Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Fiji's Commonwealth Games appeal dismissed

The Court of Arbitration for Sport has reinforced Fiji's ban from the New Delhi Commonwealth Games in October after dismissing its appeal.

Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee had appealed against the ban in December 2009. The CAS ruling against the was announced on Thursday turning down the appeal.

The Commonwealth Games Federation banned Fiji as its membership in the Commonwealth was suspended due to lack of progress towards reinstating democracy.

Fiji was suspended from the Commonwealth last September when military ruler Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who seized power in a 2006 coup, refused to bow to demands to hold elections next year.

Delhi to be first Indian city to forecast air quality

India’s capital, which will host the Commonwealth Games in October, isn’t just getting a fresh coat of paint, several overpasses, hotels and roads, and assorted sports infrastructure towards this. It is also getting its own air quality forecasting system.

New Delhi will become the first city in the country to be able to provide, 48 hours in advance, a pollution forecast, much like a weather forecast.

French firms Aria Technologies SA and Leosphere SA, which created a similar forecasting system for the Beijing Olympics (2008), are helping New Delhi create its pollution forecast. India doesn’t have an official pollution forecasting system.

“Our goal in Beijing was to put together a pollution index for the Games. Paris, which has a similar system, uses the information to control pollutants in the near future. This (the pollution forecasting system in New Delhi) is a first for South Asia,” said Sarath Guttikunda, deputy programme manager, Aria.

The two French firms are working with India’s Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to create the system. Leosphere manufactures hardware and software for the laser-based monitoring systems and Aria Technologies develops and distributes air quality modelling systems.

The New Delhi project is sponsored by the French government. Officials at its embassy in New Delhi declined comment, saying they were not authorized to speak to the media.

“After the Games, CPCB will take it forward. We will be training the board so that they will be able to continue the forecasting,” added Guttikunda.

CPCB has the mandate for collecting and releasing data on air pollution. It does provide real-time data on the concentration of various pollutants in New Delhi. However, this is point-in-time data, not a forecast.

The new initiative will help it do better, said an official at CPCB. “The focus is on better understanding of pollution for national, regional and urban areas. This will be continued after the Games also. Delhi is just the pilot and we hope we can replicate it for other cities,” said Prashant Gargava, environmental engineer and in charge for computer division, CPCB. “Advance warning and information on ambient air quality can help citizens in planning outdoor activities. It can be used for planning air quality management systems, understanding sources of pollution and how to manage them.”

However, it wasn’t clear whether New Delhi would emulate Beijing’s aggressive environmental management.

In Beijing, where the forecasts were available five days in advance, officials “used it as a policy tool, through which they planned their short-term pollution control methods. They had a clear target, which was to meet air quality standards during games,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhary, associate director, Centre for Science and Environment, an environmental activist organization.

“They ordered three million cars off the roads and shut down industries to meet the standard,” she said, adding that New Delhi should have a similar plan.

Guttikunda, too, would like to see CPCB or other agencies use the data to good effect. “Our objective is to persuade the agencies to make an informed decision on pollution control rather than an ad hoc one.”

The forecasting system that is being put in place will use Lidar (light detection and ranging) technology. The process involves a laser beam which is released and captured, with the before-after difference being converted into concentrations of various pollutants.

The system will also factor in regional data because it is needed to make an accurate forecast, said Guttikunda. For instance, data from Rajasthan can help predict dust storms in New Delhi.

Guttikunda said the main aim of air quality forecasting should be public health. “For instance, Delhi is known as the asthma capital of the country. Air pollution, especially particulate, is linked to respiratory disorders and advisories could be based on such advance warning system for better public health.”

Several cities in other parts of the world do issue such health advisories.

Australia makes official bid for 2018 CWG

Australia has officially launched its bid for the 2018 Commonwealth Games. With Trinidad and Tobago pulling out of the race, it might be a two-horse race between the Gold Coast and Nigeria's capital, Abuja.

Australian Commonwealth Games Association president Sam Coffa joined Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and Gold Coast mayor Ron Clarke on Wednesday to sign the formal bid lodgment paper, which has been forwarded to the Commonwealth Games Federation in London.

Potential host cities have until the close of business on March 31 London time to put in their expressions of interest.

But Abuja was the only other city that has publicly announced its interest after an expected bid by Auckland, New Zealand, fell through, Mr Coffa said.

Mr Coffa said 2018 was possibly Queensland's "one window of opportunity". Many more bids are expected for the 2022 games as the economies across the world improves.

He said he had considered Auckland to be the frontrunner for the 2018 games, but with their bid not expected to go through, that put Australia "well on the front foot".

"Certainly it's a lot easier (with two candidates) than if you had three. At this stage we know two, we will know tomorrow or the day after whether there has been any (more) expressions." he said

Mr Coffa said the Gold Coast's size and low-cost model may be its best asset after major metropolis had hosted the past four events in Australia.

"I think it's possibly one of the strengths. A regional city can afford and can plan and can organise a successful games. If we did not believe that we stood a reasonable chance, we would have not made a decision to bid.", he said.

If successful, the state government would spend $11 million on its bid and invest more than $1 billion in infrastructure over the next eight years, including an upgraded aquatic centre, new velodrome and athletes' village.

The athletes village would then be sold as residential accommodation, recouping some money.

Ms Bligh said the games would be a shot in the arm for the coast's economy, boosting industry, tourism and the region's ability to host international sporting events and teams.

"I believe we are well placed to win this bid," she said.

She said the games would transform the Gold Coast, as it had done for Brisbane in 1982.

The winning bid will be announced in November 2011. Melbourne was the last Australian host of the Games in 2006. The 2010 Games are in Delhi in October this year and Glasgow in 2014.

IRCTC to sell Commonwealth tickets online

IRCTC will sell the online tickets for the 2010 Commonwealth Games to be held in New Delhi. The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) bagged the Rs 12 crore contract thus becoming the official ticketing agency for the Games.

A website dedicated to CWG for online booking and issuing of tickets will be developed by IRCTC. The sports lovers can avail the facility to choose row and seat at different venues through online booking.

A senior IRCTC official said,"We are developing the website with the latest software for the sale of Commonwealth Games tickets, including for the inaugural and closing ceremonies. We will be also responsible for commissioning and maintenance of the portal."

Sports enthusiasts can also avail the tickets through call centres, retail outlets and at the venues.

The Commonwealth Games online tickets sales contract gives IRCTC an opportunity to package Commonwealth Games tickets along with railways tickets. This will surely be beneficial to Indian railways and to visitors, as now they would be able to plan the travel along with event tickets.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Amitabh Bachchan won't be CWG's brand ambassador

Indian Olympic Association and Commonwealth Games chief Suresh Kalmadi on Tuesday said that the upcoming Delhi Games will not have actor Amitabh Bachchan as its face and the CWG committee was looking for a young brand ambassador.

“We need to keep young people, and can’t follow the module of the Asiad Games (1982). Amitabh Bachchan was in 30s during 1982 Asian Games and thus was apt representation for the Games. However, things do change with time. We had thought of names like Milkha Singh and PT Usha but are currently looking at younger people to represent CWG 2010.”

He also said that it was not his decision alone to appoint the brand ambassador and since it is India's event, consensus would be taken before a final call.

Hinting at politically driven motives for the move, BJP leader Vijay Kumar Malhotra said it unfortunate and questioned Kalmadi’s authority for taking such a decision. He further accused the core working committee of the Commonwealth Games to be Congress dominated and hoped to get public support behind him on the issue.

However, this came after BJP suggested Amitabh Bachchan's name as brand ambassador of Commonwealth Games yesterday. Congress, on the other hand, said the party has a habit of "fishing in troubled waters".

The Commonwealth Games 2010 are to be held in New Delhi in Oct 2010.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Pak clears Rugby team to Delhi

The Pakistan government has cleared its team's participation in the Commonwealth Rugby Sevens tournament in New Delhi from April 2-3.

Rugby India development manager Greg Davey told that he was informed by the Pakistan Rugby Union (PRU) that they have received the green signal from the Pakistan government on Tuesday evening.

The team is on its way to Delhi and they will be arriving here on Thursday afternoon. I got the confirmation of their participation in the evening and it came as a big relief for both the Pakistan rugby players as well as us organisers."

The PRU was anxious for their government clearance as the Indian government had already given the team members visas early enough for the players to arrive in Delhi well in time for them get acclimatised for the event.

There was suspense over the team getting clearance till late this afternoon, but PRU secretary Fawzi Khwaja was quoted as saying the players were well prepared to leave even a day before the start of the event.

Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Iran, Malaysia, Brunei, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan besides hosts India, will battle it out at the Commonwealth Rugby Stadium in Delhi University.

The teams have been divided into two pools and the top two teams from each group will advance into the semi finals. Pakistan play India in the opener.

The championships is essentially to test the facilities for for the Oct 3-14 Commonwealth Games rugby competition.

Trinidad Tobago withdraws CWG 2018 bid

A leading sports official in Trinidad & Tobago has disclosed that the twin-island nation has withdrawn from bidding to stage the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Larry Romany, president of the T&T Olympic Committee, revealed on Sunday that the Commonwealth Games Federation has been informed of the decision.

"The T&T OC and the Government of T&T conducted a full review, open, constructive, and candid discussions in respect of all the current and projected circumstances and concluded that progressing a 2018 bid at this time is not a prudent or responsible course of action," said Romany on the Inside the Games website.

The T&T OC President acknowledged that the current economic crisis paid a major part in T&T's decision not to bid. The cost of hosting such an event is prohibitive to be able to host the games. It is reported that India is spending $2.3 billion for building infrastructure for the Games. The cost for T&T would be atleast $4 billion.

"Arriving at this point demanded balancing aspirations, ambitions, practical, and pragmatic considerations," he said.

"We wish the other potential 2018 candidates best of luck."

T&T Prime Minister Patrick Manning had given a strong undertaking that the two-island republic would bid for the Games, after the country had successfully hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting last year.

A year earlier, they had planned to bid, but the decision to cancel the Caribbean Games last June on the advice of the country's Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation because of the swine flu epidemic, also contributed to scepticism about hosting the Games.

The Games have not been staged in the Caribbean since Kingston in Jamaica hosted it in 1966.

The CGF are set to announce which city will host the 2018 Games during its annual meeting in St. Kitts & Nevis in November.

Delhi, India, will host this year's Games, and Glasgow, Scotland, will stage the event four years later.

CWG OC facing challenges in procuring ambulances

With the Commonwealth Games deadline fast approaching and the partnership with Fortis Hospital failing, sourcing ambulances has become a major concern for the Health department.

The state government had earlier partnered with the Fortis Group to roll out 150 fully equipped ambulances in time for the Games. The first batch was to be delivered in January. The PPP, however, fell apart after the Health minister inspected the fleet and found that they had failed to meet government specifications.

The Health department will soon be approaching an arbitrator for a closure on the PPP with Fortis.

Of the 150 ambulances, 141 will be for basic life support and nine advanced life support. Besides, there will be 20 ‘first-responder’ (two-wheeler) vehicles — the objective of which will be to reach the victim within 15-20 minutes of receiving the call for help.

In a recent meeting with the heads of over 30 private hospitals in Delhi, Health minister Kiran Walia discussed the options, one of which is using the services pro-bono.

“The private hospitals have been considerate and have offered us help in every possible way,” Walia said. “Many of them are offering us brand new ambulances for use during the Games.”

The Delhi government will soon place urgent short notice tenders to procure 31 ambulances — of which 21 will be Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulances and 10 Basic Life Support (BLS) ambulances.

“We will have ALS and one BLS ambulance in each of our hospitals. Besides, we will rent ambulances and ensure there is no shortage,” she added. The tender process is likely to be over within two months.

Since 1991, pre-hospital medical emergency transportation and ambulance services have been provided through the Centralised Accident and Trauma Services (CATS). Currently, there are 35 CATS ambulances spread across 21 base stations in the city.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Prayer rooms for atheletes of all faiths at CWG village

The Commonwealth Games village, where athletes will be staying during the games in October will have a special building with prayer rooms for all faiths. This, officials said, will give the athletes a space and option to pray and meditate. This is crucial for a peaceful mind during the hectic days.

The Organising Committee of the Commonwealth Games is in talks with the head priests and management officials of different religious places in Delhi for voluntary service during the games.

'We are in talks with the Akshardham temple, the India Islamic Cultural Centre, a few Gurudwaras, Chruches, Synagogue and other religious places for volunteers to conduct prayer services in the prayer rooms during the games,' a member of OC said.

'We don't want any religious preaching to be done. The aim behind this initiative is to give the athletes an option to pray and meditate if they want to. Prayers have a healing power to soothe frayed nerves,' he added.

The building will be a temporary structure.

'It will be a structure with partitions so that the space is divided into prayer rooms for different faiths like Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Sikhism. It will however be a temporary structure,' Thomson said.

The Commonwealth Games village will have 3 towers with over 1000 flats. With all the construction work expected to be wrapped up by June, it's non-stop work at the massive 63.5 hectare village at the moment.

'The flats where the athletes will be staying are equipped with latest technology from flat screen television sets to a well equipped kitchenette. Also, the flats are disabled-friendly - the bathrooms for instance have handles near the toilet for the benefit of a wheelchair-bound person,' Thomson said.

After the games, the flats will be sold to people.

Each of the tower has a physiotherapy room, a team meeting room, a massage room and a room for the team's chef - so that the athletes don't have to go anywhere far for anything. A polyclinic will also be in place in the village with doctors and paramedics that the Delhi government will handle.

There will also be a games lounge where the athletes can entertain themselves and unwind.

The dining area, where the athletes will be eating their meals, has a capacity for 2,000 people. There is also a casual dining area for lighter meals like snacks and this has a capacity for 350 people.

'Besides the residential zone, there will also be an international zone which will have handicraft stores, a post office, a bank, a phone shop and a media centre. We are in talks with some small and medium enterprises and cottage industries for the handicraft shops,' Thomson said.

The international zone will also have cultural events taking place regularly for the benefit of the athletes and the rest of the team members.

In the vicinity of the village are the training areas for the athletes - complete with a 400-metre athletic track, sauna and swimming pool.

'Since it's a green Commonwealth Games, the tiles used in the residential zone and elsewhere are made of eco-friendly material. There is a sewage treatment plant set up by the Delhi Jal Board and proper waste management in place,' he said.

Keeping the security concerns in mind, there will also be baggage-screening tables put up at the entrances of the village.

'There will be a soft opening of the village on Sep 16 when various team officials will arrive and then the athletes will start arriving from Sep 23 onwards. The games are from October 3 to 14, but by the time the last person leaves, it will be October 18,' Thomson said.

CWG selection: British swimming championships to start on 29-Mar

Top British swimmers begin their fight for Commonwealth Games places when the British Championships open on Monday.

The event doubles as trials for 2010's European and Commonwealth meets, with GB stars like Rebecca Adlington, Gemma Spofforth and Liam Tancock in action.

Results in Sheffield will help decide who makes Britain's European squad and the home nations' Commonwealth teams.

(Click here to know about British swimmers selected for Commonwealth Games)

The 2010 Commonwealth Games are set to take place this October in Delhi, India, with the British Championships serving as the first qualifying event.

While the six-day championships themselves are not a major event, they act as a gateway to top international meets such as the Commonwealths - most British swimmers' focus in 2010 - and the European Long Course Championships, to be held in Hungary in August.

"This is part of the process of getting to the big competitions, and it's also a great opportunity to race against the fastest people in Britain," said Tancock.

"It's something you have to do, and you need to get a certain time or win your race or whatever, but it's always a cool meet - a nice meet. I really enjoy it."

The highlight of the championships is expected to be the three-way clash between double Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington, world silver medallist Jo Jackson and emerging force Jazmin Carlin in the women's freestyle events.

Adlington became a household name in Britain on the back of her 400m and 800m freestyle wins at the 2008 Beijing Games and is tipped to return to form after a less successful 2009 season.

Jackson's winter training has been marred by injury and illness, particularly the worsening of her asthma condition, while teenager Carlin defeated both of them over the 400m distance during the Great Britain v Germany meet in Swansea last month.
The trio are likely to clash in the finals of the 200m free on Monday, where Caitlin McClatchey could also feature, as well as the 800m free on Thursday and 400m free on Friday.

Gemma Spofforth, 100m backstroke world champion and world record holder, is expected to face a straight fight with close friend Lizzie Simmonds in that event's final on Wednesday, while the pair should also clash in the 200m backstroke on Friday.

Fran Halsall, who excelled at December's Duel in the Pool between a European team and the United States, winning three golds, is the woman to beat in the 100m free on the same day.
Though the balance of power in British swimming currently lies with the women, top GB men Tancock and David Davies should dominate in their events.

Backstroker Tancock goes in the 50m and 100m distances, while Davies is Britain's top male freestyle swimmer.

Michael Rock, who took advantage of controversial swimsuit regulations to defeat American legend Michael Phelps in the 200m fly at the Duel in the Pool, will expect victory over the same distance in Sheffield.

The ultra-fast, non-textile swimsuits that became the focus of much of 2009's competitive swimming have been banned since 1 January this year, restoring swimmers to textile-based suits.

