Wednesday, March 9, 2011

CWG scam: Kalmadi hand in dubious deals found

NEW DELHI: Forensic evidence linking Suresh Kalmadi, sacked chief of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, to contracts being investigated for alleged corruption, delivery deficits and manipulation of tender terms has come to light.

Details of Kalmadi's links to dubious decisions taken during his tenure as chief organiser are with the V K Shunglu committee probing an array of Games-related irregularities. The evidence was turned up by private experts engaged by the committee who examined computer and email records at the OC office.

Sources said the experts did not find it easy to scour through the electronic records, many of which were obliterated and others fudged or tampered with. But despite being able to look at the record weeks after the Games concluded, they have hit on Kalmadi's footprint.

The evidence gathered is believed to be substantial, although not many details are available. The linkages are believed to be strong enough to bolster the case against the former OC boss and his associates, some of who are already in jail.

The electronic record will be useful as conclusive evidence is not easy to come. The OC's filing and record keeping systems are poor and vulnerable to tampering. Several papers are missing and sources said the file work does not have the careful cross referencing that makes it difficult to take out a noting from a government file.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

CWG projects under probe are worth Rs 28,000 crore: Panel

New Delhi, Feb 1 (PTI) Commonwealth Games works under investigation are worth Rs 28,000 crore and time is required to probe them, the high-level Shunglu committee today said.

"The total project costs worth Rs 28,000 crore. How do you expect me to complete the probe within three months," V K Shunglu told PTI.

However, he declined to share details of the interim report submitted to the PMO yesterday on alleged irregularities in awarding broadcasting rights during Games.

The term of the panel has been extended till March 31 to submit its full report.

The Committee was set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on October 25 last year and asked to submit its findings on financial and managerial lapses within three months.

The committee has collected CWG projects related documents from different central and state government departments.

Former Secretary of Department of Personnel and Training, Shantanu Consul, is also a member of the panel.

Several projects undertaken by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Public Works Department (PWD), Central Public Works Department (CPWD), RITES, Sports Ministry, Urban Development Ministry and Games Organising Committee are under the scanner of enforcement, investigating and vigilance agencies for alleged bunglings.

Besides, the CBI has registered four FIRs naming some of the close aides of OC chairman Suresh Kalmadi for alleged criminal conspiracy and financial irregularities in executing the contracts.

The CBI has also questioned Kalmadi and OC Secretary general Lalit Bhanot among others in connection with the cases.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

CBI raids more Kalmadi aides, registers fourth FIR in CWG scam

NEW DELHI: A day after questioning Suresh Kalmadi, the CBI on Thursday lodged a fourth FIR in the CWG scam. The FIR has been registered in connection with irregularities in overlay contracts for the Games.

Meanwhile, the CBI is conducting more raids in connection with the CWG scam. According to reports, raids are underway at ten places on companies related to the overlay contracts.

The fresh FIR and the raids come a day after CBI sleuths grilled Suresh Kalmadi for nearly nine hours.

Kalmadi, who is the chairman of the CWG organising committee has all along denied any wrongdoing. But the CBI interrogators were not satisfied with his answers on Wednesday and have hinted that he will be called again for furher clarifications.

The CBI has earlier lodged three cases in connection with the CWG scam. While two cases have been registered in connection with alleged irregularities in the Queen's baton relay, the third FIR is in connection with the awarding of contract for time and scoring.

Read more: CBI raids more Kalmadi aides, registers fourth FIR in CWG scam - The Times of India

CBI questions Kalmadi in connection with CWG scam


New Delhi, Jan 5 (PTI) Commonwealth Organising Committee chief Suresh Kalamdi was today questioned by the CBI in connection with alleged financial irregularities in the conduct of the sports event.

Kalmadi reached the CBI office at about 10 AM. His questioning began about half an hour later, official sources said.

The questioning is about alleged irregularities in the Queen Baton's Relay held in London last year besides certain contracts awarded to various firms totalling several hundred crores, the sources said.

