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Commonwealth Games mar New Delhi's image

Rampant corruption promises to tarnish the event itself — if not prevent it from happening.

Indian paramilitary at Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium
An Indian paramilitary official stands guard at the newly inaugurated Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi on July 27, 2010 for the upcoming 2010 Commonwealth Games. (Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images)

BANGALORE, India — What was supposed to be India’s moment of glory is fast turning into the country's hour of shame.

Just weeks before the opening ceremony slated for Oct. 3, the New Delhi Commonwealth Games are proving a debacle in every sense of the word. They have been dogged by massive corruption scandals, a spate of resignations, incomplete preparations and serious security concerns.

“This is a public relations disaster for India,” said Ashwini Nachappa, former international athlete. Nachappa and 10 other international athletes have spearheaded CleanSports India, a nationwide campaign to rid Indian sports of crooked officials, including those overseeing the games.

In New Delhi, the stench of corruption is already beginning to rival the notoriously stinky Yamuna River flowing through the capital city. The budget has well overshot the originally allotted $75 million, the bulk of which is being paid by taxpayers. The final costs are expected to be about $8 billion.

Scandal after scandal has unraveled revealing kickbacks, shadowy off-shore firms, forged emails, inexplicable payments to bogus companies and inflated bills — for every purchase from toilet paper to treadmills.

The corruption is endless, said Rajesh Tomar, a former Indian international athlete on the committee overseeing the games. “It is one massive waste of public money, time and energy,” Tomar said.

India’s corruption watchdog, Central Vigilance Commission, pointed out irregularities in more than a dozen projects and questioned the quality of the venues. Huge piles of rubble and rubbish, a collapsed roof, hanging wires, leaky walls, broken tiles and an incomplete stadium have become the visual staple of daily newspapers and television channels.

Earlier this month, games treasurer Anil Khanna resigned following graft allegations. Three games officials were suspended following an investigation into financial irregularities.

“It is obvious that a complete lack of governance and accountability has led to all kinds of politicians and officials diving in to make a quick buck out of the government’s largesse,” said sports columnist Ayaz Memon. The ever-emerging scams are like a can of worms, he said.