"This event is a little more unknown than our swimmers are used to because it will be their first chance to get a peak performance with the new suit rule," said British head coach Dennis Pursley.

"The Australians have just had their trials so that will give our swimmers some times to aim towards.

"A lot of our coaches aim for early qualification in order to spend the rest of the year preparing for our benchmark event and I know a lot will be looking to gain early qualification for the Commonwealth Games.

"At a peak performance meet we always expect to see junior athletes step up and I have seen a couple of the younger swimmers in training over the past few months and I have been impressed with them. I would hope to see some breakthrough performances."

The selection process for the Commonwealths will be completed by the European Championships and individual English, Welsh and Scottish national trials at different dates in the summer. A separate process applies in Northern Ireland.

Amitabh Bachchan as CWG Brand Ambassador..!!

Indian Olympic Association (IOA) Vice-President Vijay Kumar Malhotra has proposed the name of Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan as brand ambassador of the Commonwealth Games.

In a letter to Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (CWGOC) chairman Suresh Kalmadi, Malhotra said Bachchan represents the best of India's mid-age generation and is an icon for the youth so he would be the best choice as the brand amassador for the October 3-14 Games.

''The appointment of Brand Ambassadors for Commonwealth Games 2010 is going to be very crucial because they will be looked upon as the best and brightest of the country,'' Malhotra, who is also a senior member for the Organising Committee, wrote in his letter.

''I suggest Mr Amitabh Bachchan should be appointed as the main brand ambassador of Commonwealth Games. He was the brand ambassador of 1982 Delhi Asiad in which he lent his voice and anchored the opening ceremony,'' he added.

He also suggested that only those people who have a clean image should be considered for the job.

Delhi metro to rope in volunteers

Two days after a man and a woman lost their legs after falling on the tracks at a crowded metro station, Delhi Metro officials said they will rope in more volunteers to tackle high volume of commuters.

'Given that we estimate the commuter footfall to reach 2 million by October when the Metro operations will increase to 190 km, we are certainly trying to plan out another programme to increase the number of volunteers for crowd control. We have not decided on a number,' Delhi Metro spokesperson Anuj Dayal told IANS Sunday.

The Metro ferries around 950,000 commuters daily on its nearly 96-km network. By October, ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, it will access nearly all areas of the national capital as well as suburbs like Gurgaon covering 190 km.

During peak travel hours, that last till 8.30 p.m., around 16 customer service executives man crowded platforms to direct crowds. Later this number reduces to four.

On Friday evening, at around 9.30 p.m., two persons were crushed in an accident at the crowded Rajiv Chowk station. The two, identified as Mehazabeen, 22, and Birju, 25, lost their legs in the incident. Delhi Police have registered a case of negligence against unknown persons and are reviewing closed circuit television footage to assess the cause of accident.

Birju allegedly ran towards an approaching train on the platform and took Mehazabeen down onto the tracks. Jostling and aggressive pushing is a common sight on the Metro network and officials face an uphill task tackling the issue.

'The commuters tend to get very difficult. We can only request them to behave and stand in queue. But sometimes they do not listen,' a Metro customer care official said on condition of anonymity.

CW Games: Decision on Fiji soon

Fiji's national Olympic committee has encouraged its athletes to keep training for the Commonwealth Games in October as it awaits a decision from the Court of Abritration for Sport on its ban from the games.

Fiji Amateur Sports and Olympic Committee President Vidya Lakhan told the Fiji Times today he expected the court's decision on Fiji's appeal against its exclusion from the New Delhi games within the next week.

"They were supposed to have made their ruling on March 23 and I believe the decision will be passed on to us sometime this week or early next week," Lakhan told the newspaper.

"Right now we urge all our sporting bodies to continue with their training and just hope for the best

"They need to keep up with their training because it will be helpful if the green light is given for the trip to India.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Green helipads for Delhi CWG

The face of air traffic in the National Capital Region could change drastically in the coming months with a number of projects to be completed in time for the Commonwealth Games.

Among the proposals that are being fast-tracked include 'Green helipads' — the country's first, to be built at the Commonwealth Games village site, and finances for which have already been cleared. Two more helipads at AIIMS and a heliport in Rohini.

Besides, state-run helicopter firm Pawan Hans is in talks with governments of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for land to build 10-12 helipads.

“Our team of experts visited AIIMS recently to see if the trauma centre building could sustain the load. We have cleared the proposal and suggested some small changes like doing away with the boundary wall on the roof. If fast-tracked, the helipad could be operational within six months,” Pawan Hans chief R.K. Tyagi told HT.

This helipad is going to witness the maximum activity during the Games when VIPs, Games officials would travel to the venue. Delhi Police, which is likely to hire helicopters from the Indian Air Force for surveillance purposes, would also have access to the helipad.

Officials did not rule out the possibility of ferry services being operated, if the government gave its approval, for those who would be willing to pay. Officials expressed hope that they would get land to build helipads in each of the nine districts.

The heliport coming-up at Rohini would including helipads, parking bays, night landing facilities, maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities as well as a training academy.

Pawan Hans, which operates a fleet of 35 helicopters and another eight belonging to other agencies, has ordered another 12 helicopters and has plans to expand its fleet by 100 choppers in next few years, officials said.

CW Games: WADA closely monitoring progress in Delhi

It was one step for the World Anti-Doping Agency to accredit the Delhi laboratory for service in September 2008 but readying it for October's Commonwealth Games is more ambitious.

Complicating the issue for WADA is that responsibility is now essentially out of its hands, although it is keeping a close eye on things as India trains doping control officers (DCOs).

The lab has worked successfully through several curtain-raisers, including the Commonwealth Shooting Championship, the Hockey World Cup and the Commonwealth Boxing Championships.

New Zealander David Howman, WADA's director-general, is off to Delhi in May to further monitor the situation. WADA's interest will extend past October.

"I have no problem with the lab. It has been meeting regular testing programmes from the samples sent back to us. If there was a slip in scientific standards, we'd be on to it like a robber's dog.

"The issue is for the lab to retain its accreditation beyond the Games as one of only 35 labs in the world capable of doing WADA quality testing.

They have to analyse 3000 samples a year to do that. One starting point is cricket's Indian Premier League."

Howman says WADA still feels obliged to guide India in running a full-time programme.

"The Commonwealth Games Federation [CGF] is training its own DCOs but the ideal is that they use Indians. Those people then need to be kept on after the Games."

Drug Free Sport New Zealand boss Graeme Steel can see value in providing overseas expertise, given the number of qualified DCOs in the Commonwealth.

"India has been slow setting up domestic programmes and has had problems with drugs, especially in power events. I shouldn't be too critical from a distance but, at a major Games, it's vital experienced and well-trained officials are on the job, much like bringing in top-match officials or referees."

WADA is extra conscious of policing a new test for human growth hormone (HGH) which should be operational later in the year.

Cheating athletes tend to use HGH during intense out-of-competition periods and the current testing model can only pick up synthetic HGH within 48 hours of it being taken.

When synthetic HGH is ingested, the body shuts down normal production of HGH so artificial material can be detected briefly.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Delhi Metro wins award in London

The Delhi Metro has been conferred with the 'Most Improved Metro' award at the World Metro Awards held in London. Delhi Metro's managing director E. Sreedharan also received a special mention for his outstanding contribution.

'The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) won the 'Most Improved Metro' award at the 3rd World Metro Awards ceremony in London,' Delhi Metro spokesperson Anuj Dayal said Friday.

'Our managing director E. Sreedharan was also given a special mention for his 'outstanding contribution to the urban transport industry' during the ceremony March 23,' he added.

The Delhi Metro ferries around 950,000 commuters daily on its network of nearly 96 km. By October, ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, it will access nearly all areas of the national capital as well as suburbs like Gurgaon. Its network will also increase to 190 km.

The World Metro Awards recognise and reward leaders, innovators and pioneers in the global Metro rail industry. Over 250 delegates from 70 Metro companies across 40 countries participated in the event.

The London Metro bagged the award for 'Best Metro in Europe', while the Singapore Metro was adjudged the 'Best Metro in Asia Pacific'.

CWG OC seeks $500 million loan waiver

The organising committee of the Commonwealth Games has asked the government to write off its Rs 2,307-crore debt, saying its earnings from sponsorships and television rights may not be enough to pay back the amount. This is a significant turnaround from Organizing committee's earlier stance that the games will be revenue neutral.

The Union government extended loans to the committee for developing competition and training venues for the Games to be held in New Delhi in October this year. The amount includes the Rs 687 crore the Cabinet sanctioned last week.

The organising committee has requested that at least some part of the loans should be turned into a grant as the funds are being used for preparatory activities, a finance ministry official said.

