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Commonwealth Games: Delhi dressed up to receive the world

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 03:10:28 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: Through the dark clouds of controversy, Delhi residents have begun to see a silver lining - starting with a world-class new airport and an extended and efficient Metro service, significant parts of the capital suddenly seem to have cleaner roads, gleaming bus stops, greener sidewalks, better signages and even ornamental street furniture, thanks to the Commonwealth Games.

The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and the Public Works Department (PWD) have been managing what has been called the 'beautification drive' in the city even though the going has been tough in the harsh glare of the media, a wet monsoon and disease.

The civic bodies have also installed information kiosks, toilet complexes, giant billboards to guide people on routes and basic services in the city that will play host to international athletes, delegates and tourists during the Oct 3-14 Games.

"After all the negative publicity the Games have drawn, it is actually great to see the city ready for it. It is about India's pride," Delhi resident Dheeraj Sahni told IANS.

"It is a delight to see chaos-free roads in Connaught Place. Cordoned-off streets and grass-laden lanes were never there before. It was only rubble that I saw here," said Geetanjali Gulati, who works in the central business district.

"This should remain even after the Games," Gulati said.

Connaught Place had been reeling under heaps of debris. It has taken the civic agencies around two years to give it a makeover, with the removal of roadside shops and widening of inner lanes. Subways in the outer circle, however, are still under construction.

Old Delhi, famous for its food and old world charm, has also got a much-needed facelift. Roadside pavements have been cleared, giving visitors respite from narrow and choked lanes.

The Delhi University area, where accommodation is being provided to players and visitors during the Games, wears a new look. In hostels dilapidated furniture has been replaced with new furniture.

"Colleges would remain closed, but it is great to see the entire north campus go through this overhaul. Thanks to Games, the university looks great," said Archana Tiwari, a student of Miranda House in Delhi University.

The city of 16 million people has also hidden away many an eyesore behind giant panels and billboards.

"We have wanted to give this look to Delhi since a long time. The Commonwealth Games gave us the perfect platform," Deep Mathur, spokesperson of the MCD, told IANS

Giving Delhi a new look has come at a cost of Rs.16,000 crore ($3.5 billion), including the construction of some Games venues.

Of this, Rs.270 crore has gone into the Public Works Department (PWD) revamping 80 km of roads. The work includes street-scaping and beautification of areas near the venues of the Games, construction of fly-overs and foot overbridges and widening of roads.

The last four days have been extremely crucial for the authorities as, after many days of continuous downpour, there were no rains, enabling a last-minute clean up.

The swanky T3 terminal at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, which became operational in July, has been a pleasant surpirse for visitors, with its plush lounges, intricate landscaping and smoother operations.

The Metro which is serving as a lifeline for residents amid traffic restrictions on Delhi's roads has connected all the 11 prominent Games venues. It is also extending operations ahead of the Games, aiming to open the Central Secretariat-Badarpur link.

History too is set to beckon touristsm, with at least 46 old monuments revamped to showcase the rich heritage of this ancient city. Cafeterias and souvenir kiosks have come up at Red Fort, Qutub Minar, Humayun's Tomb and Purana Qila.

Glowing in their pristine beauty at night will be Purana Qila, Khairul Manzil Mosque and Safdarjung Tomb, as these are being specially lit up.

With dedicated Games lanes and traffic restrictions in place, a sizeable number of private buses have been replaced by DTC buses.

"We are prepared to manage the traffic well during the sports event. Traffic cops are deputed all over the city to ensure smooth and safe passage to the commuters," said Rajan Bhagat, Delhi police spokesperson.

The Organising Committee (OC) and the Delhi Government have tied up in a "joint marketing programme" whereby a two-kilometre radius around the Games venues has been handed over to the committee for exclusive branding.

The Games are India's biggest sporting event after the 1982 Asian Games. Nearly 7,000 participants and officials from 71 countries and territories are expected to attend the event.






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