The agency had raided his Pune and Delhi premises on December 24 during which several documents including digital were seized, they said.

The sleuths have grilled Kalmadi's three key aides in connection with the scam. The sources said Manoj Bhori, political advisor to OC head and P K Srivastava and A K Sinha, both assistants to Kalmadi, were also called for interrogation.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

WG probe: I-T conducts nationwide raids at over 50 locations

NEW DELHI: Over 300 personnel of Income Tax Department today swooped down on over 50 premises of companies across the country to probe alleged financial irregularities in Commonwealth Games contracts.

Official sources said the simultaneous raids in various cities, which began early morning, are centred on four main contractors roped in by the CWG Organising Committee for landscaping and beautification works of the venues among others.

The sources said over 50 premises spread across Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Jamshedpur, Kolkata and National Capital Region (NCR) were the focus of the raiding teams and a large number of documents including those pertaining to contracts and sub-contracts awarded in connection with the Games have been seized.

They said the contractors, who are under the scanner of the I-T Department, were involved in landscaping, beautification of venues, changing of street lamps, laying field tracks and also in the business of sports equipment and gear.

The sources said the tax return details of previous years filed by these firms were also being examined by the department.

The action comes at a time when various other government agencies including the Enforcement Directorate, CBI, Central Vigilance Commission and also the Prime Minister- appointed Special Committee are looking into various aspects of the alleged financial irregularities.

The sources said the I-T probe will specifically look into the contracts awarded by the Games Organising Committee (OC) and the role of its officials and contractors besides charges of bribing.

The I-T department officials have seized documents to detect possible evasion of taxes through over-invoicing and fudging of accounts.

The department had on October 19 carried out similar searches on four major consortia, including those related to BJP member Sudhanshu Mittal, which had bagged contracts worth Rs 700 crore. Mittal is considered to be a close associate of former BJP President Rajnath Singh and late party leader Pramod Mahajan.

Read more: CWG probe: I-T conducts nationwide raids at over 50 locations - The Times of India

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Oz mission pays damage for Village vandalism

NEW DELHI: The Australian mission at Commonwealth Games has paid Rs 10,000 as damages for the vandalism of some members of its squad who threw down a washing machine from the seventh floor of a Games Village apartment.

The alcohol-fuelled vandalism, first reported by TOI, could have taken a fatal turn if the machine had struck someone and led to condemnation of the behaviour of Aussie athletes concerned though no formal complaint was lodged. The amount paid covers the cost of the washing machine. No fine was imposed.

Australian squad were involved in at least two other incidents of overly boisterous behaviour in the dining area and on one occasion were led away by their managers.

The incidents were brushed aside as CWG organisers decided not to lodge a complaint while Aussie officials denied the incident (of the washing machine being thrown) had anything to do with the Test side losing to India in cricket.

Read more: Oz mission pays damage for Village vandalism - The Times of India

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Haryana to honour all CWG participants


Chandigarh, Oct 21 (PTI) Haryana Government today decided to boost the morale of the state atheltes who didn't finish in the medal bracket of the Commonwealth Games by announcing a cash prize of Rs two lakhs for all the participants.

Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said that the participants who failed to get any medal will be given Rs two lakh each, a official release said.

The state has already announced cash awards of Rs 15 lakh, Rs 10 lakh and Rs five lakh to each winner of Gold, Silver and bronze medals respectively.

As many as 54 sportspersons of Haryana had taken part in the Commonwealth Games and the players of the State bagged 32 medals including 17 Gold medals, seven Silver medals and eight Bronze medals.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

CBI verifying 20 complaints of CWG corruption

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has stepped in the Commonwealth Games graft probe, and is verifying 20 complaints of corruption.

They have taken over files regarding the Indian leg of the Queen's Baton Relay.

The CBI is also working in close coordination with Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

Read more at:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

30 CWG medalists from Haryana to get Maruti cars


Chandigarh, Oct 16 (PTI) Thirty medalists of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) from Haryana and two others - Saina Nehwal and Sushil Kumar - having connection with the state would get Maruti cars.

The 15 gold medalist from Haryana and Saina Nehwal and Sushil Kumar would also be given Maruti SX4 luxury cars of Maruti located in Gurgaon, an official spokesman said here today.

Seven silver medalist players would be given Maruti Dzire and eight bronze medalists from the State of Haryana would be given Wagon R cars.

The keys of the cars would be handed over to the players by Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda at a state level function being organized on Haryana Day, November 1 at Sonepat.

Keeping in view Maruti Udyog's long association with Haryana, the Chief Minister took up the matter with MUL Management which agreed to his proposal.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sushil Kumar ruled out of Asian Games

NEW DELHI: Indian wrestling's team management is not willing to take any chances and has decided to rest world champion Sushil Kumar for the Asian Games to give him time to recover from his shoulder and neck injuries.

Sushil confirmed he had fought with some discomfort during the World Championship last month and the Commonwealth Games here.

"The injury has been troubling me for the last six months," said Sushil, who has been rested for the November 12-27 event. "The Wrestling Federation (WFI) and my coaches asked me to take rest because if the injury flares up it will affect my preparation for the London Olympics in 2012," added Sushil, who had his injured right shoulder taped during the gold-medal winning performance at the CWG.

Pardeep Kumar, who is the India No. 2 in 66kg category, will replace Sushil in Guangzhou.

National coach Jagmender Singh told TOI that the injury will heal in 15 to 20 days. However, it has been learnt that Sushil had also complained about his fingers getting numb during training, which could be an indication that the neck pain may be because of an injury to the spine (wear and tear of the intervertebral disc). Such an injury could be career-threatening.

Indian team physio Arvinder Pal Singh insisted Sushil's injury is muscular and has nothing to with the spine. "It is due to over-exertion. We had done tests including MRI scans and Sushil has a muscular strain on the neck and shoulders," he said.

"Sushil took part in three back-to-back tournaments - the Asian championships, World championships and CWG. It is bound to take a toll," said Arvinder. "He had slight pain in the right shoulder during the build-up to the World Championship and after Moscow we treated him and prepared him for the CWG as it was important for him to compete at home.

"But we don't want to take chances any more. Sushil had pain during the bouts at the CWG and he also complained about knee pain. So we decided to give him rest and let him recover fully from the small niggles and prevent it from becoming big," the physio added. "We don't want to repeat the mistake we did with Yogeshwar (Dutt)." Yogeshwar suffered a career-threatening knee injury one and a half years back which got aggravated after he trained and competed with it.


Commonwealth Games a hit, now punish graft: TOI poll

The Commonwealth Games were a resounding success for India, but the allegations of corruption that preceded the event must be thoroughly investigated. That's the message coming out loud and clear from metropolitan India.

An opinion poll in India's four biggest metros – Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai – exclusively for TOI has found 85% of those surveyed felt the Games were a hit. The same proportion said they have enhanced India's reputation globally.

This is a sea change from a poll we had conducted in September, where close to 50% had said India's reputation had taken a beating due to the stories of sleaze emerging almost daily.

That the change is thanks mainly to the athletes, and not the organizers, is clear from the fact that 86% of respondents to the latest poll say that allegations of corruption must be investigated. In other words, the bungling has neither been forgotten nor forgiven.

88% feel India has arrived as a sporting nation

The rich medal haul and India's finishing second to Australia in the tally of gold medals has clearly captured the imagination of many. As a result, 88% expressed the view that India had arrived as a sporting nation — an estimate that sport buffs might not yet share.

The success of the Games also seems to have whetted the appetite for more such mega sporting events. When asked whether India should now put in a bid for the Olympic Games in 2020, 82% said it should.

A final question was put exclusively to respondents in Delhi and pertained to what they considered the biggest failure of the organizers. The most common response — voiced by 33% of those polled — was poor infrastructure.