“We understand that the committee has already started earning some revenue. So we feel that it should start paying off the loans now as it could be difficult to pay the entire amount after the Games are over,” he said, requesting anonymity. The government may look into the case of fresh loans later on, he added.

Sports and youth affairs minister MS Gill has thrown his weight behind the committee on the issue. He has written to finance minister Pranab Mukherjee asking for at least a partial waiver.

The finance ministry is not in favour of the proposal and is keen that the committee starts paying off the loan. The ministry has tightened the government spending in an effort to bring down fiscal deficit to 5.5% of the gross domestic product. Finance ministry officials said the latest tranche of Rs 687 crore might be waived off, depending on the actual revenue earned by the organising committee that is expected to earn Rs 1,780 crore from the Games. It has already got commitment of about Rs 700 crore from sponsorships and television rights.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

CBRN detection gadgets at Delhi Metro stations

Special radiation detection gadgets and trained personnel will be deployed at the Delhi Metro stations to combat chemical, biological and nuclear attacks on the mass transport system in view of the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

While plans have been drawn to "avoid and contain" Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) radiations at the station complexes, a rescue and relief procedure will also be put in place.

Under the plan, chalked out after a security audit by central security agencies, a team of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel will be spread at various underground Metro stations.

According to sources, the NDRF team to be pressed during the mega games at the stations will be drawn from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) counter-disaster unit stationed at Greater Noida.

The personnel will undertake detection, evacuation, de-contamination, medical aid and relief work once any harmful radiation erupts at the stations.

"A good number of underground stations will be operational during Commonwealth Games. Keeping in mind possible CBRN attacks, different units of the NDRF will be deployed and gadgets to absorb harmful gases and poisonous viruses would be installed at the stations," sources said.

The operational Metro stations during the mega games will go up to 141 from the present 82.

Keeping in view the expansion of Metro operations to states like Uttar Pradesh (Noida), Haryana (Gurgaon) and the huge passenger rush during the games, the CISF (which guards the Delhi Metro) will also induct almost 16,000 security personnel.

The NDRF personnel will also impart training to the Metro staff in combating a CBRN attack, manmade and natural disasters, sources said.

New suits necessary to be worn by a anti-radiation combatant are also being procured, they said.

The Rs 330 crore fund alloted to the Home Ministry will be utilised to procure close circuit television cameras, different types of metal detectors, equipment for bomb disposal squads, devices to deal with chemical and biological attacks, armoured vehicles and various types of weapons.

Pakistan wrestlers to train in Iran

Pakistan Wrestling Federation (PWF) plans to train its top ten wrestlers in Iran ahead of the Commonwealth Games to be held later this year.

Pakistan has decided to field seven wrestlers in the Commonwealth Games and most probably four in the Asian Games. Pakistan would send ten leading wrestlers of the country to Iran for two months training.

"Federal Sports Ministry has already given assurance that the federation would be supported, in its mission to provide high-class training to the top wrestlers abroad ahead of the twin major international assignments,” the secretary of the PWF Chaudhry Muhammad Asghar said.

Commonwealth Games would be conducted in New Delhi from October 3-14 while the Asian Games are slated to be organised by China in Guangzhou from November 12-27. “In a bid to pick the probables for the India event, national championship would be held in Faisalabad from April 21 to 23. The camp of the probables would be initiated in Islamabad Sports Complex the next day, after picking of the probables,” Asghar said.

However, he made it clear that the top ten wrestlers for Iran tour would be finalised during camp trials, saying, the final seven-member squad for the seven weight categories competitions in India would be picked after a month long training in the neighbouring country.

He said that he is hopeful that the country would get atleast one gold medal in wrestling in Commonwealth Games. He said that those three or four wrestlers who would perform better in the India affair would be given the chance to represent the country in the Asian Games in China as well.

He also disclosed plans to send four wrestlers to the Asian Beach Games to be staged in Muscat in December. “We plan to take two wrestlers for the Muscat Games from the lot which will be fielded in the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games and the remaining two will be selected from the rest of the available pool in the country, for which the federation plans to hold National Beach Wrestling Championship in Karachi on July 26,” the PWF official informed. The preparatory camp for the Asian Beach Games would be held in Lahore, he added.

Chaudhry conceded that the PWF has given the names of three young wrestlers, who the federation would like to field in the Youth Olympics Qualifiers to be staged in Uzbekistan from April1 8-19.

“We have decided to field Salamat Ali (46kg), Haider Ali (54kg) and Aslam Pervez (63kg) in the Youth Olympics Qualifiers,” he said. “I am optimistic that at least two of the three will make it to the Youth Olympics,” the PWF secretary said.

“Salmat and Aslam Pervez can make a cut for the Singapore affair,” he said. He said if any boy qualifies for the Youth Olympics to be held in Singapore in August then they would be kept abroad for training ahead of the grand youth competition of the world.

Mock drill planned at Metro stations

Commonwealth Games securityDelhi will conduct mock drills at 4 metro stations to check the preparedness of Delhi Metro staff and security agencies in the event of terror attacks.

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The drills, to be supervised by officials from the Delhi Disaster Management Authority, will take place at the Rajouri Garden, Mandi House, Netaji Subhash Place and Dilshad Garden stations at 1130 hrs on Friday.

The exercise would disrupt Metro services for 15-20 minutes.

Different scenarios like serial bomb blasts and explosions triggered by a human bomb will be simulated and response action and time will be monitored. The aim is to check the preparedness of Delhi Metro staff and security agencies. It will also test the coordination between the Metro staff, police and fire brigade.

Since 2005, more than 15 mock drills have been conducted at Metro stations, in which scenarios such as terror attacks, evacuation of trains and stations, derailment and fire were created.

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Delhi Metro ferries around a million commuters daily on its network of 96 km. Ahead of the Commonwealth Games in October, it will span to nearly all corners of Delhi as well as suburbs like Gurgaon, covering 190 km.

Rugby 7s scheduled for Apr in Delhi

Delhi will host eight team Rugby 7s event in April 2010.

The event is another preparatory event for 2010 Commonwealth Games to be held later this year in Delhi.

Eight teams will take part in Rugby 7s tournament including host India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Iran, Malaysia, Brunei, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan will battle it out. The event will be held at Commonwealth Rugby stadium, Delhi University.

This is the first international Rugby sevens tournament to be held in the India. The teams will be divided into two pools in the preliminary stage from which they would advance into the semi finals and then finals.
The tournament will kick off with an India-Pakistan clash at 10 am on April 2.

Reality TV catches up with Commonwealth Games

The organizers of the Commonwealth Games are in talks with TV channels to produce a reality show based on a drive to find the next sporting superstars hidden in the country’s nooks and corners.

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The reality show is set to be launched in May 2010, five months before 2010 Commonwealth Games.

The nationwide search will have most of the Olympic sports, mainly outdoor ones, and involve teams from CWG organizers with local sports authorities to hold trials in various parts of the country.

Commonwealth Games reality showThis summer, get ready for the biggest reality program to ever hit your TV screens— the Commonwealth Games talent hunt show.

“It will bring India’s present champion athletes closer to the people. It will invite everyone to come out and play. And it will help identify the future talent,” Suresh Kalmadi, chairman, CWG Organising Committee, said.

This will not only help find out the unknown athletes but also turn the whole process —from trials to selections to finals—into a daily fix of reality TV, complete with behind-the-scenes drama.

Everyone can participate, irrespective of age and background. Only the winners in each category will clear the various selection levels.

“The Games will leave a legacy of the Olympic sports in a land of cricket and more cricket,” he said.

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The winners will get cash rewards, and they will also be picked up by the sports authority for coaching and training and preparing them for the games.

Apart from being a people-connect venture ahead of the
Commonwealth Games, the talent hunt will also be a huge money-spinner for the organizers, who will earn revenue from TV rights and other sources.

Those who have witnessed similar sporting ventures in the past warned of the government apathy affecting the cause. “While it is a good move by the OC, the talents that emerge out of it should continue to get patronage in the long run,” said Madhumita Bisht, a Padma Shri and Arjun Award recipient and nine times national champion in badminton.

CWG 2010 budget at $2.3 billion

Laying to rest speculation that the Commonwealth Games (CWG) 2010 budget has overshot, CWG Director General V K Verma on Wednesday said that the entire estimated cost of the games was Rs 10,000-crore (approximately 2.3b USD).

The information was shared to put to rest the speculated amount pegged at more than USD 4 billion in some of the recent media reports.

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“The (speculated) CWG cost is a myth. The entire cost of the Games is Rs 10,000 crore, which is USD 2 billion.” Verma said addressing a gathering at the India International Sports Summit in Mumbai on Wednesday.

