Scared of losing the bid to the Canadian city of Hamilton, Delhi had promised to make the Commonwealth Games (CWG) Village a university hostel after the event, but scrapped the plan when the city won the hosting rights of the October extravaganza, a new book claims.
‘Sellotape Legacy: Delhi and the Commonwealth Games’ by noted sport-writers, Boria Majumdar and Nalin Mehta, reveals that Hamilton’s extensive legacy plan, with regards to the Games Village, had rattled Delhi to an extent that the city made some changes in its final bid. “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 entire new infrastructure that was to be built,” the book claims.
“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 5,00,000,” the book states.
“In contrast, Delhi’s original bid proposed to build a Games Village and sell it as luxury apartments after the Games concluded. Compared to Hamilton’s focus on the university, Delhi seemed on shaky ground.” The book claims that Delhi’s bid was about recovering the expenses of the Games from the sale of the Village flats, leaving the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) concerned about the city’s financial capability to host the event.
“India’s sporting czars said they would finance 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 event. If they were supposed to pay for the Games, how would it be held? 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,” it reveals.
“Delhi needed to win the bid. So, when CFG experts raised these questions, Delhi’s organisers agreed to a major change.
The original plan to sell the flats to finance the Games partly was ‘subsequently amended’ to ensure that the budget was not reliant on the sale of the flats.
“By October 2003, Delhi submitted a revised budget, wherein the Delhi Development Authority took over the risk and the 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,” the book says.
The book also says the bid commitment was quietly broken once the hosting rights were won. “One of the most disturbing, but little-known stories of the Games, is that at the same time, Delhi’s organisers also promised that its Games Village would be turned into hostel accommodation for the University of Delhi (DU) after the Games. The CGF documents are unambiguous on this count.”
It gave an undertaking that ‘post-Games, the Village will provide hostel facility for DU’. This was probably done to make Delhi look as committed to education as Hamilton did with McMaster University.
“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 DU and there was virtually no public protest when it was cancelled.”