and they’ve done a report and an investigation and we’ll hear about that.”

But by all accounts it was a spectacular closing ceremony and a qualified success. It was a long way away from being the fiasco that had been feared.

Commonwealth Games: A stirring closing under way and a metaphor for investment in India

October 14, 2010


Delhi 2010 logo


The Closing Ceremony for the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games is underway. The final verdict will come in the weeks and months ahead but after the incredibly chaotic, tainted and incompetent beginning the fact that it appears now as a qualified success is a tribute to those who finally mobilised themselves and further evidence of the “last-minute fix syndrome” that India suffers from.

Delhi virtually shut down on Thursday 2 hours ahead of the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony, with government offices, banks and major markets closed for the day. The Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, the venue for the event, is swarming with thousands of security personnel.

Around 60,000 spectators are expected to attend the event, that will start at 7 pm and end 10.30 pm. Around 7,500 security personnel have been deployed at the JN stadium. “A multi-layered security arrangement is in place for the closing ceremony, similar to the opening event,” Rajan Bhagat, spokesperson Delhi Police, told reporters.

Spectators will be put through manual and mechanical security checks at four points at the stadium, while Indian Air Force choppers will survey the skies. The stadium has 19 entry points where card readers, door frame metal detectors and X-Ray baggage machines have been installed. Mobile quick reaction teams have also been deployed on the outer perimeter of the stadium.

High-tech security equipment, including devices to check CBNR (chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological) assaults have been put in place. Delhi Police Commissioner YS Dadwal reviewed the security arrangements at a meeting with senior officials.

Delhi Police has also deployed snipers, commandos on Light Armoured Troops Carrier (LATC) and specially trained men from paramilitary personnel along with Delhi Police personnel at the Games venues. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are also in place to scan the ground.

There are 3 hours to go before the ceremony draws to a close and fingers remain crossed.

ABC Online says that after a chaotic start, Games organisers have given themselves a pat on the back for delivering a functional, if somewhat bumpy, ride to the finish line. “The athletes and the competitions have gone very well,” Commonwealth Games Federation president Michael Fennell said today. Australia finished the Games well atop the medal tally with 74 gold, 55 silver and 48 bronze. India narrowly pipped England for second spot, winning 38 golds to 37.

The Economic Times sees the Games as a metaphor for investment in India. Chaotic, difficult to enter, bumpy journeys but immensely rewarding at the end.

For many Indians who only two weeks ago labelled the event the “Shame Games”, it was an unprecedented success, with the country’s best-ever gold medal tally. “The Games has turned out to be better than worst feared,” said V. Ravichandar, head of Feedback consulting in Bangalore, which advises multinationals. “The Games were really a metaphor for investment in India. It’s not a smooth ride but things work out in the end.

After sparse crowds ruined the atmosphere in the first week of the two-week event, crowds soon swelled, with the medal results providing a respite for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his ruling Congress party, which before the Games had been under pressure to save India from international embarrassment.

The wider and much publicised chaos of the preparations highlighted the gap between India and China when it comes to infrastructure. When organisers called on luxury hotel chains to clean up the athletes’ village, it underscored the fact that the private sector motor that drives India had been left out of a Games run by a state immersed in red tape, cronyism and graft. Thus, the Games failed to be the coming-out party the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics was for China. For foreigners, delegations threatening to quit with filthy rooms, dog faeces and dengue-carrying mosquitoes in the Games Village were the overarching memory.

It was a sign of the health of India’s business that the blue-chip Sensex stock index hit a near-three year high during the Games. India has attracted a record $21.4 billion in foreign funds into stocks this year — one-third of that since September. State-run Coal India is poised to launch a $3.5 billion IPO, the country’s largest that is expected to see heavy investor demand. It underscores how private industry in India is booming, thanks to tens of millions of Indians aspiring to the middle class.

