With the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi just 70 days away, the abysmal state of preparedness is nothing less than shocking. Consider this:
Most sporting venues, including the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (track and field) and the swimming complex will not be ready by the August 1 deadline.
At the table tennis facility, a false ceiling collapsed.
At the weightlifting site, new vinyl flooring is already peeling.
The brand new shooting range was inaugurated in May, but embankments have collapsed.
Trial weightlifting and swimming events had to be canceled, because the sites were not ready.
The swimming stadium was inaugurated a few days back, but got flooded.
There are reports of water seepage in the boxing stadium.
The bidding process for catering was canceled, and will now be hurried through (read higher costs and less choice!).
At Khan Market, brand new granite pavements were too slippery and have been dug up again!
Subways at Connaught Place cannot be finished on time, and will be boarded up.
Not even a third of the 34 towers ITDC had to furnish in the Games Village are complete. Incidentally, their excuse is “inadequate labour force”.
To top it all, Mr. Lalit Bhanot, the Secretary General of the organizing committee is quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, “some false ceiling has fallen down, which means nothing," and "these things happen even at your house."
Maybe, Mr. Bhanot – but not within days of being built!!
The shoddy execution is accompanied by huge cost overruns. Reports suggest that the cost of sports infrastructure has gone up by a factor of more than 20x. City infrastructure costs have also ballooned. The original estimate was around Rs 1,900 crores, later revised to Rs 10,000 crores. Recent independent estimates now suggest it will exceed Rs 30,000 crores!
Isn't that a mind-boggling sum?
So who will foot the bill?
Government officials claim that sponsorships will help ensure record revenues, and at least recover the money spent on the Games (excluding public infrastructure).
Many sponsors are shying away, given the risk of bad publicity and the recent withdrawal of big-name athletes like Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and Usain Bolt. So far only a handful of large consumer brands have signed up, including Coca-Cola, Reebok and Hero Honda.
Given this bleak situation, recently, the government has “urged” public sector units to shell out, and said that they might classify these expenses under their CSR investments! Reportedly, the Indian Railways, NTPC and Air India are among the large sponsors that have made commitments so far.
Obviously then, the government and its various arms will foot the bill. Money that could have been spent on more deserving schemes are being diverted. An RTI application found that about Rs 265 crores from the ‘Scheduled Caste Sub Plan’ for Delhi, has been used to pay for the CWG. More than 100,000 poor slum-dwellers have been evicted (with more likely).
Directly and indirectly, citizens of Delhi and the rest of India (you and me) will end up footing the bill. An independent report, The 2010 Commonwealth Games: Whose Wealth? Whose Commons? is an eye-opener.
Why are we doing this?
Ostensibly, to showcase our great economy and management skills. But all we have done is to make ourselves a laughing stock. There's little chance that we can come anywhere near China's 2008 Olympics or South Africa's 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Very few such sporting events make money, and most end up bankrupting host cities or nations – even when costs are better controlled. So then why?
The answer lies in the whopping Rs 30,000 crore expenditure.
While nobody will officially say this, we all know why costs have bloated and stadiums are collapsing. Officials and political patrons make money on bribes from contractors, who win bids at the “lowest” price and then earn super profits by compromising on quality. Then they make more money citing over-runs and repairs. Material suppliers hoard construction materials and make a killing as we desperately race to the deadline.
When one-third of our population lives below the poverty line, and a majority of kids are malnourished, uneducated and lack access to healthcare – this is not just shameful, but criminal.
But nobody will be indicted or arrested or tried. That is the way it works – too many important people are making too much money.