The authorities might point to the kudos received from several foreign delegations on this count, but negative perception at home appears to have been driven by events like the collapse of the foot overbridge near the main venue and the state of the Village when it was first handed over to some of the delegations.

The second most common response, from 30% of the respondents, was traffic chaos due to excessive security. Lack of tickets, poor facilities and a poorly run website also figured on the list of complaints, but lower on the scale. The survey was conducted by Synovate, a global market research agency, polled a total of 375 adults between the ages of 18 and 40 years, 150 of them in the host city, Delhi.

Read more: Commonwealth Games a hit, now punish graft: TOI poll - The Times of India

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Saina powers India to No. 2 spot, helps exceed target of 100 CWG medals

NEW DELHI: On October 3, TOI ran a front-page headline - ' India Takes Aim: 100 Medals and Finish At No. 2'. By the time Saina Nehwal took the court for the women's singles final, the first target had already been achieved but the second - No. 2 spot in the overall tally - was still very much up for grabs.

England and India were tied at 37 golds each, but England had many more medals, so it was a must-win match for Saina - and for a nation desperate for some cheer after a demoralizing 0-8 drubbing in the men's hockey final.

Going by track record, it should have been a no-contest. Saina, world no. 3, had an unbeaten 4-0 record against her opponent, Malaysia's Wong Mew Choo. But Wong, world No. 17, had run Saina close in the team final just a few days ago. Could she do an encore?

She almost went one better in a 74-minute thriller that Saina would later describe as the toughest match of her career. Eventually, Saina won a nerve-wracking battle 19-21, 23-21, 21-13 after facing a match point at 20-21 in the second game. Never before has the country been united by a badminton match. Nor has India come so close to finding such a loved sporting icon after Sachin Tendulkar.

Saina's triumph ensured the Games would end on a high note for India. It was, perhaps only fitting, given the number of heroes who thrilled Indian fans in the past few days.

Earlier in the day, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa had won the women's doubles, again a first for India. The record haul was, of course, set up by the shooters, with Gagan Narang bagging four golds. The wrestlers, led by world champ Sushil Kumar, too obliged adoring fans. But golds also came from some delightfully unexpected quarters.

There was teenager Deepika Kumari, who came up with a golden double in the women's recurve archery event. India hadn't won a gold in either track or field since 1958. It got one in each, with Krishna Poonia leading a clean sweep of the women's discus throw, and the women's 4x400m relay squad beating the more fancied Nigeria and England.

Indeed, the relay win, greeted by full-throated acclaim from a packed JN Stadium, moved former athletics great and head of the London 2012 Olympics OC Sebestian Coe to declare, "It may just have changed the direction of track and field not only in India, but in Asia. Hundreds of millions of people tonight know India can perform at the top level." And then there was Ashish Kumar, who didn't win a gold but made history by winning India's first-ever CWG medals in gymnastics - a silver and bronze.

So does Delhi 2010 herald the arrival of India as a sporting nation? It may be premature to say so. The fact is, the competition wasn't always world-class.

The Asian Games that follow shortly will give us a more accurate assessment of where we stand. But at least while the Games lasted, Indians tuned in to many sports other than cricket. The Saina-Wong epic was followed as enthusiastically on TV as any T20 thriller. In that - and the youngsters who will be inspired to come up with similar feats - lies hope for the future.

Can India beat its 57 medals record at Asiad?

Ask the Indian medal winners at the Commonwealth Games and they'll tell you it's just a stepping stone for the November Asian Games to be held in Guangzou ( China). The Delhi show will surely spur them towards more challenging goals with India looking to improve upon the 57 medals it won in 1982, which remain its best Asiad showing. World-beaters like Sushil Kumar, Saina Nehwal, Abhinav Bindra, MC Mary Kom and Vijender Singh hadn't really emerged then. Guanzhou could add to India's growth as a sporting nation.


