Fresh row rocks Delhi Games

July 31, 2010 12:00 am

, NEW DELHI, Jul 31 – The New Delhi  Commonwealth Games was rocked by fresh scandal with reports Saturday alleging that building quality certificates had been faked as costs for the 12-day event ballooned.

With barely two months to go before the Commonwealth Games start in October, the sporting extravaganza has been caught up in a flood of allegations of rampant corruption.

"Fake certificates were routinely issued to pass substandard work and material," an unnamed official of the Central Vigilance Commission, a government watchdog body, was quoted as saying by the Times of India.

Other certificates were "suspect," the official said.

"We have not yet been able to gauge the financial implication but it is certain to have led to very big gains for vendors and contractors," he said.

Troubles for the games\’ organisers mounted on Saturday as India\’s cash-rich cricket board rejected their appeal for a grant of one billion rupees (22 million dollars) to offset cost over-runs, board said.

"The committee expressed its inability to agree to the request of the Commonwealth Games to be the lead partner by donating one billion rupees," the board said in a release.

The event involving 71 nations is already the costliest Commonwealth Games in history, with an infrastructure and organising budget of two billion dollars, although unofficial estimates say the cost will be at least triple.

Sports Minister M.S. Gill told parliament on Friday that the cost of organising the event — dubbed the "Shame Games" by leading news magazine India Today — had risen 17.5 times since the bid was made in 2003.

Indian media on Saturday also reported a separate probe by Indian revenue authorities into allegations of irregular payouts by games organisers to a Britain-based firm.

The Hindustan Times and other local media said the investigations were launched following a request from British authorities.

"Already fighting off countless controversies, the Delhi Commonwealth Games looks headed towards more embarrassment," the mass-circulation Times of India said.

The opposition is demanding a judicial probe into allegations of corruption in construction of the games and has raised fears poor building standards could affect the safety of athletes.

The Commonwealth Games Organizing Committee\’s chairman, Suresh Kalmadi, at a crowded news conference late Saturday, denied there had been any wrongdoing in issuing building quality certificates.

"I have been deeply pained at the baseless allegations of corruption. It is bad for the morale of the whole country," he said, adding that allegations of shoddy construction had nothing to do with his committee.

"We are not looking at tenders. My job is to organise the games," he said. "There is total transparency in the organising committee."

Opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party leader Vijay Goel said that "forging and fudging of various quality and safety checks has widely thrown open the possibility of mishaps, blackouts and accidents."

The corruption charges come with Delhi looking like a giant construction site, with mounds of debris surrounding dug-up roads and walkways across the city as work goes on round-the-clock to get the capital ready for the games.

Monsoon rains drenching the city are making it even harder for work crews while the ground surrounding the complex being built to house athletes is still a sea of mud.

The games were seen as a chance to spotlight India\’s emerging economic superpower status after the success of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

But there is widespread scepticism whether the infrastructure will be ready in time, with critics deriding the preparations as "shambolic."


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