Pollution, traffic could have cost Delhi the Asian Games

The Indian capital`s pollution and traffic congestion - cause of "concern" for the bids evaluation committee - could have led to New Delhi`s 19-26 defeat to South Korea`s Incheon city in the race to host the 2014 Asian Games.

Kuwait City, April 18: The Indian capital's pollution and traffic congestion - cause of "concern" for the bids evaluation committee - could have led to New Delhi's 19-26 defeat to South Korea's Incheon city in the race to host the 2014 Asian Games.

The evaluation committee of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) listed the two areas of concern in its report following its visit to New Delhi to assess its readiness and preparedness to host the 17th Asian Games.

"A few areas of concern of the committee members, which was addressed to the bidding committee, was the question of pollution and traffic congestion," the committee commented in its 107-page report.

"The bidding committee assured the members that pollution levels had come down drastically in Delhi with the arrival of Metro rail as well as all public transport vehicle being run compulsorily on compressed natural gas," it said, and pointed out that Delhi had been "declared as the most green capital in the world".

The committee wrote that it was assured by Indian officials that a separate lane would be earmarked for the games to avoid traffic congestion.

Forty-five countries voted in a secret ballot to choose Incheon at the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) general assembly in Kuwait City on Tuesday.

While the pollution and traffic could have played a part in New Delhi's defeat, several Indian Olympic Association (IOA) officials said some smaller countries ditched India after assuring them their support.

They also alleged, on condition of anonymity, that money could have also played a decisive part.

"We lost 19-26," a top IOA official said. The margin was not announced publicly as per OCA regulations on Tuesday.

"One reason for our defeat was that a few smaller nations did not support us. One or two countries from the South Asian region too could have voted against New Delhi and one or two in West Asia could have done the same," he said.

"We lost by seven votes, but had we got four (more) votes we would have won," he said of the 45-member house.

IOA president Suresh Kalmadi and his Pakistani counterpart Syed Arif Hasan had exuded confidence on Monday that all seven votes (excluding India) in the South Asian region would go to New Delhi. It did not happen exactly like that.

Incehon's offer of a total of $20 million to all 45 countries to train their athletes and buy equipment also seem to have did the trick as New Delhi could offer only USD 200,000 each to the countries for the same purpose.

"We could not offer more money as the cabinet had told us that we could not offer more than Rs 500 million," said another top IOA official.

Most members of the IOA delegation believed that Sports Minister Mani Shaker Aiyar's adverse comments about the games bid contributed to the defeat. "Mani Shanker Aiyar has won," an angry Kalmadi said after the defeat.

An IOA official said the Incheon delegation highlighted Aiyar's comments during the OCA general assembly.

"They photocopied in large sizes Aiyar's statement in the Indian media and distributed to all the countries here."

New Delhi was also banking on the fact that it is hosting the 2010 Commonwealth Games and most of the infrastructure would be ready for the Asian Games. Asian countries, however, did not seem to have taken that into account while voting.

While New Delhi hosted the 1951 and 1982 Asian Games, Incheon has never hosted the event.

Bureau Report

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