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Last Updated: Monday, 27 March 2006, 07:27 GMT 08:27 UK
Delhi looks to 2010
By Sarah Holt
BBC Sport in Melbourne

Aishwarya Rai takes part in a Bollywood routine in the closing ceremony in Melbourne
A Bollywood routine was part of the closing ceremony in Melbourne
While Melbourne is sweeping up after its farewell party to the 18th Commonwealth Games, India is stepping up its preparations for Delhi 2010.

India, which has a population of over one billion, is hosting the Games for the very first time and 2010 chairman Suresh Kalmadi is already feeling the pressure.

"Now the closing ceremony has finished in Melbourne the heat is on Delhi," Kalmadi told BBC Sport.

"We have a big responsibility but I think people will be surprised by the turn of events in Delhi. We will really show what India has to offer."

Kalmadi and his team will make their final plans for the Games, which are scheduled to take place between 3 and 10 October, with renewed confidence after the squad broke new ground in Melbourne.

Delhi can go bigger and better than Melbourne
Vijay Amritraj
India captured their first table tennis medals, winning men's team gold, men's singles gold thanks to Sharath Achanta's and the women's team bronze.

An improved overall track and field performance saw Seema Anti claim the first silver medal by a female athlete in the discus.

Shooter Samnaresh Jung, whose wife Anuja also competed at the Melbourne International Shooting Club, was named athlete of the Games after winning five golds.

"The performance in Melbourne has been outstanding," India team manager Gurbir Singh told BBC Sport.

"We have done extremely well in new areas like table tennis and boxing and our overall medal tally is excellent."

Sharath Achanta, who won men's table tennis gold in Melbourne
Sharath Achanta won India's first men's table tennis gold
Singh estimates the team lost 10 gold medals because weightlifting, where India is traditionally strong, introduced rule changes which reduced the number of medals handed out.

But weightlifting did create one of the few negatives of Melbourne for India when two of their lifters, only one of whom competed, failed drugs tests in Melbourne.

But Singh believes the team's overall achievements were not over-shadowed by the scandal and has pledged to work with the World Anti-Drugs Agency on stamping out drugs use ahead of the Delhi Games.

"We want a clean sport and we don't like any Indians being involved in drugs," he said. "We are sorry but we are very serious about wiping out this menace."

Funding increase

India finished fourth in the final medal table, as they did in Manchester, with 22 golds, 17 silvers and 11 bronze.

The team have set their sights even higher when the Games take place on home soil in Delhi and have already taken measures to produce more medallists.

"We would like to be number two in the medal table in Delhi," Singh revealed.

"We are working with the Indian Olympic Committee to improve standards and each sporting federation has a four-year plan funded by the government.

"The areas we need to focus improving are athletics, gymnastics and swimming because there are a lot of medals to be won there.

Samaresh Jung
Jung's five golds won him the athlete of the games accolade
"Hockey is a national sport in India and so the men and women's teams must be gold medal winners - better performances will be expected of them."

India has ploughed a considerable amount of public money into supporting their athletes over the next four years but it is also being seen as a business opportunity - and that means for athletes too.

Corporate funding and sponsorships are already in place but the government also motivates its athletes with cash incentives.

A gold in Melbourne was understood to be worth around US $12,000 but the amount athletes can potentially receive in the future depends on whether the medal is won at an Olympics, world championships or Commonwealth Games.

The Delhi 2010 Games also presents an opportunity for India to showcase itself as a sporting and cultural nation and economic power.

Some of the groundwork was already laid in the closing ceremony at the MCG where some of Bollywood's biggest stars delivered a glittering showcase of Indian culture.

It is our dream to host the Olympics one day - it is time it came to India
Suresh Kalmadi
Delhi 2010 chairman
"Delhi can go bigger and better than Melbourne," former Indian tennis player Vijay Amritraj told BBC Sport.

"Indians are not willing to settle for second best - we want to compete and win at the highest level. Cricket is not a sport in India it is a religion but soon all sports will be a religion."

Singh believes India's distinct culture, where the traditional is successfully combined with the modern, will make the Delhi Games special.

"The colour, costumes, the traditions and heritage will be world class," he said.

"The public will be welcoming and friendly and the flair of India is what will make the next Games really unique."

The 2010 Games will be staged in the heart of Delhi itself with existing venues and facilities being given a major facelift.

Some new stadia are being constructed while a brand new athletes' village is being built on 40 acres of land in the city.

If the infrastructure, sport and culture all successfully combine to create yet another Commonwealth Games to remember in India then Kalmadi and his team will have taken a crucial step towards India's ultimate ambition.

"It is our dream to host the Olympics Games one day," Kalmadi said. "It is time it came to India."

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