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Four tiles bring house down on boss
Ceiling scare sets Games joke zipping
Labourers on the roof of the Commonwealth Games weightlifting venue, from the ceiling of which the tiles apparently fell, at
Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi. (AP picture)

New Delhi, Sept. 22: When four tiles of a false ceiling fell at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium today, a text-message joke zipped across the country: “(A top Games organiser) tried to hang himself but the ceiling at the Commonwealth Village tower collapsed!”

Embattled Games organisers had to grapple with more sneers and jeers after tiles of a false ceiling being built near the VIP lounge of the stadium’s Ambedkar Weightlifting Auditorium crashed while employees were laying cables.

Coming a day after a showpiece hanging bridge outside the same stadium, the main Games’ venue, caved in and injured 27 people, the fallen tiles made the organisers blush a deeper red.

“This is the second incident in the weightlifting auditorium. A part of the ceiling caved in three months ago near the players’ arena,” a police officer said.

A CPWD engineer, who visited the venue, said it was a minor incident and the cause was yet to be ascertained. But he pleaded with the media “not to write about it as we also have some responsibility towards the nation”.

An official of the organising committee, however, said the tile crash had raised “serious doubts” in the minds of the Commonwealth Games Federation and participating countries about the safety and security of the October 3-14 event venues.

“The shoddy preparations have pressed panic buttons among participating nations and the fate of the Games is on a knife-edge. We are hopeful that the Prime Minister will take stringent measures to save the country from further embarrassment,” a government official said.

The BJP gunned for chief Games organiser Suresh Kalmadi, slamming the Centre for not taking action against him despite several corruption charges. “National prestige is at stake but the government is unmoved,” Venkaiah Naidu said.

As the attacks continued, a preliminary probe into the collapse of the hanging bridge revealed that hangers and pin cells, imported from England, had been badly installed and the bridge design was faulty.

A.G.K. Menon, a member of Delhi government’s heritage committee, said: “Only the contractor is not to be blamed as responsibility goes to engineers and decision-makers also…. The footbridge was being constructed in a hurry and total incompetence resulted in the mishap.”

He said the Games organisers should be ashamed as they had won the bid as early as 2003 but had not been able to complete construction even 11 days before the event.

Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit said: “These minor glitches and hitches do come around… but to make out as the whole thing is collapsing — I am sorry, we do not agree with that.”

Total ‘lockdown’

All Commonwealth Games venues and the athletes’ village will be totally locked down from September 23 midnight with entry to be allowed only to those carrying valid passes.

Armed policemen, including the paramilitary, have been deployed at the venues and the village. Sophisticated gadgets have been installed. “The lockdown will start from midnight,” an official said.

Apart from 80,000 Delhi police personnel, over 17,500 paramilitary personnel, 3,000 commandos and 100 anti- sabotage check teams will be deployed across the city.

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