The hostel that wasn't - another sordid tale of Delhi CWG
New Delhi | Saturday, Aug 28 2010 IST
There seems to be no end to the skeletons that are tumblings out of the Delhi Commonwealth Games organisers' cupboard.
While making the bid,organisers had promised that the 'Post Games' Village (residential place for the sportspersons) will be utilised as provide hostel facility for the Delhi University.
Believing the written promise made by the organisers, Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) expressed satisfaction and noted,''The Games Village will provide an excellent hostel facility for the Delhi University and will remain available for residential use during hosting of future international events.'' This and several other unkept promises made by the Organising Committee and many things not factored in before Delhi made the bid have been highlighted by sports writers Boria Majumdar and Nalin Mehta in their book 'The Sellotape Legacy: Delhi and the Commonwealth Games'. According to the book, in 2003, Delhi was in serious danger of losing its Games bid to Hamilton (Canada). In a two-horse race, both cities submitted detailed plans to the CGF in May 2003. When they were opened, Delhi found itself on the back foot on one of the most important questions that determine sporting mega-events: legacies and long-term impact on the city. Hamilton had put the local McMaster University at the centre of its Games concept. It put academic partnerships as the second-most important objective of the Games and the university was slated to benefit from the entirely new infrastructure that was to be built. The Games Village and three of the other five new sporting venues that Hamilton proposed were to be built on the 300-acre campus of McMaster University. The idea was to create a permanent legacy of world-class and accessible sporting infrastructure for students in this small city of 500,000. In contrast, Delhi's original bid proposed to build a Games Village and to sell it as luxury apartments after the Games concluded. Compared to Hamilton's focus on its university, Delhi seemed to be on shaky ground.
Even more seriously, India's sporting czars said they would finance almost 40 per cent of the then estimated cost of the Games from the sale of these flats. This looked decidedly risky.
The flats could only be sold after the Games. If they were also supposed to pay for the Games, how would the Games be held in the first place? And what if the flats failed to yield the expected revenue? The CGF's technical experts rightly saw this as a major financial risk for Delhi.
Delhi needed to win the bid. So, when the CGF's experts raised these questions, Delhi's organisers agreed to a major change. The plan to sell the flats to finance part of the Games was 'subsequently amended' to ensure that the budget would not be reliant on the sale of the accommodation.17 By October 2003, Delhi submitted a revised budget wherein the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) took over the risk and responsibility of the Village and the CGF Evaluation Commission reported that the 'sale of residential apartments is not (any more) a risk to the Games budget'. Basically, government agencies agreed to pay for the money that the flats' sale would have provided. One of the most disturbing but little-known stories of these Games is that at the same time, Delhi's organisers also promised that its Games Village would be turned into hostel accommodation for Delhi University after the Games. CGF documents are unambiguous on this count.
Leading up to the crucial vote of Commonwealth countries in November 2003, when Delhi finally won the Games, it gave an undertaking that 'post-Games, the Village will provide hostel facility for the Delhi University'.
This was done, it seems, to make Delhi look as committed to education as Hamilton did with McMaster University. India's sports managers championed this idea and the notion of the Village as a university hostel was prominently displayed in Delhi's revised bid documents.
As the CGF noted, 'The Games Village will provide an excellent hostel facility for the Delhi University and will remain available for residential use during hosting of future international events.' This plan was published in cold print but was never heard of once Delhi won the bid. Delhi's Games masters had always intended on selling the real estate and the much-needed DU hostel plan was given a quiet burial. Few people knew of the commitment to the Delhi University and there was virtually no public protest when it was cancelled...
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