New Delhi: Unfinished work, monsoon rains, extended deadlines and controversies have led sceptics to write off the Commonwealth Games as an organisational disaster. But with exactly two months left, India`s top sports officials have assured the nation and the 71 participating teams that they are ready to host the "best ever" Games.
State of the art stadia, foolproof security and modern day transportation systems will be showcased for the world to see, the government and the organising committee of the Games have promised as the scramble continues to finish all the work in time for the Oct 3-14 event.
This is the biggest international sporting event that India will host so far. The last big event they had organised was the Asian Games way back in 1982.
Although questions are being raised about delays in the completion of games projects, cost overruns and deals that have attracted adverse media attention, the organising committee is confident of putting up a good show for the Games for which Rs.15,000 crore (Rs.150 billion/over $3 billion) has been allocated by the government.
"We are fully ready to host the Games successfully," Lalit Bhanot, secretary general of the CWG organising committee, told IANS.
"All our functional areas are fully prepared and in the next two months there will be regular dress rehearsals. I am confident in the next 45 days we will address all the issues that are getting highlighted now. I can say the country will be proud of the conduct of the Games," Bhanot said.
The Games will feature 17 disciplines to be held at six venue clusters and five stand-alone stadia in the metropolis of 17 million people, one of the most crowded in the world. The sale of tickets started in June and 1.7 million tickets are expected to be sold before the Games begin.
On Monday, the organising committee also informally moved into all the stadia -- Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, Indira Gandhi Sports Complex, Delhi University Sports Complex, Thyagaraj Stadium, Siri Fort Sports Complex, Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range, Talkatora Stadium, SPM Swimming Pool Complex, R.K. Khanna Tennis Complex, and Yamuna Sports Complex as well as the Full Bore Shooting Range in suburban Gurgaon.
"We have already moved our venue operations teams and they have started working on the overlays. There is no delay on our part. The technical conduct of the Games is our responsibiliy and we are on time," Bhanot said in response to media criticism.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of challenges ahead, independent observers aver.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has inaugurated all the venues, though unfinished work like cabling, landscaping and removal of debris remains. Recent incidents of waterlogging, seepage and even a roof collapse have raised questions about whether the deadline can be met.
The furnishing of apartments, beautification and construction of the approach road is also incomplete at the much talked about Games village situated on the banks of river Yamuna.
The recent report of the autonomous Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has cast a long shadow. The corruption watchdog has pointed out poor quality of construction material and grant of work to ineligible agencies in several projects. As per the CVC`s Chief Technical Examination Wing, large-scale procedural violations, including corruption, have been noticed in 16 projects.
Another scandal surfaced over the award of contract to a company in Britain allegedly without following proper procedures. But CWG organising committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi has vehemently denied all allegations. He said these charges were "baseless" as proper trails existed to establish that all transactions were within law and above board.
But critics - who about in India`s contentious society - are having a field day.
Vijay Kumar Malhotra, president of the General Association of National Sports Federations (GANSF), said: "There is a general sense of antipathy, cynicism, concern, worry about the Games. The common man on the street is worried not only about the massive corruption but also about the image of the country."
However, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself has shown satisfaction with the progress of work and said the country would be prepared "by the deadline".
"I have reviewed the situation with the cabinet secretary and I am satisfied that all necessary preparations are in place and will be in place by the deadline," Singh said last week at the joint press conference with visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Chief Minister Dikshit has said Delhi will host the best-ever Games and there is no need to panic.
Officials and labourers are racing against time to complete all Games-related projects -- landscaping, plantation, beautification, parking places, footover bridges, roads, renovating markets, hotels and buildings -- to make the capital look like "a world-class city".
India`s internal security department under the Home Ministry has also assured participating countries that it will be a "safe and secure" Games.
"We assured them of a safe and secure environment during the event," Neeraj Kumar, special commissioner (administration), said.