Trecia Smith's choice as best surprises many

NEW DELHI: The Commonwealth Games Federation president Mike Fennell shocked the athletes at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium when he announced Jamaican triple jumper Trecia Smith as the best athlete of the Games ignoring the claims of swimmers Emily Seebohm (8 medals), Alicia Coutts (5 gold) and shooter Gagan Narang (4 gold).

"It was a real surprise when he announced Trecia's name as the best athlete of the Games and declared her the winner of the David Dixon award.

"Nobody knows how they decide it. It is a mystery. The only coincidence was that Fennell is from Jamaica and the award went to a Jamaican," a top Australian journalist told TOI.

According to the CGF the award is decided on the athlete's outstanding performance, fairplay and also the contribution to the team. The award was introduced in 2002 in the memory of David Dixon, former secretary of the CGF.

According to the CGF website, athletes are nominated by their Commonwealth Games Association at the end of the final day of competition and the winner is selected by a panel comprising the CGF president and representatives from each of the six Commonwealth regions.

The choice for the best athlete came as a surprise for many. Tracia Smith only had one gold, which she retained after winning it for the first time in Melbourne.


Commonwealth Games: Now, over to Glasgow

NEW DELHI: As the Commonwealth Games flag was lowered on Thursday and passed on to the next hosts, Glasgow, the Scots put on a show that gave a glimpse of their homeland. It was all brought to life during the closing ceremony by 352 Scots drawn from the many walks of life and from the length and breadth of the country. From its villages in the Outer Herbides, from the towns in the Borders and from the communities that form the city of Glasgow.

After the Lord Provost of Glasgow, Bob Winter, received the flag and welcomed all to his city in 2014 came a short film that showed the lochs, hills and glens of Scotland. It also portrayed Glasgow's iconic landmarks - including Whitlee Windfarm, Nelson's Monument, River Clyde and the Clyde Arc Bridge.

Merging with the end of the film, a lone piper in a vibrant modern kilt appeared at the centre of the stadium and began to play and the music intensified with each step. The Highland Charge followed with the 352 performers, dressed in tartan kilts, charging towards the piper. The performers then mesmerised the capacity crowd as huge red tartan cloths unfurled creating a labyrinth. A second piper appeared diagonally opposite the original one and the tartans turned into a green maze and created dynamic sequences, including a depiction of the Scottish flag.

Giant inflated structures resembling the Arc Bridge and the eight arches came together to form the armadillo-shaped Clyde Auditorium, which sits on the banks of River Clyde. The Armadillo, managed by 80 people, then spun on is axis to again release the cast members who formed a Celtic knot, ancient decorative symbols. The armadillo then dispersed to form the Loch Ness monster which left wagging its tail.

Fact box

* 1.8 km of tartan fabric were used to create the costumes
* 30.5m was the length of the inflatable armadillo
* Jonathan Graham and Craig Muirhead, the two hero pipers, were selected after a rigorous audition process that also involved the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association


'Bravo India' say Australian, New Zealand media

SYDNEY: India defied a disastrous start to produce a safe and successful Commonwealth Games which were running smoothly by the final stages, Australian and New Zealand media said on Friday.

"Bravo India" declared an editorial in Sydney tabloid the Daily Telegraph which described the New Delhi Games as a "glorious competition".

"This isn't down to mere good fortune. Games officials have worked hard throughout to ensure a Games to remember, and for all the right reasons," it said, as it praised the South Asian giant's best ever gold medal haul.

New Delhi organisers suffered a barrage of bad publicity in the lead-up to the October 3-14 competition, with complaints about the unfinished and unhygienic athletes' village, the risk of dengue fever and venue safety fears.

Days ahead of the event, the Australian government had warned of a "high risk of terrorism" during the Games, while athletes were also put off by the risk of contracting dengue fever.

But while the Games struggled against construction delays, empty stadiums and ticketing chaos, its security lockdown was effective, said The Australian.

"That India, a giant chaotic democracy located in one of the world's most unstable regions, managed to avert a major terror attack in the face of serious threats from regional militants is a significant mark of success," it said.

And while there had been incompetence from organisers, the locals had picked up the pieces and shown that "even the biggest mess can be cleaned up", The Sydney Morning Herald said.

"They've pulled it off admirably and deserve better than the carping, nit-picking and borderline racism that has masqueraded as informed coverage of the Games," wrote journalist Peter Hanlon.

The New Zealand Press Association said organisation gradually improved as the Games progressed, to the point where everything was running like clockwork just before the closing ceremony.

"For a Games where all the (Western media) talk going in was about cancellation, or a swift transfer to Melbourne, and where athletes bailed out pre-Games for fears over their safety and hygiene, Delhi far exceeded expectations," it said.

"(By the closing ceremony) Games buses were running on time, crowds at many venues were sizeable, as security guards relented on their frisking frenzy.

"Delhi did perform, and it did deliver, albeit in a quirky, colourful, spasmodic, random and often frustrating fashion."

However, it poured cold water on Delhi's ambitions to host the 2020 Olympics, concluding: "Those Games, India is not ready for."


CWG: Glasgow steals the show at closing gala

NEW DELHI: After the spellbinding opening ceremony and a stirring surge in the medals tally, the mood in the Capital was expectedly upbeat: tonight's-gonna-be-a-good-night was on every lip, apart from the good old Delhi question: Do you have a pass?

By late evening, it looked like everybody indeed had one: all roads led to the statuesque Nehru Stadium, bang in the heart of the city. This time, traffic moved smoothly and metro trains kept their tryst with timings.

Sadly, the closing ceremony itself did not keep its date with history, or turn out to be another out-of-this-world experience. Sure, it wasn't expected to be as elaborate or extravagant as the opening ceremony; but it was barely pleasing to the eye or soothing to the soul. It was slowed down by ceremonies and formalities and, worse, spiked by long-drawn speeches. The segments too, despite their splendour and magnitude, failed to enthral; many were left with an empty feeling, even if they didn't feel let down.

One final blast in the end, though, uplifted by a stunning laser display and an array of singers, musicians and dancers from Bollywood somewhat made up for the lack of lustre. But it paled in front of the show compiled by Glasgow, hosts of the next Games in 2014.

In less than 30 minutes, they left an impression with their energy, vibrancy and giant props that all but stole the day. Typically, the aerostat, which was the centre of attraction on the opening day, was a distant spectator on Thursday. It had taken its position in the sky well before the show began and it watched the spectacle below, impassively flashing images from the Games gone by.

Almost everyone was there, though, right from Manmohan Singh to Sonia Gandhi, to all the ministers at their command: it was time to bask in the afterglow of a show-that-didn't-go-wrong, you see. Suresh Kalmadi, the man of the moment - however, ironic that may sound - made it a point to thank everybody who could make a difference, rather than those who had already made a difference.

He even thanked Lalit Bhanot; allowing the crowds to break out into derisive laughter one last time.

Well, the Games are over and at least a few people should be given credit: after all, India not only wowed the world with its opening ceremony but also managed to wade through the 12 days without any major mishap. More importantly, it climbed all the way to the Number 2 position on the medals chart, clinching 38 gold, 27 silver and 36 bronze.

Terrific Thursday, though, didn't start on a promising note: the hockey team, after dazzling Australia with its stick-work and electric forays, capitulated to a numbing 0-8 defeat; but, by afternoon, the spirits were up again as Saina Nehwal staged a remarkable recovery, staving off even a match point, to win the badminton woman's gold.

Many skeptics, including acerbic sportspersons and writers from England and Australia, went away as converts.

The Sanias and Bindras are not the only heroes anymore, let alone the Sachins and Dravids; India now has a Phogat (two actually, or is it five?), a Poonia and a Narang too. Archers, wrestlers, boxers and runners have proved that we can be a sporting nation, if our boys and girls are given the right platform, if not the right encouragement and incentive.

