Kalmadi gets the symbolic boot
Though the OC chief is yet to get the official sack, sources say it may just be a ploy to shift focus from him
The Prime Minister stepped in to clean the mess on thursday and asked Urban Development Minister S Jaipal Reddy to take over.
A high-level meeting headed by Dr Manmohan Singh completely ignored Kalmadi and even the Commonwealth Games Federation chief Mike Fennell, who is in Delhi these days.
Asked what took the Centre so long to act, a senior Congress leader, requesting anonymity, told MiD DAY: "This really has been the character of the government to evade direct action and keep an issue hanging.Take Kashmir. The Valley is in fire, but the party has neither sacked Omar Abdullah, nor stood behind Rahul Gandhi when he did. Kalmadi was also given a long rope by the party, until the whole world poured condemnation over the Commonwealth Games.and even now, nothing really changes."
Significantly, the mood in the government was apparent in the way Fennell was refused an appointment with the Prime Minister which the former was seeking even before he reached Delhi thursday evening.
However, highly-placed sources in the government and the Organising Committee told MiD DAY that the move to sideline Kalmadi might actually be a ploy to shield him from any further media scrutiny.
Apart from the Prime Minister and reddy, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrashekhar, National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and Delhi LG Tejender Khanna attended the meeting at Prime Minister's residence in 7, Race Course Road.
"Suresh Kalmadi would no more be the face of the Games. This is exactly what the government intended to do. Since Kalmadi has become the very face of the failure in organising the Games, the government in a swift move has taken the attention off him," said a senior official in the Sports Ministry.
During the 90-minute meeting, Singh enquired about various aspects of the preparations. "The Prime Minister was briefed about the state of preparedness of the Commonwealth Games. He was informed that every effort is being made to prepare the games facilities and the village to the expected standards," Khanna later told reporters.
Apart from accusations of inefficiency, the Organising Committee and the government have also been left embarrassed by the collapse of a foot over-bridge near the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium, which is the main venue for the mega-event. The meeting came two days after international delegates lambasted the Games Village as "filthy and uninhabitable" and top teams such as Canada, Scotland and New Zealand delayed their departure to the Indian capital.
Fennell will visit the Games Village tomorrow to see the readiness of the place that will house the international sportspersons. Singh, however, will not meet him as had been speculated. Instead, the Prime Minister asked the Cabinet Secretary to meet Fennell.
While the Prime Minister was deciding about his fate, the OC Chief was returning from the Delhi International Airport where he had gone to welcome Fennel, who arrived at Delhi airport at around 5 pm.
"They came in the same car and after dropping him, Kalmadi came to the OC office. While the PMO was deciding about his fate he was in his office at OC headquarters," sources close to Kalmadi told MiD DAY.
"Whosoever takes over at this point will receive the flak. The mess created in the years can not be cleared in few days time," said a senior Congress leader, requesting anonymity.
When asked what Thursday's developments mean, he said, "Ouster, yes it is. But it is symbolic. By sacking Kalmadi at this point, the government would not be able to save the Games.The damage has been done."
A lawyer on Thursday approached the Supreme Court pleading it to defer the Commonwealth Games to save the country from a "national shame" and allow the government machinery to devote time for providing relief to flood victims. The application, filed by advocate Ajay K Agrawal, sought a direction to the Centre to defer the Games for at least one month with an aim to save the country "from national shame".
A Day after of his heated exchange with OC Chief Suresh Kalmadi at a OC executive meeting, Commonwealth Games Federation CEO Mike Hooper took sports minister MS Gill head on.
"We have heard Minister of Sports talk about Monsoon Wedding in the context of the Games. That's unacceptable. The reality is that we gave them the Games seven years ago. A lot of work is yet to be done," he said. Hooper refused to take any blame for the mess in which the Delhi Commonwealth Games finds itself, saying India alone is responsible for all the problems surrounding the mega event.
"Ultimately to get the wok done and is the responsibility of the stakeholders here in India. There is a reason why the Games are awarded seven years in advance and that's because there is a huge amount of work to do," Hooper stated. "Certainly our job is to work with (OC). Implementation and delivery is the responsibility of the Organising Committee, the Government of India and Delhi government etc.," he said.
India bribed 72 Commonwealth countries USD 100,000 each to get the hosting rights for the scandal-hit 19th edition of the Games which will start in Delhi from October 3-14, a media report has claimed. A report in the Daily Telegraph claimed that Delhi pipped Hamilton in the bid after offering huge sums of money to the 72 Commonwealth countries during the final presentation in Jamaica. The report also said that Australia received a kickback of USD 125,000 from India. "Delhi sealed the right to host the Games when their delegates emerged at the final presentation in Jamaica and offered all 72 nations USD 100,000 (then about USD 140,000) each for athlete training schemes if they were the successful bidders," the newspaper reported. "The money, subsequently paid to all nations, was not significant to Australia because it had already decided to vote for India and the payment was not an exceptionally large one. "But for small nations who have minimal interest in the Games, it clinched their vote and India went on to beat Canadian city Hamilton 46-22 in the final poll. Hamilton had offered the nations about USD 70,000 each," it said.
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