Saturday, 2 October 2010

Delhi set for Commonwealth Games

Spruced up, the Indian capital is all set to host the 19th Commonwealth Games with a spectacular opening ceremony Sunday featuring a display of music and dance involving thousands of young and experienced artists.

With an army of police and paramilitary personnel fanning out in the city, the 6,700 athletes and officials from 71 countries and territories eagerly awaited the inaugural by Prince Charles and Indian President Pratibha Patil at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in the heart of the city.

In a resounding thumbs up, the Commonwealth Games Federation General Assembly Saturday commended the Delhi Games Organising Committee for getting things ready for hosting the Oct 3-14 event.

Although some high-priced tickets for the opening ceremony remain unsold, most Delhiites are delighted seeing a cleaner, greener and more colourful city, notwithstanding the last minute scrambles and earlier flak over sloppy and sluggish preparations.

Indian officials say there is nothing to worry on the security front. And most visitors appear to agree.

With Home Minister P. Chidambaram at the helm of affairs, some 100,000 security personnel will be guarding the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and other Games venues, backed by the military and high-tech gadgetry.

Not wanting to leave anything to chance, Chidambaram visited the Village Saturday for a final inspection.

Delhi itself is excited.

The capital witnessed a virtual shutdown Saturday owing to Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary - when markets and businesses normally shut. But with the Games opening, it will be a virtual forced holiday Sunday even for popular markets and street vendors.

The Queen's Baton Relay is on its final stretch in the national capital, led by white horses, vintage and classic cars, 'nagada' players and Nihang warriors. It will reach the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium Sunday.

India is fielding the largest contingent of 619 athletes - 379 men and 240 women - and will be competing in all 17 disciplines at the Games.

This is the first time the Games are being opened by two dignitaries as part of a compromise pact between the hosts and the Commonwealth Games Federation.

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, who arrived in the capital Saturday, visited President Patil at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in the evening.

Around 7,000 men, women and children will take part in the two-hour-long opening ceremony, which is divided into six segments: Rhythms of India, Swagatam, Tree of Knowledge, Yoga, Great Indian Journey and Oscar winner composer A.R. Rahman's rendition of the CWG anthem 'Jiyo Utho Badho Jeeto'.

Speaking about the security arrangements, Police Commissioner Y.S. Dadwal said: 'We also have the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team which is armed with sophisticated weapons and ready to handle any situation.'

'Around 3,000 CCTV cameras have also been installed in and around the Games venues,' he added.

Thanks to the Games, be it an expanded Metro, stadia, flyovers, buses, bus shelters, or streetscaping on arterial roads, there is much by way of infrastructure that has been added to the capital.

And, it has also finally dawned on Delhiites that all this and more that has come about because of the Games will add to their convenience long after the mega event is over.

K.D. Kaushal, a retired government official, has been doing the rounds of the city for the last few days, taking stock of the changes. 'I have never seen Delhi as beautiful as this in my life,' the 65-year-old told IANS.

'The sporting event has brought in a lot of new opportunities for the city. The change on the ground is already quite perceptible,' said Ankit Varshney, a software analyst.

Accolades for the facilities at the Games Village and the venues continued to pour in from athletes and officials.

Welsh chef de mission Chris Jenkins said Saturday: 'I am really quite impressed with the transition. I had come here two weeks ago and things were really quite chaotic. But the athletes who came here three days ago are absolutely delighted with the residential wings and also the training facilities. The food is also quite good.'

'The venues are outstanding and we are really looking forward to competing there,' he added.


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