The people have also demonstrated that they will come forward and support any sport, from anywhere, as long as they are in the mould of winners. Let us not look at reality though, which is just a month away; let us not spoil the party by talking about crouching tigers and hidden dragons and Asian Games already.

If the opening ceremony was all about unity in diversity, the closing ceremony was all about power. The power in India's culture, in its armed forces, in its future and in its ability to innovate and entertain too.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

India shining as Commonwealth Games set for gala closing

NEW DELHI: As the curtains come down on Thursday, the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi will be remembered as much for India's ability to pull off a world class mega event as about sporting glory - controversies notwithstanding.

They will leave behind a city with spanking new infrastructure that played host to 6,700 competitors from 71 nations and territories who were given top class security -- and glimpses of the country's rich cultural heritage and hospitality.

The closing ceremony Thursday promises to be a spectacular and youthful song and dance celebration, with a laser show as its highlight, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, which is where the grand opening ceremony was held Oct 3.

Involving 7,000 performers, the theme of the closing function will showcase martial arts and include segments like 'Tribute to the Motherland' and 'Music of Universal Love'. The Rs.400 million ($9 million) aerostat - the world's largest helium balloon - that was the star attraction at the opening ceremony - will again be put to use.


India need to tighten defence in final against Australia

NEW DELHI: Riding the wave is a tricky business as India will doubtless discover when they take on world champions Australia in the men's hockey final of the Commonwealth Games on Thursday.

India's smashing wins against Pakistan (7-4) and England (on penalties) point to a team that is on a high and riding a wave of popular support.

However, it will take a greater effort from India in the final against a team that cruelly exposed the hosts in the league by winning 5-2 last week.

"We should guard against repeating our mistakes in the final," said India skipper Rajpal Singh in an obvious reference to the two blunders at the start that helped Australia go up 2-0 by the 11th minute.

When ahead, the Aussies are a difficult and different proposition as India found to their grief a week ago and this will be on their minds on the morrow.

"It is not so much about fitness as the game you play. The final is to be played at 11.30 in the morning and we have had all our games around that time while India's matches have been in the evenings. This could be an advantage for us," said Aussie team coach Ric Charlesworth.

India showed great character in the semifinal against England when they came back from a 1-3 deficit to equalise and then clinch the tie-breaker on goalkeeper Bharat Chhetri's save, and it will have to be more of the same against Australia.

India's major concern is the defence where Dhananjay Mahadik is a step too slow, wing-half Prabodh Tirkey is nursing a problematic back and so also penalty corner specialist Sandeep Singh who suffered a near life-threatening injury in 2006 in a freak shooting incident.

These shortcomings could get magnified in a tight match. "You got to put away as many chances as you can to win a match," said Charlesworth. The Indians would do well to bear this in mind.

One of India's best options against Australia would be to police Jamie Dwyer, who has been a livewire in the midfield with his roving duties besides lending depth to the Australian frontline where the likes of Des Abbott, Glenn Turner and Simon Orchard have been in top form.

Adding another dimension to the Aussie line-up is the penalty corner specialist Luke Doerner who currently tops the goal-scorers' list with six conversions.

Ranged against them are the skillful Indian forwards like youngsters Sarvanjit Singh and Dharamvir Singh, and the experienced trio of Tushar Khandkar and Shivendra Singh and skipper Rajpal Singh, who on their day can cut through any defence.

Thus, all the ingredients that make for a potentially exciting final are in the pot, and whatever the outcome, one can expect top quality hockey that the faithful fans, braving the mid-day heat, deserve to watch.


Narang happy with India's medal count

NEW DELHI: Instead of harping on the occasional misses, ace marksman Gagan Narang preferred to look at the positives after the shooting event of the Commonwealth Games came to an end on Wednesday, with India bagging a whopping 30 medals, including 14 gold.