Out of the Rs 10,000-crore while Rs 2,000-crore will be spent on hospitality, the rest of the money would be spent on building infrastructure like flyovers and stadiums, which is there to last, he said.

Verma said that if India expects to host the Olympics in the near future, they should start laying the platform from now.

Verma, who is also the vice-president of World Badminton Federation, said that India got an opportunity to host the World Badminton Championship, following the popularity of the game in the country and the success the country achieved in the sport.

“According to a survey, India is the second largest badminton playing nation with 1.7-million players. India languished at the 27-28 position eight years ago but have now rose to seventh position,” he added.

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“Our focus now is Asian games,” he said adding that the players are now looking at the CommonWealth Games as a preparatory tournament for the team.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Food safety guidelines for Commonwealth Games

Delhi is going to host Commonwealth Games in which large numbers of visitors including the participant from all corners of world are expected.

With preparation for this event going on a very large scale in all the divisions such as infrastructure, transport, etc. the most important is the food sector or the food joints/restaurant in Delhi, NCR which will be eventually serving food to all.

All the small and medium scale restaurants should take this event as an opportunity to maximize their business by increasing the number of people visiting them. This is possible by upgrading staff and system by getting trained in the food safety.

Those planning to visit Delhi during the Commonwealth Games 2010 can freely enjoy the famous Indian food in the capital as the government has decided to make elaborate arrangements to ensure food safety. "In a recent meeting of the food safety and standards authority, it was decided to identify 1,000 small and medium eating establishments in different parts of Delhi, which would be assisted to audit their levels of hygiene." a statement issued by the health ministry said.

"Standards of safety and hygiene would be developed and training undertaken through professional agencies. The identified and successful establishment would then be audited and certified to be of the required standards," it added. "They would also be given a suitable symbol and monitored periodically," the statement said. It is also proposed to bring out a directory of safe eating establishments to be distributed among the visitors.

"Training and capacity building would be undertaken by a panel of auditors and experts. Food samples would be tested periodically and a simplified standard will be developed against which the performance of the establishment will be evaluated," it added. These eating establishments would be identified in food clusters, covering different types of cuisine in the city.

(Read article: Delhi to rate restaurants)

"An appropriate logo will be devised and the entire scheme implemented with the support of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India," the ministry said. The government plans to undertake similar schemes in other cities to improve safety and hygiene of eating establishments.

With the Commonwealth Games just a year away, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit Friday said all safety norms would be strictly adhered to in eateries and elsewhere during the event. Flagging off a walkathon and a food safety run at India Gate to commemorate World Food Day, Dikshit said: "We want to establish India as a safe food destination during the upcoming Games by adhering to food safety norms at all food serving establishments and at home." improvement

Organised in association with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the walkathon was themed as "Food Safety and Quality - India Prepares for Commonwealth Games 2010 K.N. Shenoy, chairman of the CII Institute of Quality, said: "This day's celebrations will further strengthen the quality movement in India. India should remain committed to the cause of food safety and quality by inculcating world class quality consciousness."

43 workers have died at Commonwealth Games sites

Commonwealth Organizing committee has released a report mentioning that 43 people died during the construction of different Commonwealth Games sites at different locations. These included the workers working for developing a better infrastructure around the games venues.

Delhi High Court has set up a panel of five officials to look in to the matter of workers' death at sites. During his stay in Delhi, Sharma told Indian authorities that they should look into the allegations made by the panel.

Commonwealth Games General secretary stated that India has large commitments to the games and I have read what is available and I hope correct and timely actions will be taken by the Indian government to improve the working conditions and ensuring safety of workers.

Arundhati Ghosh, is one of the member of the panel set up by Delhi High Court and former Indian ambassador to the UN, strongly believes that a country cannot progress without respecting its citizens, and similar is the case in common wealth scenario, we cannot be proud of organizing these games on the death bed of these workers.

Mike Hooper, chief executive of the London-based Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), told, he also support the panel's analysis and enlightened that no justification counts on the part of life and death situation. Indian contractors responsible for the construbtion have to obey the laws of India and Indian government must monitor it closely.

Sharma is optimistic for the Commonwealth games in Delhi. He hopes that everything will be settled before the event. During his visit to India, he will show his confidence to some of the Indian dignitaries; Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna and Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, with whom he will meet.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Kenya to send team of 200 for 2010 Commonwealth Games

Kenya plans to send a team of 200 to compete in the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in Delhi, National Olympic Committee of Kenya secretary F. K Paul said on Tuesday.

Paul said NOC-K had already presented a budget to the Government and was hoping to send a big contingent of athletes to compete across the 17 sporting disciplines that will be offered by the games organizers from October 3 to 14.

“All the federations have their qualification processes. We will assist them in training and qualification,” Paul said.

The NOC-K officials said special emphasis will be given to athletics, traditionally the major medal source for Kenya in major international sporting events.

“We aim to fund the athletes for up to a month in training camp. We have realized a longer training camp under competent coaches goes a long way in keeping our athletes ahead of the competition as it happened during the Beijing Olympic Games,” Paul said.

Kenya sports is on a high as its contingent produced one of its best performance at the 2008 Olympics hauling in five gold, five silver and four bronze medals all from athletics to finish 15th overall.

Paul said no specific targets had been set by NOC-K for the Delhi games but the Olympic body expected an improvement from the 2006 Melbourne Olympic Games when Kenya scooped six gold, five silver and seven bronze medals to finish joint ninth with New Zealand.

Paul at the same time said Kenya was satisfied with the security arrangements put in place by the Indian government in the run up to the games.

This follows a four-day Chief de Mission seminar held in Delhi last week to appraise all participating teams on the game arrangement. The NOC-K secretary accompanied Kenya’s chief de mission Jonathan Kosgei to the Indian city.

“Countries wanted assurance on security and the arrangements done by the Indian Government are elaborate. We are satisfied,” Paul said.

Dental clinics promoting medical tourism with CWG

Dental clinics in the country’s capital are making affordable dental treatment possible for people coming to India for attending the commonwealth games. Medical tourism has been on the rise in India with improving healthcare infrastructure. Cities like Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai have the best technology available in the developed world but only at fraction of cost there. The patients opting for implant surgery in India can acquire treatment from renowned prosthodontist and oral implantologist for as low as 20% of what it would cost in UK or US.

Facilities being provided to patients are High Class. While practicing in accordance to the international dental treatment, dental clinics are assuring that the patients have a touch of India’s hospitality also.

There are various different services that the patients can acquire at this leading dental clinics at Delhi and some of them are fixed dental replacement, dental implants, cosmetic smile designing, gum teeth and surgeries, bone grafting, braces, kids dentistry solutions and much more.

By acquiring the dental treatments while on a trip to India is definitely going to save a lot of money as the dental treatments in India are very affordable. The cost differential is so much that decision to get the work done in India can fund for itself in saved amount compared to what it would cost in developed countries.

CWG England sees no reason to pullout

Commonwealth Games England president Dame Kelly Holmes has criticised the British athletes who want to skip the October 3-14 mega-event fearing safety concerns, and said with positive security reports trickling in from Delhi she sees no reason for any pull out.

Holmes, the 2004 double Olympic gold medallist, cited the reports of an assessment team that visited the Indian capital to take stalk of the security situation and said the findings did not suggest pull out.

"I'm disappointed to say that hasn't abated and for some reason a few athletes have said they don't want to compete because of security concerns," Holmes was quoted as saying in the Daily Telegraph.

"We have a security team out in Delhi that are giving us regular reports and we haven't had one single report to suggest that we should be pulling out at this stage," she said.

Holmes, 39, viewed the Commonwealth Games as a stepping stone to the Olympics during her career but, as October's Games draw nearer, is astonished that more potential medal winners have also withdrawn over scheduling commitments.

Holmes's brief as president is to modernise the appeal and public perception of the Games but the withdrawals of Kelly Sotherton, Jessica and Phillips Idowu are a blow to England's medal chances in Delhi.

In Melbourne three years ago, Australia won 84 gold while England came away with 36 top podium medals.

Last week chef de mission Craig Hunter confirmed that England would "categorically" be sending a team of 560 athletes to Delhi to compete across 17 sports.

Hunter, who recently led a five-man delegation to visit every venue in the Indian capital, said: "Individuals will be able to decide if they wish to go, for whatever reason, and we will respect personal choices. But the competitions out there will be very important for many athletes ahead of 2012."

Commonwealth Games drill hole in common man's pocket

Commonwealth Games have drilled a hole in Common man's pocket. Living in Delhi has become more expensive thanks to the sporting extravaganza planned for later this year. Facing a cash crunch, Delhi government has resorted to widespread increase in taxes and reduction in subsidies to generate cash for the games.

