NEW DELHI: India’s troubled preparations for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi suffered a major setback yesterday as local organisers clashed angrily with their international bosses.
The Indian organising committee demanded that Mike Hooper, chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation, be sacked in an escalating row over whether the city will be ready when the Games open in less than a year’s time.
“Hooper has not been beneficial for the organising committee. He is of no use to us,” Suresh Kalmadi, head of the Delhi 2010 committee, told reporters. “We want the Commonwealth Games Federation to replace him.”
Kalmadi also slammed the federation’s insistence that an independent review panel oversee New Delhi’s struggle to speed up work at delayed venues and facilities ahead of the opening ceremony on Oct 3.
“I am willing to take any expert suggested by the CGF on our coordination committee, but we feel there is no need to impose an additional panel on us,” Kalmadi said.
Senior Indian Olympic Association member Vijay Kumar Malhotra told AFP that outside interference in the Games’ planning had infuriated Indian officials.
“India is a sovereign country capable of doing its own work,” he said. “It is wrong to believe that only foreigners are capable.”
Hooper, from New Zealand, has been the senior link between the host city and the London-based Commonwealth Games Federation, and has lived in Delhi for the last two years.
He immediately lashed out at Kalmadi for “launching a personal attack” against him, and said that the Indian’s reaction to necessary criticism was “defensive and very disappointing“.
On Monday the federation’s president, Michael Fennell, had warned Delhi that it faced “an enormous challenge” to be ready for the Games, which involve 6,000 top-class international athletes competing in 17 sports.
“Time is your enemy, but together we can defeat it,” Fennell told Kalmadi at a press conference after delegates from competing countries ended a week-long inspection of the Indian capital.
Fennell highlighted problem areas ranging from ticketing, accommodation and transport to accreditation and logistics, and said the CGF would set up a special independent review panel to supervise Delhi’s progress.
“The organising committee knows of its own deficiencies and Mr Kalmadi is committed to achieving a great Games for India,” Fennell said.
Fennell, Hooper and Kalmadi sat side by side at Monday’s press conference. But Kalmadi yesterday criticised the planned review panel and described Hooper as an “impediment” to a successful Games, adding: “I have written to the CGF to send him back to London.”
Kalmadi said that the organising committee only needed foreign advice on sports with which Indians were unfamiliar, such as lawn bowls.
The Commonwealth Games, the biggest multi-sport event to be staged in India since the Asian Games in 1982, will feature 71 nations and territories, mainly from the former British empire.
India, which has enjoyed a decade of rapid economic growth, is keen to present a modern image of the country and Delhi is currently undergoing major infrastructure work, including new metro lines and a train link to the airport. — AFP