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Delhi in the doldrums

Mihir Bose | 10:30 UK time, Wednesday, 3 October 2007

The chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), the feisty New Zealander Mike Hooper, flies to Delhi today to spend two thirds of every month in the Indian capital.

According to the official publicity machine, he is relocating to Delhi to assist the Indians as they prepare for the 2010 Games.

Privately, however, his move reflects the deep anxiety felt by the CGF about the lack of progress Delhi has made since winning the right to stage the Games - the first Indian city to do so.

Back in May, the 2010 Games co-ordination commission visited Delhi, prompting Austin Sealy, the Barbadian who chairs it, to speak out about the "slippages which must be addressed immediately."

His main concern was the operational side of the Games - the men, women and systems through which the Indians plan to run things.

Indian actress Aishwarya Rai dances at the closing ceremony for the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne

Sealy, who is also on the London 2012 co-ordination commission, was so worried by the lack of progress that he said "the deployment of appropriately skilled and experienced managers... must now be remedied as the organising committee's highest priority."

He was also concerned the Indians were not doing enough to ensure their teams and athletes would be competitive in 2010.

The host nation always needs to do well for the Games to be considered a success, but Sealy felt there was need for "a substantial increase in resources and support for training and preparing athletes" to help achieve that goal.

Since that visit in May, the picture has become bleaker and time is even less of a friend for Delhi 2010.

Sealy was due to return to Delhi in November for another visit of the co-ordination commission.

The idea was that the visit would take place before the CGF's General Assembly meets in Colombo to choose either Glasgow or the Nigerian city of Abuja as the venue for the 2014 Games.

But the Indians told the CGF that they could not find time to see them as there were other events, like the World Military Games, that would keep them busy.

The co-ordination commission's visit has now been postponed to January, but the development only highlights another of Delhi's major problems.

It appears the people involved in organising the 2010 Games are also involved in various other activities.

Contrast this with London, where the large majority of those preparing for the Olympics have no other work but their 2012 commitments.

Internal political problems have also bedevilled Delhi's preparations.

Sports minister Mani Shankar Aiyar

The sports minister, the former Petroleum minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, has made no secret of his unhappiness that the Indians are spending 220 million rupees on the Games when not enough money is being spent on developing sports at grass-roots level.

There is also consternation that cricket, which is like a religion in India, will not form part of the 2010 Games when, just a few weeks later, it will be part of the schedule for the Asian Games in China.

The reason for cricket's omission from the Commonwealth Games seems to stem from the political hostility between Suresh Kalmadi, head of the Indian Olympic Association and also in charge of the 2010 Games, and Sharad Pawar, the head of Indian cricket.

Both are national politicians and relations between them have not been good.

The CGF are clearly hoping that Hooper's presence in Delhi - he will work from a house in the city's suburbs - will allow them to keep a close watch on things and ensure Indian political and organisational problems do not continue to hamper preparations.

As for the venue for the 2014 Games, Delhi's problems appear to have improved Glasgow's chances.

Many members of the CGF will view the Scots as a very welcome safe pair of hands after the rollercoaster ride of Delhi.

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