So here is list of items and products for which the prices are increased as per 2010-2011 Delhi budget:

LPG cylinder: In the Budget presented for the capital on Monday, the government withdrew subsidy on LPG. This means LPG cylinders will cost 40 rupees more.

Diesel fuel: Diesel will also get costlier as Value Added Tax (VAT) has been hiked from 12.5 to 20 per cent. This means widespread increase in prices of all commodities and products as the transporters will pass on the cost increase to consumers

CNG: Though auto and bus fares have not been increased, but one will have to fight more with auto drivers now as they would have another excuse to harass you in the five per cent tax on the CNG. If you drive a personal vehicle then there is no chance you will save momey by switching to CNG fuel.

Bottled drinks, energy drinks, coffee, tea: Just when Delhi is bracing for another scortching summer, the prices of drinks have increased. Delhi government choose perfect day to burden Delhiites with increased prices as it was hottest March day in last 6 years. For those who savour an energy drink or lemon laced with glucose will have to pay more as Glucose D will cost 12.5 per cent more while aerated drinks like Coke, Pepsi, juices and other energy drinks will be dearer by 20 per cent. If you thought you can survive on Coffee or tea during summers then think again. Coffee and tea at outlets will be taxed at 12.5 percent.

Movie tickets: You will have to think twice now before hitting the nearby movie theatre. Movie tickets will be taxed at 12.5 per cent.

Home entertainment products: Just when you thought that you will spend time at home rather than watching movies in theatre, Delhi government had prepared this piece of news for you. DVDs, CDs and video games will also be taxed at the revised rate of 12.5 per cent.

Clothers, watches etc etc: Branded readymade garments, wrist watches, as all such commodities priced above Rs 5,000 will now attract 12.5 per cent tax. For women who like to dress ethnic, there is bad news. Though not as much as for the guys planning to buy an expensive suit or shirt, ladies suits with embroidery and zari work will now be costlier by at least five per cent.

Mobile phones: One will also have to spend more on new mobile phones. Even the phone accessories have not been spared. Phones priced above Rs 10,000 will also invite tax at 12.5 per cent.

CWG 2010 catering contract enters penultimate phase

Awarding of Commonwealth Games 2010 catering contract is entering its penultimate phase. The upcoming Games are providing an unprecedented opportunity for the hotels to bid for the multi-crore catering contract with an opportunity to claim fame at an international event adding to their repertoire.

(Read: IRCTC bags Commonwealth Games catering contract)

The bidding process for the contract is still on and so far many hotels have bid for the same. The hotel groups in India are not revealing any information regarding the bidding though sources say that many hotels are still sending their responses to Organizing Committee's Request for Proposal (RFP) for the contract.

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Ajay Grover, head - catering, Commonwealth Games 2010, without disclosing the actual figures revealed that the contract will run into multiple crores. He said, "It is a moment that offers great prospects to the Indian hospitality industry for catering. The RFP would be accepted keeping in mind the techno commercial criteria. Various parameters would also be considered eg experience, varieties of menu, etc."

According to him, there would be 11 clusters in catering and each would be given out to one caterer. "It would also provide a consortium to work together as for one cluster there could be several sub-caterers. This would also facilitate a major shift in terms of approach and awareness in food and hygiene," Grover said. The event is also going to benefit the hospitality sector as it would create new benchmarks for all big hotels in India. "The successful Indian companies in the bidding process will come to know about the way big events are organised and how the catering format works. This would further generate awareness about food safety and standards. Moreover, the hoteliers would get acquainted to the global trends in new varieties of food which would help them come up with the same in their prospective areas," he added.

Speaking on the guidelines for catering, Grover informed that it would be on a B2B format and they want the best of hotels to come in for bidding. He said, "From supply chain management to consumption level, everything will be monitored in consultation with the health department of the government of India and third party, who will be certified auditors to do such kind of certification process." It was further said that global tenders had been floated to draw interest from international players having expertise in hospitality, in addition to domestic ones. Express Hospitality has learnt from its sources that apart from ITDC, Delaware North Companies, Global Infusion from UK, and Sodexho from France have been short-listed so far. On being queried about the same, Grover declined to comment.

Delhi still cheap to live in: Government

Delhi’s finance minister for seven years, Ashok Kumar Walia (61) called this year’s budget a “tough call”.

“It was by no means easy announcing tax increases specifically when we are already facing high inflation. Our financial position has forced us to raise taxes and withdraw various subsidies. However cost of living in Delhi is still low compared to other cities.”

Excerpts from an interview with Mr Walia:

Q: The Commonwealth Games are proving to be a costly affair for Delhi. Is it fair to make ordinary residents pay higher taxes when they are already hard hit by the rising inflation?

We are in a tight situation as far as the Commonwealth Games go. From Rs 11,000 crore in 2007-2008, our savings have dwindled to about Rs 2,000-odd crore. We used up our savings to give rebates and subsidies. These subsidies and discounts cannot last forever. Our budget has also gone up. We had to revise our tax structure to improve our collections.

Q. Will Delhi residents be made to suffer next year, too?

Increase in taxes and withdrawal of subsidies is never permanent. We were the only government to give a subsidy of Rs 40 on domestic LPG cylinders when the Centre hiked the cylinder prices. Tax on diesel is lowest in India. We incurred losses in our revenue collections due to deviations in VAT. Due to these deviations, the Centre also reduced our annual compensation by Rs 300 crore annually.

Q. Just three weeks back, diesel and petrol prices were hiked in the Union Budget. And you have again raised diesel prices. Is it fair? Will it not have a cascading impact on prices of all essential items (by way of increased transportation cost)?

It is not unfair. Tax on diesel in most states is more than 20 per cent. In Punjab, it is 27.5 per cent, in Gujarat it is 25 per cent, in most south Indian states the tax on diesel is 25-27.5 per cent. We kept it low at just 12.5 per cent for many years. Unlike other states, the government in Delhi does not own land. It is with the DDA. We are in a tight financial position and have to look for avenues to increase our revenue.

Q. You had presented soft budgets in 2008 and 2009. Was the government waiting for elections to get over to announce harsh measures?

We gave subsidies as long as we could afford. But our budget has grown now. We give pension to a large number of widows, physically challenged and old people. Subsidy on uniform has been increased. We still give Rs 250 crore subsidy on power. We are doing whatever best we can do. Delhi is still the cheapest place to live in.

Tour operators registration till 30-Apr

Delhi Government has extended the date of mandatory registration policy for all travel trade operators in the state till April 30, 2010. The earlier date fixed by the government was March 31, 2010. Travel trade associations such as Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India (ADTOI) and India Association of Tour Operators (IATO) requested the government to extend the date at a meeting held recently with P K Tripathi, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister of Delhi.

Rajat Sawhney, General Secretary, ADTOI said that the government has also considered suggestions to formulate a uniform guideline for the registration policy. Delhi government had announced this mandatory registration policy for travel and tour operators two months ago. As per sources travel and tour operators in Delhi have to maintain certain criterions to get registration. Rakesh Lamba, President, ADTOI said, “This movement will really help to keep away touts and other fraudulent activities in the travel industry.”

Monday, 22 March 2010

DTH providers to lauch HDTV before CWG

Even as Prasar Bharati has announced plans to start beaming in High Definition by the time of the Commonwealth Games in October this year, major private DTH players like Dish TV, Tata Sky and Airtel Digital TV said they would be launching HD services within the next couple of months.

Dish TV chief operating officer Salil Kapoor said, "We are currently evaluating the market and would launch the HD service in the first quarter of next fiscal."

Airtel Digital Marketing Head Sugato Banerjee told that it was too early to say how much the consumer would be made to pay, but it was clear that huge costs would be involved.

The set-top boxes were bound to be more expensive. "Money would also go into more sophisticated uplinking facilities, and the cost will also go up because each HD channel takes five times the space of a normal satellite channel," said Banerjee.

Tata Sky also will be introducing interactive channels in the gaming and education space and promote personal video recorder (PVR) STBs following an increasing demand by families trying to keep up with their favourite programmes. Since all channels offer similar programming, it will be the value added services that will help the DTH players, it is felt.

The country today has seven players in the DTH sphere, the others being Dish TV, Sun Direct, Airtel Digital TV, Big TV, Videocon D2H and DD Direct Plus.

Samsung, LG and Sony are ready to launch full HD televisions in India.

Commonwealth Games to hit Delhiites' pockets

Delhiites will have to shell out more from their pockets for virtually everything from cooking gas to diesel with the state government today withdrawing its subsidy on LPG and increasing VAT on many items to "generate" additional revenue.

