New Delhi: The clock is ticking fast and furious to the 19th Commonwealth Games here Oct 3-14. As Delhi works away at a feverish pitch in the last lap, the missed deadlines, corruption allegations, debris and resulting disease have put a question mark on the whopping Rs.16,000 crore ($ 3.2 billion) expenditure on developing and modernising the Indian capital.
The authorities are still promising a spectacular show - better than the Beijing Olympics - and Chief Minister Sheila Dikhsit has appealed to people to help make the Games successful, but residents are now scoffing at the dream of turning Delhi into "world class city".
By all counts, the dream has so far been a nightmare for people here, having suffered never-ending traffic jams, disruptions of traffic life and even a rise in dengue cases due to continuous construction activity.
"The Games were allotted to India in 2003, but due to lack of coordination the work finally began just two to three years back. This is bound to result in a compromise on quality - it is practically impossible to complete such big projects only in a few months," P.K. Sarkar, head of transport planning in the School of Planning and Architecture, told reporters.
Sarkar said work in a hurried manner had led to leakages in various stadia.
Delhi has worked hard on its transport. It will have 6,528 state-run buses before the Games - the number at present is 5,164. Over 570 dedicated buses will be pressed into service for ferrying athletes and delegates to Games venues.
"Besides, 80 buses will be put standby in case of an urgent requirement. All these 654 buses will be fully air-conditioned," an official said.
Delhi Metro is also set to cover a distance of 190 km before the Games, reaching out to the neighbouring states.
But such success stories have been few.
According to Delhi`s Public Works Department (PWD) Minister Raj Kumar Chauhan, Rs.16,198 crore was earmarked for overall development of the capital in the last four years. But a survey by a leading newspaper says at least 76 percent of Delhi residents feel the expense is unjustified.
"Many roads are still dug up and the rain is making things worse for us. We can`t walk, we can`t drive. How long can Delhi residents bear the brunt?" asked Rohit Sharma, an engineer who lives in the capital.
Major construction work at Shivaji Stadium (meant for hockey practice) is still to be done, with the authorities toying with the idea of shifting the trial venue.
Four stadiums funded by the Delhi administration -- Thyagaraj (netball), Chhatrasal (track and field training), Talkatora (boxing) and Ludlow Castle (wrestling training) -- have been completed, officials said. However, some minor work like drainage and cabling still continues in these.
Work at the capital`s heart, Connaught Place, now dug up for renovation, will not be completed before the Games. Officials say the whole project will be completed by December 2011.
Much to the relief of the city government, the elevated Barapullah road linking the Games village in east Delhi to Jawaharlal Nehru
Stadium in south Delhi is slated for inauguration Sep 15.
"Construction work on the project is almost complete now," an official said.
Security plans for the city have earned praise from Commonwealth Games Federation chief Michael Fennel. Even Lieutenant Governor Tejendra Khanna, Delhi police chief Y.S. Dadwal and Dikshit have promised tight security.
Games organising committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi has promised that the event will be even better than the 2008 Beijing Olympics and also claimed that the city`s stadiums are world class.
Chief Minister Dikshit will launch a "Clean Delhi Drive" Sep 6-12 covering roads leading to the Games venues, strategic locations in its vicinity and important tourist spots.
The city has also got its logo "Delhi Celebrates" and theme song "Delhi Meri Jaan, Delhi Meri Shaan" to convey how citizens identify with their city and infuse a sense of pride.
But as Delhi readies to host 10,000 athletes and delegates from 53 Commonwealth Games nations, and thousands of tourists, patience in the city of 16 million people is wearing thin.