25 Jan 2011

Commonwealth Games chiefs sacked

7:47 am on 25 January 2011

India's sports ministry has fired the top two organisers of last year's Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

The ministry said in a statement that Games organising committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi and the committee's secretary-general Lalit Bhanot were sacked "in the interest of impartial and unhindered investigations."

The Commonwealth Games, held in October, were marred by venue delays and chaotic organisation, and were hit by claims of massive financial irregularities as the budget ballooned three times to an estimated $US6 billion.

Top organisers usually continue in their posts until the winding-up process of the Games is completed.

Mr Kalmadi, a ruling party politician, and Mr Bhanot have been questioned by the Central Bureau of Investigation. Both insist they are innocent and claim all major decisions were taken by the executive board of the organising committee.

Mr Kalmadi, 66, said the government order will not force him to resign as president of the Indian Olympic Association, a post he has held since 1996.

The national anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), received complaints alleging up to $US1.8 billion of Games money was misappropriated.

An initial report by the CVC into the Games confirmed the use of sub-standard construction materials in a host of building contracts and deliberate cost overruns.

Complaints and legal threats have been made over millions of dollars in unpaid bills.

Firms in Australia, Britain, France and Germany were among those owed money, while national Commonwealth Games associations complained of missing refunds and travel subsidies.

The decision to remove the two men was taken by ruling Congress party politician Ajay Maken, who last week took over as sports minister from MS Gill following a cabinet reshuffle.

Both Mr Kalmadi and Mr Bhanot were asked by the minister to hand over to Jarnail Singh, the chief executive officer of the organising committee.