(Interview with Delhi's finance minister on Commonwealth Games' impact on Delhi budget)

The minister proposed an increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) on diesel, CNG, mobile phones and accessories above Rs.10,000, watches and readymade garments above Rs.5,000, fertilizers, kerosene, coffee, tea, desi ghee, dry fruits, kesar (saffron), glucose-D, household plastic items, utensils and cutlery items and inverters.

'There has been a lot of developmental work in the city and more to happen. A lot more money is needed and the government has no option but to slightly burden the people to incur the losses,' she said.

'This is a growth-oriented budget keeping in mind the Commonwealth Games and 'aam aadmi'. We have exhausted all our resources as we have spent (so) much on Commonwealth Games project. We need more money,' he added.

Presenting the budget amid vociferous protests by the opposition BJP, finance minister AK Walia announced the withdrawal of the Rs40 subsidy on LPG cylinders for domestic consumers. He also announced an increase in the value-added tax (VAT) on diesel and CNG.

Walia also proposed an increase in VAT on various items like desi ghee, household plastic goods, kerosene stoves, wood, inverters, tea, coffee locks, lanterns, fertilisers, and all utensils and cutlery items, including pressure cookers and pans.

With an increase in the VAT to 20% from the existing 12.5%, diesel will now cost Rs35.29 per litre in the capital. At present, it costs Rs32.92 per litre.

With the withdrawal of subsidy on LPG, a cooking gas cylinder in the national capital region will now cost Rs322.80 from the earlier cost of Rs281.20.

A 5% tax has been imposed on compressed natural gas (CNG), the fuel used for public transport like buses and autorickshaws. At present, there is no VAT on CNG.

By doing this, the Delhi government plans to raise an amount of Rs1,100 crore for the Commonwealth Games to be held in the state later this year.

Noting that there has been an increase in expenditure in the last two years on projects and schemes related to the Commonwealth Games, Walia said, "Our revenue collection through taxes has not been adequate due to recession. Therefore, it has becomeessential to look for measures to generate additional revenue to sustain development."

Chief minister Sheila Dikshit, however, Indicated that in case the city government received additional funds from the Centre to meet the needs of the Games, "we would be happy to pass it on to the residents".

Presenting a Rs26,000 crore budget, Walia said the highest allocation went to the transport sector, which has been given Rs4,224 crore as against last budget's allocation of Rs3,069 crore.

Opposition BJP MLAs were on their feet as soon as Walia announced the increase in VAT rates. They staged a walkout when Walia announced the withdrawal of subsidy on LPG cylinders

'Delhiites are already suffering from inflation. This budget will further increase their woes. The government is out to kill the common man,' said BJP leader Harshvardhan.

Delhi's Congress unit is on the defensive. Its chief and MP from northeast Delhi J.P. Agarwal said: 'Delhi's budget was not discussed with me.'

The hike in diesel, CNG and LPG cylinder price came as a shocker for Delhiites.

'I am disappointed as rising food price are pinching the monthly budget and this will add salt to injury. I believe they could have withdrawn the subsidy from cooking fuel only after taming food prices,' said Sanjay Nanda, a young professional.

Delhi government has spent nearly Rs.15,000 crore on various Commonwealth Games related projects.

There has been widespread development - beautification, flyovers, street scaping, foot over bridges, roads, signages, public transport and health facilities - in the city for Commonwealth Games to be held from Oct 3-14.

Kukla's presence to add to excitement

Yolane Kukla's appearance on scene is already created ripples as she managed to slug it out with heavyweights and come on top not in one but two events. In the process, she booked her place for 2010 Commonwealth Games to be held in Delhi.

Standing on the blocks awaiting the start of last night's 50m freestyle final, 14-year-old Yolane Kukla looked like she was representing Lilliput against a field of Gullivers.

On one side of the 165cm pocket-sized teenager was 185cm Marieke Guehrer; on the other was the similarly towering 181cm frame of Cate Campbell.

Asked if this week has been daunting, she replied "It is a little bit because they are quite tall. Especially Cate and Marieke because they are super-tall compared to me, but I think I've got used to it during the meet."

It may be daunting but it didn't show, as she swam 25.08 seconds to win the freestyle final, adding to the 50m butterfly title she won on Wednesday.

Australia's youngest swimming team member since Ian Thorpe in 1997 is starting to get a full book of swims for the Pan Pacs in August and Commonwealth Games in October.

"It feels really good. I never thought I'd even win a national title at my age; now I've got two. I keep on telling Mum every time I wake up in the morning I'm going [to Delhi].", Kukla said.

The key to her win was that start. She was clearly the first off the blocks and is showing no ill effects or tentativeness from false starting and being disqualified from the 100m freestyle final. "I lost quite a bit of confidence when I broke the other night but I practised my starts in warm-up this morning and I got my confidence back."

Second was Alice Mills in 25.13s with Campbell, the Olympic bronze medal winner from Beijing, third in 25.15s. Coincidentally, Kukla's time is identical to the time swum by Libby Lenton in 2003 when she won her first senior national title.

After a frustrating week, Andrew Lauterstein decided it was time to get angry last night, and the transition worked as he won the 100m butterfly final in a smart time of 51.79s. "I don't normally swim with emotion but tonight I tried it and it seemed to work," he said.

"It was a bit of a strange swim. I attacked it with a bit more aggression than normal and maybe I need that sort of mental approach for the rest of my swims. I just didn't want to leave anything behind. I got pretty angry, angry at nothing, just not swimming well at the start of the week and angry at wanting to swim well."

Leisel Jones won her 22nd national title last night when she made a clean sweep of the breaststroke events adding the 100m to the 50m and 200m she won earlier this week. Her time of 1min.05.79s is only 0.7s outside her Commonwealth record set four years ago.

Brenton Rickard will be looking to emulate Jones tonight in the 200m breaststroke, having won the 50m version [27.40s] last night to go with his 100m breaststroke title earlier this week, while backstroker Hayden Stoeckel achieved the treble with his victory last night in the 100m event in a time of 53.61s.

In other finals last night, Belinda Hocking won the 200m backstroke in 2min.07.89s, Bronte Barratt won the 400m freestyle in 4min.05.50s, Emily Seebohm won the 50m backstroke in 27.95s and Leith Brodie took out the 200m individual medley in 1min.59.60s.

CCTV cameras for Delhi metro parking areas

Parking lots next to Delhi metro stations will be brought under Close Circuit Tele Vision (CCTV) surveillance besides "hidden and obscure" areas inside the building, after a recent security audit of the modern transport system outlined certain vulnerable areas.

The audit, conducted by a joint team of central security agencies, has found that parking lots next to big and vital station complexes like Connaught Place, Patel Chowk, Karol Bagh among others should be brought under the watch of the CCTV cameras equipped with TPZ (Tilt, Pan, Zoom) facility.

While the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) a secures the metro stations from inside, the Delhi police guards their premises.

Certain locations inside the stations like areas behind bend of a wall, areas in front of lifts will also be covered by the CCTV cameras, sources said.

They said almost 500-600 CCTV cameras might be needed to secure the areas identified at 82 operational stations, but the actual numbers are still to be worked out.

In case an unauthorised activity is detected by the cameras, the Quick Reaction Teams (QRTs) stationed outside the stations could be informed to meet any exigency. Till now, there is no such system and the Delhi Police patrol is the norm, sources said. The CCTV cameras are monitored by both the CISF and the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) staff at different control rooms.

Certain areas in stations which were beyond an obstruction like a wall or pillar and places declared "inaccessible" by the metro authorities will be brought under CCTV surveillance, they said.

The audit has also asked the CCTV control rooms to enhance their capacity to source in more video data and store them for longer periods.

While installing CCTVs at more locations will not only plug security loopholes, but also help Metro authorities curb thefts in their vicinity. The number of stations are expected to increase to 141 by October, when the Commonwealth Games will begin, they said.

Keeping in view the expansion of metro operations to states like Uttar Pradesh (Noida) and Haryana (Gurgaon), the CISF will also induct almost 16,000 security personnel.

Delhi metro's new Bombardier coaches already have CCTVs installed in them.

CWG: Australia names 48 members for swimming events

AUSTRALIA have named a 48-strong squad for October's Commonwealth Games in Delhi. There will be 25 male participants and 23 female participants in various swimming events. Queensland will have maximum representation in the squad with as many as 25 members from the state.

(Click here to see list of Australian athletes selected for Commonwealth Games)

Australian squad will be led by Triple Olympic Gold medallist Stephanie Rice. The squad is a mix of old and new with as many as 27 new faces.

