Transcript of a report on ABC Radio PM program – 26th November 2010
MARK COLVIN: Six weeks after the closing ceremony of the Delhi Commonwealth Games, the hangover continues. A corruption scandal is threatening to engulf the organisers.
And now top companies behind the Games say they’re missing hundreds of millions of dollars in overdue payments and equipment.
The companies complaining include a number of Australian entertainment firms and they’ve warned that the organising committee could face legal action within days.
Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop reports.
(Indian music plays over loudspeakers)
COMMONWEALTH GAMES ORGANISER: We declare that we will take part in the Commonwealth Games of 2010 in the spirit of true sportsmanship, recognising the rules which govern them and desirous of participating in them for the honour of our Commonwealth and for the glory of our sport.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: After building collapses and hygiene concerns, there were hopes that the opening ceremony would quell the anger at Commonwealth Games organisers. But an international row is escalating over the payments for the show.
Australian Andrew Howard organised the fireworks.
ANDREW HOWARD: I’ve never worked on a project anywhere in the world with so much incompetence, with people that have been put into positions on the organising committee that have no experience in event management whatsoever. They just have no organisational skills. They’re unethical. And we’re now in a situation where it’s really affecting our ongoing business.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: His company is one of 14 from Australia, the UK, Europe and the US that say they’re still waiting for their final pay for work on the opening and closing ceremonies.
ANDREW HOWARD: As a group we’re owed over $10 million and it would be somewhere between $10 and $20 million, I would estimate.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: He says many more businesses could be affected and their futures are under threat as they wait for more than 100 freight containers of audio, staging, lighting and pyrotechnic equipment that are stuck in New Delhi.
ANDREW HOWARD: They haven’t sorted out their paperwork and I would say that combined value of all this equipment would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: The executive producer of the opening ceremony, Australian Ric Birch, has worked on five Olympic Games, including Beijing, Barcelona and Sydney.
He’s written an open letter complaining of total disregard and incompetence.
RIC BIRCH: We’ve never had problems like this. Every organising committee is basically organised except in Delhi. Part of the problem I think was that Suresh Kalmadi, who was the chairman of the organising committee, appointed a lot of personal friends or people he knew and the organising committee was staffed by people who were not necessarily particularly qualified for the jobs that they held.
And I think this has compounded since the Games because Suresh Kalmadi was forced to resign and all the people that he appointed I think are feeling that they don’t have their protector there so they’re doing absolutely nothing.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: In India, there are calls for an inquiry into Suresh Kalmadi’s role in alleged corruption and claims that his committee has misappropriated nearly $2 billion.
And in the past fortnight three top officials from the organising committee have been arrested.
Andrew Howard has given the organisers a deadline.
ANDREW HOWARD: We’ve been very patient. It’s very clear in the contract what needs to be paid and what goods need to be returned. And if that continues on for another – we’ll probably give it till very early next week and if it’s not I’m sure we’ll all commence legal action.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: Ric Birch says his open letter has finally got the attention of the International Commonwealth Games Federation and the Australian Government has taken notice as well.
It says the High Commission in Delhi has asked the Indian government today to pay the money and return the equipment as soon as possible.
The secretary general of the organising committee, Dr Lalit Bhanot, says the companies will be paid but these things take a while and the process can’t be rushed.
But Ric Birch says time has already run out for India to prove itself on the international stage.
RIC BIRCH: If India was going to bid for the Olympics – and I know they’ve talked about it – there would be an enormous groundswell against them from contractors, consultants and suppliers around the world who’ve been really badly burned.
MARK COLVIN: Ric Birch, executive producer of the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, ending that report from Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop.