India's $10m 'bribe' to win Commonwealth Games
AUSTRALIA received a $125,000 kickback after India won the Commonwealth Games in a $10 million palm-greasing exercise that has spectacularly backfired.
Delhi sealed the right to host the Games when their delegates emerged at the final presentation in Jamaica and offered all 72 nations $US100,000 (then about $140,000) each for athlete training schemes if they were the successful bidders.
The money, subsequently paid to all nations, was not significant to Australia because it had already decided to vote for India and the payment was not an exceptionally large one.
But for small nations who have minimal interest in the Games, it clinched their vote and India went on to beat Canadian city Hamilton 46-22 in the final poll. Hamilton had offered the nations about $70,000 each.
Hamilton's bid organisers, and many of the nations who voted for them, fired off angry protests about India buying votes and the bad blood generated between several feuding nations still exists.
The Commonwealth Games Association has decided to ban 11th-hour inducements as a consequence of the outrage over India's tactics (Read more about the inducements at The Daily Telegraph).
Undercover reporters from The Australian and The Daily Telegraph reported seeing filthy toilets, widespread flooding and children defecating in the street.
The images raise more questions about India's ability to bring the Games facilities up to scratch before the opening ceremony on October 3.
The India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called an emergency meeting of his ministers last night to deal with the crisis and Commonwealth Games chief Mike Fennell was flying into Delhi early today to meet Mr Singh and Games officials.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit met national team leaders from 25 countries to discuss their concerns about the athletes' village
Australian team general manager Perry Crosswhite said the workforce of cleaners and maintenance staff had increased "ten-fold" in the village yesterday.
"They have elevated their response and brought in people who have the power to make it happen," Mr Crosswhite said.
As well as an army of cleaners, bomb squad officers and dogs have been deployed outside the village as security forces took control, weeks after the original scheduled lockdown deadline.
Mood has improved
Managers from Delhi's five-star hotels have been brought in to supervise the work and ensure it is up to standard.
Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive Mike Hooper said the "mood has improved" among the nations who had sent advance parties to the Games, some of whom had talked of withdrawing from the event over the safety issues.
Teams Wales confirmed that they were going and Scotland and New Zealand are expected to follow suit.
"The Government has put senior officers in charge of going through each building," Mr Hooper said. "There are 150 maintenance people on site to deal with wiring and plumbing, but there's more to do."
The village officially opened yesterday but as yet very few athletes or officials are in residence. About 15 Australian staff moved in to the village yesterday.
Mr Hooper confirmed that five nations had sought a guarantee from the CGF that the competition and training venues and village were "fit for purpose", after a footbridge collapsed and tiles fell from the ceiling of the weightlifting venue on Wednesday.
He reassured them that all the training and competition venues complied with fire, health and safety standards but said the same could not be said of the residential zone until the current work was completed.
Spectre of terror attacks
Two Canadian archers withdrew from the Games yesterday, citing health and safety concerns.
The Australian team is still working through its three allocated towers to clean up the mess it had found but has more time than many other teams, given that most Australian competitors are not due to arrive for at least another week.
Mr Crosswhite said the team had to contend with squalor, as well as unlaid tiles, broken windows and, in some cases, balcony railings not in place.
"We had quite a bit of unsanitary conditions and the point is you just get out and fix it and that's what we have done," he said.
The first English athletes, from lawn bowls and hockey, departed for Delhi yesterday. The first Australian athletes, including the lawn bowls and gymnastics teams, are due to arrive in Delhi in the early hours of Monday morning.
The spectre of terror attacks was raised again yesterday after the US Homeland Security Office warned that the Games represented a highly attractive target for regional terror groups.
Michael Leiter, the director of the US National Counter-Terrorism Centre, reportedly told the Senate homeland security and governmental affairs committee: "We are concerned that next month's Commonwealth Games in New Delhi will be an appealing target for Lashkar-e-Toiba, due to their political and economic significance for India."
Speaking from New York, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said the government had "warned consistently" of the risk of a terrorist attack in India.
"It warns specifically that . . . the Commonwealth Games will be held in a security environment where there is a high risk of terrorism," Mr Rudd said.
Mr Crosswhite said extra federal police officers would accompany Australian athletes and the team had also brought several private security consultants.
Australia would be pooling security for every event with five or six nations, including New Zealand, Britain and Canada, to ensure law enforcement officers from at least one of those countries was present in case of an attack.
"We have extensive contingency plans for our own team and they're dovetailed with those for the Australian government through the high commission and through the Organising Committee and city of Delhi," he said.
The Federal Sports Minister, Mark Arbib, said that the Government had clearly relayed its concerns about security and safety during the event to Indian officials through the Australian high commissioner, Peter Varghese.
Senator Arbib denied the Government was shirking its responsibility by leaving the decision to attend the Games to individual athletes and spectators.
"It is not a decision that the Australian government can take or should take it: is a decision for individual athletes," he told the Seven Network.
Julia Gillard said Australian authorities were closely monitoring the situation on the ground in terms of security and safety issues but the Government would not tell people not to go.
"We have also boosted the number of officials we have in New Delhi and we have others on standby," the Prime Minister said.
Former Commonwealth Games chief Arthur Tunstall said while the government was "playing it safe" and did not want to put offside an important trade partner, athletes would be unlikely to take any advice to boycott the Games even if an order were to be issued.
"Condemning the Games would be a pretty drastic step," Mr Tunstall said. "I think the majority of athletes would still be saying we are prepared to take a risk."
Additional reporting: Lauren Wilson
Well, they are about to lose them anyways....they should have spent that money on CONSTRUCTION and LABOR