I take the blame, says Kalmadi

Commonwealth Games: Delay in handing over the venues caused problems, says Organising Committee chairman

I take the blame, says Kalmadi

Sound of Africa: A South African official blows a vuvuzela on a visit to the Commonwealth Games Village in New Delhi on Saturday. PTI

The Organising Committee therefore needed positive publicity to convince foreign contingents that necessary steps had taken to address all concerns, mainly surrounding residential blocks in the Village. Delegates from a number of participating nations had termed the residential towers as filthy and unliveable, generating pull-out threat from nations and athletes, and widespread criticism of the OC for shaming the nation in front of the world.

Since then, cleaning work has been on in the residential blocks on a war-footing. Given that scenario, it came as no surprise when Suresh Kalmadi and Co decided to take the media on a guided tour of the Village, including a visit to the residential areas. And it was not the defiant Kalmadi who spoke to media on a sweltering Saturday afternoon as the OC chairman put on a much softer mask of a confessor.

“I always thought of you (media) as a stakeholder in the CWG,” Kalmadi said. “The construction of buildings is not my job or that of the OC. But as the chairman of the committee, I take all the blame. But contrary to the popular belief that OC had the power to spend Rs 30-40,000 crores, we only had Rs 1,600 crore allotted. The rest was taken care by the government and Indian Olympic Association.

“There were some delays in handing over the venues to us, basically because of infighting among the builders. Still, we are taking all the responsibility. I don't think the OC is responsible for it. The last 18 towers were handed over to us just three days back and we have been working on these Games for the last few years. I wish all the venues had been handed over to us earlier so that we could have done a better job,” he added.

Not hunky dory
A question on complaints by many countries about the residential blocks temporarily triggered Kalmadi’s temper. “Everything was not hunky dory in previous Games. In Manchester (2002 edition of the CWG), we stayed in a University hostel. We never complained then. You have seen the venues here and they are world-class. They are as good as the venues in Melbourne,” Kalmadi said.

The seasoned politician continued his tirade, saying countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada could not prevent India from winning the bid for the 19th edition of the CWG, paving the way for a lot of distaste.

“This is the first time that India is getting the Commonwealth Games. All these years, the Games were staged in countries like Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Canada. But this time, we went ahead and won the bid for the 19th edition of the CWG. So, nothing surprises me,” he said.

Lalit Bhanot, who accompanied Kalmadi on the trip, said his comments on hygiene which caused a huge uproar were misinterpreted.

A few days back, the OC secretary general had said, “The rooms are clean for you and me. But they are not clean for the Westerners.”

Bhanot justified his comments, saying what he had meant was about the cleaning process. “I did not mean to say that there were any differences in Indian and European sanitation standards. What I meant was that the machinery used in cleaning was different in India and abroad. But my comments were misinterpreted and it created a lot of controversy,” he said.

Strange explanation, but bizarre has been the key word in the run-up to the Games.

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