“In a sense, India stands out internationally,” said Amit Tandon, managing director of Fitch rating agency in India. “It may be difficult to come in, but once you are in you make money.” That may signal more complacency ahead from India’s leaders, increasingly focused on state elections next year rather than long-term economic reforms. “I do hope at the end of the Games, someone in Congress or the prime minister will sit down and take stock of the situation,” said Tandon.

Commonwealth Games open in spectacular fashion!

October 3, 2010

So far, so good!!

Reuters: The 19th Commonwealth Games were declared open on Sunday in a spectacular opening ceremony which might repair some of the damage to India’s image after a calamitous buildup to the sporting festival.

Opening Ceremony for the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games

But my fingers are still crossed.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald: But the Australian swimmers were too scared to take part (or they just wanted to make sure of their medals on Monday)

commonwealth games opening ceremony

CWG 2010 Opening Ceremony

Commonwealth Games and the “last minute fix”

October 2, 2010

CWG 2010 New Delhi

The adjectives being used a week ago were a public relations disaster for India:

“filthy, unlivable, uninhabitable, unhygenic, rampant corruption, chaotic, unfinished, disease-prone, dengue, terrorism risk …”

Even allowing for the fact that all projects in India believe implicitly in the “last minute fix”, the situation was desperate. Athletes were pulling out, some countries were considering pulling out of the games entirely, politicians and administrators were busy positioning themselves, pointing fingers at others and all denying any personal involvement in the corruption. The Australian  national pastime of India-bashing was having a field day.

The view today – just one day away from the opening of the Games – is slightly more optimistic. Athletes are living in the Games village and are finding it quite good if not salubrious- Australian athletes included (though many of the “softer” and less adventurous athletes from the UK have opted for 5-star hotels).

Sydney Morning Herald: Australian athletes have hit the Twittersphere to give the thumbs up to their accommodation and security in New Delhi ahead of the Commonwealth Games.

Toronto Star: New Delhi ready for Commonwealth Games, athletes say

A major fiasco is less likely than a week ago but this is India where everything is possible and anything can be impossible.

IG Stadium

More than 5,800 athletes and officials have already arrived in Delhi. With more arrivals scheduled in the coming days, to reach 6,700, Delhi 2010 is well on the way to becoming the biggest in history. The 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games saw the participation of 5,766 athletes and officials. The adjectives being used have changed to be “comfortable, satisfactory, acceptable…..”

My fingers are crossed and hope it is a great games  for all.

Indian fiasco likely at the Commonwealth Games

September 23, 2010

The mess that is the organisation and preparation of the Commonwealth Games to be held in Delhi is going from bad to worse. Every day there are new instances of rampant corruption, new examples of the venal attitude of all the organising committee and the surrounding politicians, collapsing architecture, cases of child labour, withdrawal of athletes and maybe even countries, security fears, uninhabitable and unhygienic athletes accommodation, traffic chaos and now even potential flooding after a prolonged and vigorous monsoon.

India is known for the “last minute” fix but is also known for  the “last mile syndrome” where the final 5% never gets completed. The organising committee and the Delhi politicians are busy pointing fingers and the Central Gov’t has been forced to step in.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has stepped in to clear the Commonwealth Games mess. Singh has called Union Sports Minister MS Gill and Union Urban Development Minister Jaipal Reddy for urgent consultations.

A view of the 2010 Commonwealth Games Village in New Delhi. Certain players have asked for a different accodomation as they found the Village 'unliveable.'

2010 Commonwealth Games Village:players have asked for a different accodomation as they found the Village 'unliveable.'

On a day of embarrassment for Delhi and with 11 days to go for the Commonwealth Games, the incomplete and “filthy” Games Village came in for severe criticism from foreign delegates and the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF).

The finger pointing and posturing is getting ugly. Meanwhile, Congress MP and former Union sports minister Mani Shankar Aiyar has slammed the Commonwealth Games Federation top bosses – Mike Fennell and Mike Hooper saying they have no right to criticise the Games.

This threatens to be a national embarrassment.

I live in hope but whether something can be salvaged from this fiasco remains to be seen.

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