Work is on at a furious pace to ready the 30 venues for the January 31-February 14, 2015, National Games in Kerala.
Jacob Punnoose, former director general of Kerala Police, who is overseeing the conduct of what would be the biggest sporting extravaganza in the state, said the infrastructure to be created for the Games is ultra-modern with all the facilities.
"When I took over, things were at a standstill or in an abandoned state in 18 of the 27 places where the facilities had to be created. Of these, nine venues had to be built from scratch and today 12 venues are ready and at the remaining venues, 90 percent of the work is over and they will all be ready in another 60 days," Punnoose told IANS.
The soft-spoken Punnoose, after retiring from police, was appointed in 2012 as chief commissioner and principal coordinator of the Games.
The size of the event should be seen from the perspective of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
In Delhi, there were 16 events and around 6,000 athletes competing, whereas in the National Games there are 36 events taking place at 30 venues in seven of the 14 districts of the state with around 13,500 athletes and officials taking part.
"The total estimated expenditure for the event has been pegged at Rs.611 crore ($1 billion). This includes Rs. 450 crore for creating the infrastructure and Rs. 161 crore for the actual conduct of the event during the 15 days," said Punnoose.
One of the highlights of the mega event is a Rs.160 crore brand new stadium on a 34-acre campus of the Kerala University on the city outskirts where the opening and closing ceremonies would be held.
"This is the only stadium in South India which is built as per the norms of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and FIFA (football's governing body). It has a 50,000 seat capacity," said Punnoose, adding that it would be ready in a month's time.
Another state-of-the-art facility is the football stadium at Thrissur, which is 90 percent complete. The Sachin Tendulkar co-owned Kerala Blasters Indian Super League (ISL) team management has already vouched that the ground is of world class.
"The brand new hockey ground fast coming up at Kollam will be the only one with a synthetic turf in Kerala. The ground is in picturesque surroundings with a lake amid a lot of greenery. It would make one of the most beautiful hockey grounds in the world," said Punnoose.
The Rs. 50-crore Games Village, coming up on the outskirts of the capital, is another marvel and would accommodate 5,000 people in three-star facilities.
"We felt that there was no need to build a permanent structure so we went in for a village which could be dismantled after the event is over. Then some of the rooms would be re-erected at 200 places, mostly around the various playgrounds in the state, as many of these places do not have any rooms, especially for women athletes and officials," said Punnoose.
The Kerala government has roped in Sachin Tendulkar as the goodwill ambassador of the Games. Other sports legends will be joining him in promoting the event. They will also be inaugurating the new venues.
"The major promotion of the event would be held some time towards the end of the year through a mass run simultaneously covering 3,500 km across the state," added Punnoose, who said that the Games' staff strength would touch 1,000 by the end of the year.
Some 7,000 physical education students would be the volunteers for the Games.
"From nowhere and in a very short period, we have reached here and slowly things are falling into place. All of us are well geared for what could be the biggest sporting event that the country has seen," said Punnoose.
The organisers expect to get President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to grace the occasion. They are also planning to invite world-renowned sportspersons to witness the event.
(Sanu George can be contacted at email@example.com)