Saturday, April 20, 2024

Games chief hanging tough


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NEW DELHI  – Suresh Kalmadi brought the Commonwealth Games to the world’s largest democracy and ran the organising committee, so he has been the chief recipient of scorn from a public upset about India’s tarnished image.
“I am ready to face a judicial inquiry. Hang me if I am found guilty,” he said in an interview replayed repeatedly yesterday with Indian news channel CNN-IBN. “But when the games are over, I should get the credit also.”
Kalmadi spent more than a year assuring backers and critics that India could produce a spectacle to rival the 2008 Beijing Olympics, despite the problem-plagued preparations that have included corruption allegations and concerns over the quality of construction amid the scramble to finish before the October 3 to 14 event.
Until last month, he retained almost complete control of the organising committee.
His authority was further eroded when Kalmadi was ignored for an urgent meeting called by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week to take stock of the deteriorating situation in the weeks leading up to the games.
“What can I do if I am not invited for the meeting?” Kalmadi asked.
He did not return phone calls from The Associated Press yesterday, but was upbeat in his interview on the domestic broadcasting rights holder. In the interview, he blamed recent international criticism on a “conspiracy”.
“Some countries did not want India to get the games,” he said, adding that high-ranking Indian politicians had worked against the games.
He appeared to be referring to former Sports Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, who has been a major critic of India’s decision to bid for the games and publicly hoped for the event to implode in failure.
Kalmadi blamed Aiyar for delaying work during his two-year tenure as sports minister.
Work on venues, roads and projects meant to beautify the city started years late and repeatedly missed deadlines set out on the host city contract by the Commonwealth Games Federation.
The government started to reduce Kalmadi’s power last month by appointing a group of ministers to the organising committee after an audit body identified concerns over tender procedures and inflated costs.
Though Kalmadi continued to say he has the backing of the ruling Congress party, which he represents in Parliament, he made a rare departure last week by clarifying that his job was only to deliver the games.
“The construction of venues was not done by me,” he said. “I only wish they handed [them] over to us much earlier and we could have finished the overlaying works in time.”  (AP)


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