Page last updated at 23:11 GMT, Thursday, 30 July 2009 00:11 UK

Deadline looms for Delhi Games

The Dhyan Chand National Stadium in May 2009

Delhi will host the Commonwealth Games in October next year, but with just five months to go to the completion deadline, stadia are unfinished and swimming pools are little more than holes in the ground.

India business reporter Shilpa Kannan asks if India will be ready for the Games following concerns they would have to shift to other venues or even another country.


Sprawled out on a bright yellow mat are India's finest wrestlers.

As they grapple in an early morning session in central Delhi, their coach Jagmunder Singh looks on anxiously.

His mind is on the 2010 Commonwealth games that will be held in Delhi for the first time.

As these men get ready for the Games, they're hoping the organisers will match their dedication.

Wrestling team training
The wrestling team have to train in cramped conditions

But the government has admitted that the preparations are running behind schedule.

And with few indoor arenas like this one, most wrestlers have to slug it out in the mud outside.

Their coach is also worried about the effect it'll have on the legacy of the Games.

"We hope the Games are successful", he says. "Unless we win medals and awards, parents will not encourage their children to take up wrestling.

"Only when these men get rewarded for their work… will young people come forward to take up sports like these."

But the construction of a new indoor arena by the sports authority is only 43%-complete and is way behind schedule.

This has forced the wrestling federation to move its upcoming championship to an alternative venue in Punjab.

'Loss of face'

It is not the just the wrestlers who are worried. The Indian Weightlifting Federation has complained that they don't have the required number of barbells to practice.

Concern over deadlines and schedules remain, but I was satisfied to see that the government has paid a lot of attention to the preparations
Michael Fennell, Commonwealth Games Federation president

Badminton championships too had to be shifted away from Delhi because the venue was not ready.

Other teams have also warned of a loss of face, not just because of the half-completed arenas, but also the failure to perform to the best of their ability due to inadequate facilities.

According to the sports ministry, work is less than 50%-complete in nine of the 19 venues.

'Progressing well'

May 09: A worker at the site of the badminton stadium in Delhi
A worker walks through the site of the badminton stadium (May 2009)

It is not just the sporting facilities that are a concern. The city is also trying to use the games to help redevelop the city's crumbling infrastructure.

Nearly 11 million people are expected to visit during the Games, and Delhi needs better roads, water supply and electricity.

But the organizing committee is confident that it can meet the deadline and that all projects will be completed on schedule.

"The sports infrastructure work is progressing well. Everything is satisfactory," says Lalit Bhanot, secretary general of the Games' organising committee.

"There can be some slippage in the schedule but we have a recovery period to counter such a situation."

Funding delays

The project to build the 118-acre Games Village for visiting athletes and officials has run up against funding problems.

It is a joint venture between Dubai-based Emaar Properties and India's MGF Developments.

Bollywood performers take part in a Delhi 2010 show to mark the next Commonwealth Games, as part of the closing ceremony for the 2006 Commonwealth Games at the Melbourne Cricket Ground
Bollywood performers marked the end of the Melbourne Games in 2006

Under the deal, the developer was supposed to sell 768 flats at market price to fund the construction and the remaining 400 flats were to be sold by the Delhi Development Authority at lower rates.

But with the global financial crisis, demand for property in the country has dipped and they were unable to sell their share of flats, halting the construction process.

The developers then turned to the Delhi government to bail them out and have now been given additional funding to complete the project.

The Commonwealth Games Federation had expressed concerns over the possible shifting of the venue and said Delhi could lose the right to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games if organizers were forced to shift the athletes' village from its present location.

But in a recent visit to the city to take stock of the situation the president of the Federation, Michael Fennell, said he is optimistic.

"Concern over deadlines and schedules remain, but I was satisfied to see that the government has paid a lot of attention to the preparations."

Cost over-run

The Games will be the biggest sporting event the country has ever hosted.

Organizers have warned that higher construction costs would force the games to go over the planned $1.6bn (£1bn) budget.

The recent budget has allotted an additional $717 million to finish ongoing Games projects.

Back in the arena, the wrestlers settle down to grind almonds and milk for a power drink after training.

A fit body for them means a greater chance of winning. And the 2010 Commonwealth Games is one encounter that both these wrestlers and the city of Delhi can't afford to lose.



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