Commonwealth Games preparations running behind schedule: Many venues incomplete

      With just over weeks left for the commencement of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the world's third largest sporting event, it has become a major challenge for authorities. The Games, held once every four years, feature athletes from the 54-member Commonwealth of Nations. Many people have compared 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games to the Beijing 2008 Olympics, which were hailed as a major success. However, while China set out to wow the world with iconic structures such as the Bird's Nest stadium, in New Delhi the preparations seem far from being near to that stage. Many Commonwealth Games venues in New Delhi have yet to be completed. The national capital New Delhi is also undergoing a makeover, with its decades old buildings being renovated for a better appeal. At various places the sidewalks have been uprooted to decorate them with attractive marbles. The city's main downtown business district of Connaught Place has been ripped apart for a new look, but the work is likely to overshoot the games deadline. Like the organizers, local residents are hoping and praying that India will be a successful host nation for the games due to start on October 3. Shoddy construction is one of the challenges, as rainwater leakage through the false ceiling created puddles of water on the floor. Analysts says one of the main problem is the government practice of awarding contracts to the lowest bidders, regardless of their size. Such construction firms are often smaller, more aggressive, but less experienced which also lack the manpower needed to implement such projects. Contractors also sometimes take short-cuts when they're running over budget or running out of time. This often translates into sub-standard structures, and this is a problem that would remain even if the difficulties of getting land and necessary bureaucratic clearances are solved. An infrastructure expert and the Dean of studies at Delhi's School of Planning and Architecture Kavas Kapadia said cost cutting and dilution of specifications lead to sub-standard structures. "There are failures at every level. Funds get misplaced or they get dipped into. The execution agencies don't work, the specifications get narrowed down, the work does not get done according to specifications and there are so many other reasons," said Kapadia. Allegations of corruption have also mired the games preparations forcing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week to order investigations. The cost of the event has risen over 17.5 times from its first budget estimated and the Central Vigilance Commission, the government's anti-corruption watchdog, has identified 16 projects where financial irregularities are suspected. India expects to spend $1 trillion, a sum roughly the size of its GDP, between 2012 and 2017 to boost its infrastructure. Some of this spending has been fast-tracked due to the Games: in addition to venues, a new airport terminal has been recently inaugurated and new subways and roads are being built specifically for the athletes and the hundreds of thousands of visitors.

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