Apart from their impressive gold haul, India has also grabbed 11 silver and five bronze medals, and Narang seemed more than satisfied with the show, including his own. The number of yellow metals, though, is less than what it was four years ago in Melbourne.

"I am very happy with my performance, four gold medals with four new Games record is good. I did struggle a bit with prone position but I think we should look at the positives," said the rifle ace, who had clinched the yellow metal in 10-metre air rifle (both singles and pairs) and 50-metre 3 positions rifle (singles and pairs).

After a bright start to his campaign, Narang somewhat lost the momentum and failed to a win a medal in his last two events -- singles and pairs 50-metre rifle prone event -- though he cannot be blamed for missing out on a medal in the pairs event.

Narang scored an impressive 593 in the final of the pairs event on Tuesday, but his partner Hariom Singh, down with flu, shot badly at crucial junctures.

The unassuming Hyderabadi, however, refused to blame his partner for blunders that probably cost him his fifth medal.

"The person is doing his best. It's a team effort and you can't blame just one person for not doing well. We can take a lot of lessons from the losses," Narang said.

Narang's failure to qualify for the final came as a shock to many, but rifle coach Stanislav Lapidus defended the Hyderabadi saying that he was shooting with a gun which did not have good barrel and that others were using much better weapon.

"I am happy with the overall performance but I was expecting more from Gagan. But don't blame him, you can blame his gun," Lapidus said.

The good news, though, was that Narang is getting a new rifle before the World Cup finals scheduled to be held later this month.

Asked whether Narang would use the new gun in the World Cup and the upcoming Guangzhou Asian Games in November, national coach Sunny Thomas said, "The World Cup is too close but he can use it provided he gets the ammunition."

Asked if he was satisfied with the performance of shotgun shooters, who have failed to win a single gold in the competition despite having world number two, Ronjan Sodhi, in the team, Thomas said, "Shotgun is a very strong field with team like Australia in fray.

"In CWG especially, it's tough in shotgun, but Asian Games will be much easier for them compared to rifle shooters."


CWG: Govt will dole out highest cash kitty ever

NEW DELHI: As India surpassed their Manchester Games haul of 30 gold medals on Tuesday, the government stepped into the picture, promising to dole out the highest reward money ever for winners. Gold medallists will earn Rs 20 lakh each, silver Rs 10 lakh and bronze medallists Rs 6 lakh for their efforts.

Tuesday's count of 32 gold, 25 silver and 32 bronze, a total of 89 medals, means the government will be giving away rewards to the tune of approximately Rs 11 crore as of now. This is the highest ever, surpassing the previous high of Rs 9.22 crore given away after the 2002 Commonwealth Games. After the Melbourne Games in 2006, the government had announced rewards totalling Rs 3.76 crore.

Incidentally, in case of team or pairs events, gold medallists don't always get Rs 20 lakh each. In such cases, each participant gets a quantum of amount calculated according to specific formulae. For eg, in a pairs event comprising two persons, reward money for gold is hiked to Rs 30 lakh, with each participant getting Rs 15 lakh. In team events comprising more than two participants, the quantum of amount is hiked accordingly to ensure that each gold medallist gets at least Rs 10 lakh.

Sports ministry officials are glad that athletes are making the country proud with their performances. "We are happy with our performance as the projected tally was of 96 medals. We will have to wait and see whether we will surpass that mark," Rahul Bhatnagar, joint secretary in the ministry, told TOI.

Last month, sports minister MS Gill had doubled cash awards for gold medallists in the CWG and Asian Games. Bhatnagar, who is in charge of the international sports division that handled the preparations for the Delhi Games, said the government tried to do everything for the preparation of the athletes.

Gold Won: 32/Gold: 20 lac Total: 6.4 Cr
Silver Won: 25/Silver: 10 lac Total: 2.5 Cr
Bronze Won: 32/Bronze: 6 lac Total: 1.92 Cr