The list of swimmers is as follows:

Commonwealth Games squad Male (25): Daniel Arnamnart (NSW), Leith Brodie (QLD), Craig Calder (NSW), Ashley Callus (QLD), Nicholas D'Arcy (QLD), Ashley Delaney (VIC), Tommaso D'Orsogna (WA), Nicholas Ffrost (QLD), Thomas Fraser-Holmes (NSW), Jayden Hadler (QLD), Geoff Huegill (NSW), Robert Hurley (NSW), Andrew Lauterstein (NSW), Ryan Napoleon (QLD), Cameron Prosser (VIC), Brenton Rickard (QLD), Christian Sprenger (QLD), Hayden Stoeckel (SA), Eamon Sullivan (NSW), Christopher Wright (QLD), Peter Leek (NSW), Matthew Cowdrey (SA), Ben Austin (NSW), Blake Cochrane (QLD), Andrew Pasterfield (NSW).

Commonwealth Games squal Female (23):
Bronte Barratt (QLD), Alicia Coutts (QLD), Sophie Edington (QLD), Blair Evans (WA), Felicity Galvez (NSW), Katie Goldman (QLD), Marieke Guehrer (VIC), Melissa Gorman (QLD), Samantha Hamill (QLD), Belinda Hocking (NSW), Leisel Jones (VIC), Sarah Katsoulis (VIC), Yolane Kukla (QLD), Samantha Marshall (NSW), Alice Mills (QLD), Meagen Nay (QLD), Kylie Palmer (QLD), Leiston Pickett (QLD), Stephanie Rice (QLD), Jessicah Schipper (QLD), Emily Seebohm (QLD), Ellie Cole (VIC), Annabelle Williams (QLD).

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Bike ambulances for Commonwealth Games

The Delhi Government has come up with a novel solution to deal with problems shifting injured sportmen and patients to hospitals during the Commonwealth Games. It has decided to depute motorbike-borne paramedics across the Games venues, apart from Advanced Life Support ambulances. The bike, said Delhi Health Minister Kiran Walia, will be a convenient mode of transportation in areas where bigger vehicles cannot go.

"Initially, we are ordering for 10 motorbikes, which will be used for ensuring that paramedics reach to injured people faster. This will help administor first aid quicker while life support ambulances are on the way." said Walia. She said that bike will be driven by trained paramedics and all necessary medical-aid will be available in it. There are some venues and areas nearby where ambulances cannot go and two-wheelers will be a convenient option for speedy services, she added.

The Government will also issue short-notice tenders for the purchase of 22 Advanced Life Support ambulances and 10 other ambulances. The move comes following cancellation of the contract between Delhi Government and the Fortis Healthcare and Emergency Services Ltd (FHESL) under which 150 ambulances were to be provided to the health department before the Commonwealth Games. Sources said the prototype shown to the expert committee recently was again not up to mark with problems in its air-conditioning and suspension system. This despite the fact that the private agency was issued a showcause notice last month for delay in supply of ambulances and technical glitches therein, so the cancellation.

"Members of the expert committee were unanimous in their view that the given ambulances could not be used to carry high-risk patients,'' said Walia. She added that legal proceedings have been initiated for the cancellation of the contract. The city government-run Centralised Accidents and Trauma Services (CATS) has not more than 35 ambulances in working condition even as most city hospitals lack in ambulance facility. Accident victims often succumb to injuries due to delay in transportation and on-spot medical aid.Most of the city hospitals including AIIMS Trauma Center do not have more than five ambulances. PCR vans, Maruti vans and other Jeeps having no medical faciltity or trained persons often serve the purpose.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Volunteers launch drive to clean Delhi

As Delhi gears up to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games later this year, hundreds of volunteers have joined hands with the officials of civic bodies to take on the task of cleaning the city.

As part of a campaign called, Let’s Do It Delhi, volunteers swept the streets and collected garbage outside Bhikaji Cama Place in South Delhi, to reflect the message that if they can clean Bhikaji Cama in three hours and keep it clean, why not the whole of Delhi.

The campaign is aimed at educating people about the need to keep the city clean as it prepares to host the mega sports event in October.

Professionals, students and senior citizens pitched in with contributions for the initiative.

“School children, senior citizens and professionals, all have come here and supported the cause to make it successful,” said Monika Bhatia, a volunteer.

They say that public participation is very important to make the campaign successful.

“If the public supports us then we can definitely clean Delhi. Without public’s participation, we cannot clean Delhi,” said Air Commodore S K Meda, a volunteer.

The 19th Commonwealth Games, to be staged in New Delhi between 4 to 14th October, 2010, will be the country’s biggest sporting event since the 1982 Asian Games.

New Delhi is only the second Asian city to host the Commonwealth Games after Kaula Lumpur.

“Edwin wants to put an end to the fear among his team-mates from armed gangs targeting their homes,” the source said.

“Some of the players and especially the WAGs have been living in constant fear. They are petrified that they will become the gang’s next victim,” he added.

Delhi invites other states to participate in Games

As the Delhi government gears up for the upcoming Commonwealth Games, there are plans afoot to take the Games beyond the city. Said Rina Ray, managing director, DTTDC, ‘‘We are in talks with neighboring states to be a part of the Games. We’ve asked them to designate a park or public space in a city and earmark it as a Commonwealth park. On opening day (of the Games), this space would be the ground for cultural events intrinsic to that region.’’

According to Ray, several states have already agreed to come on board though she refused to reveal the names.

That’s not all. Delhi tourism is also planning to hold a mini Commonwealth Games a month before the actual event, which would be targeted at children with disabilities. ‘‘The government will tie-up with NGOs to promote these events, which would be held from September 3-14, and will be for children,’’ added Ray. Bal melas, plays, sporting competitions and other events will mark the celebrations.

On day two of Delhi’s first tourism conclave, the department of tourism unveiled a number of plans for the Commonwealth Games. From heritage walks and street markets to public art, night bazaars and cultural evenings, the department plans to make the city come alive, claimed Ray. ‘‘While the budget is yet to be allocated, we have drawn up our plans. We are looking for sponsors for the events too,’’ added the DTTDC MD.

It’s not just ‘Delhi Celebrates’ the Games-focused tourism plan of the Delhi government that will be launched in the next few days however. Come April, Delhi tourism also plans to launch a branding exercise for the city. "It’s a long term exercise and will promote Delhi as a tourist destination much beyond the Games, which are more of a trigger" added Ray. The campaign, which will have the Indi-pop band Euphoria compose a song as the signature campaign song, will also highlight Delhi’s cultural roots, with the department planning to rope in renowned Sufi singers for the campaign.

"The branding exercise will run simultaneously with Delhi Celebrates." added Ray. The conclave also saw the organizing committee laud the legacy of the Games. V K Verma of the OC claimed that the infrastructure of the city post-Games would help the country win the bid for hosting Olympics Games. DUAC chairperson, K T Ravindran, spoke about tourism’s ability to bridge the distance for the economically backward, making the Games an inclusive exercise.

Said Ravindran, "The Games can be a revenue as well as job-generating experience for Delhi if the right steps are taken."

Friday, 19 March 2010

CWG: Come out and paint

Come out and play

Come Sunday and Delhi will see well-known artists like Satish Gujral paint a 200-foot canvas on the theme of Commonwealth Games at the India Gate lawns to mark the 200 days that are left for the Commonwealth Games in October.

Suresh Kalmadi, chairman of the organising committee of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Tuesday said: 'As we get closer to the Games, the sense of anticipation and excitement is growing. We are also more and more confident that we will deliver the best Commonwealth Games ever.'

'I take this opportunity to renew our commitment to producing successful Games,' he said.

The festivities Sunday will include art and culture events that will make for a fun-filled day for the capital's residents. Along with artists, eminent sports personalities will also be painting the canvas in an effort to attract people's attention and get them more involved.

A special kite flying festival will also organised on the day.

Team Australia struggling to get sponsors

Australia's Commonwealth Games team is struggling to attract sponsorship, with corporate Australia baulking at supporting a Delhi Games that many dread might not occur.

The fear of a terrorist attack, either in the lead-up to the Games or during the 11 days of it, has dogged preparations for the largest sporting event ever in India.

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Australian Commonwealth Games Association chief Perry Crosswhite said only 35 per cent of the $7 million needed to send a large, competitive team to Delhi had been secured from corporate backers. With six months remaining until the Games begin, team officials should already have raised double that amount, and have never had problems doing so with previous Games.

Constant speculation about the event's future and the teething problems experienced by Indian organisers have hurt the push for sponsorship.

"I'm really disappointed at the level of support from corporate Australia." Crosswhite said. "We've always had good support in the past but they have obviously been influenced by what they have heard or read and are worried the Games are not going to go ahead or that they will be a disaster. They will go ahead."

Major backers from previous years who have not signed up for Delhi include Telstra, Commonwealth Bank and Holden. If sufficient funds cannot be raised, the ACGA will be forced to dip into its foundation - a future fund established to invest the profits from the 2006 Melbourne Games.
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