Delhi games organisers consider giving away tickets

2010-10-05 08:42

New Delhi – The empty stadiums that marred the first day of competition at the crisis-hit Commonwealth Games may be filled by children and the underprivileged if attendance doesn’t improve.

After weeks of problems and delays in a wide range of areas in the buildup to the games, the sporting events finally began in New Delhi on Monday.

Many of the venues across the city, however, were nearly empty, prompting local organisers to admit that they were considering giving away free tickets.

“We are working on the children from schools. Already steps are being taken in that direction,” local organising committee chairperson Suresh Kalmadi said Today at a news conference that was sometimes farcical.

“And also from the low level of society.”

While India won its first gold medal of the games, the leaders of the local organising committee sat alongside the heads of the Commonwealth Games Federation and faced the media for the first time since the event opened.

Kalmadi was confident that all the problems that marred the first day of competition had been solved overnight, saying that the transportation issues were dealt with and the addition of ticket booths at all venues would lead to bigger crowds.

“As of today, things are all right,” said Kalmadi, who also mistakenly noted that “Prince Diana” had attended Sunday’s opening ceremony before correcting himself and identifying Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall as the attendees.

Lady Diana was the ex-wife of Prince Charles, who is the heir to the British throne and the person who officially declared the games open. Diana died in a car crash in 1997.

Despite the optimism shown by Kalmadi, Commonwealth Games Federation President Michael Fennell said his organisation still had a number of concerns.

“There are some issues that we had to deal with and we have assigned those issues to various people to correct,” Fennell said.

“And we’re expecting that those will be corrected during the course of the day.”

Another glitch yesterday concerned the weigh-in scales for the boxing competition.

Athletes and coaches were upset when the scales were found to be giving incorrect readings, forcing some boxers to take desperate, unnecessary attempts to shed weight.

But organising committee secretary-general Lalit Bhanot declined to admit that it was a major issue, saying the problem had been “rectified”.

“There’s no problem at all,” Bhanot said.

Today, there were 18 gold medals to be won, and host India won its first two – both in shooting.

Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang won the men’s 10-metre air rifle pairs event, and Rahi Sarnobat and Anisa Sayyed later won the women’s 25-metre pairs pistol.

“It was always important for us to do well on home ground,” Bindra said.

“It gives us a good start and hopefully, we will have many more medals in the coming days.”

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