New Delhi: Commonwealth Games-2010 host India appears to be in a potentially embarrassing situation, as construction delays have raised fears that the venues might not be ready on time.
India hopes the Games will showcase its rising economic power, as the country is expecting two million tourists in New Delhi, as well as about 10,000 athletes from 71 teams representing 54 Commonwealth member states for the Games beginning on October 3.
However, with barely four months to go, the work at the main stadium is months overdue and the completion of the swimming pool and other venues has been delayed, highlighting the slow pace of infrastructure development.
Other games-related constructions such as roads, bridges, and hotels are also running behind schedule.
Even the roads leading to the Commonwealth Games village, where the athletes and officials will stay, are running behind schedule and the delays are causing anxiety among some of the locals.
Surender Sahni, a regular commuter on the road across the games village said he doubted if Delhi would be ready for its coming out party.
“The construction here is quite delayed, I don’t think they will be able to finish it on time, and this is also causing inconvenience to the public,” Sahni said.
Satish Sharma, another local, echoed similar sentiments, saying the work should have been long over.
“I think the preparations are really slow, the pace at which the construction is going on, as you can see this bridge as well as another bridge a little distance away on the same road, they are still not complete. I think they will not be finished in time for the games,” said Sharma.
“I am not wanting to sound alarmist, but the reality is there is a lot more to be done, a lot of finishing work to be done,” said Mike Hooper, Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Games Federation.
Other officials from the Commonwealth Games Federation and the Indian Olympic Association voiced similar concerns.
India had initially promised to hand over the venues to Games organisers by December 31, 2009, but deadlines have been consistently been missed for building roads, ports and power plants.
Bureaucracy and red tape and difficulties in acquiring land have delayed plans to overhaul the infrastructure.
“The construction agencies have promised that they will meet deadlines but, unfortunately, we have had times when many promises were made, and then we find one reason or another that delivery hasn’t been there,” said Hooper.
Authorities now fear the schedule will become so tight that there will not be enough time for checks before the start of the Games.
Heightening those fears, the lights went out at a stadium on the first day of an Asian junior tennis tournament recently, forcing officials to abandon eight matches.
However, the organisers are putting up a brave face, saying that the pace has picked up and they were on course to provide a stunning spectacle.
“I can assure you one thing, these will be the best Commonwealth games ever. There is no doubt about it,” said Suresh Kalmadi, Chairman of the Commonwealth games Organising Committee.
India is also trying to reassure foreign participants that it will provide foolproof security for the Commonwealth Games.