By Duncan Mackay
British Sports Internet Writer of the Year

March 30 - Hosting ths year's Commonwealth Games in New Delhi is a major step towards India bidding for the Olympics, Suresh Kalmadi (pictured) has claimed.

With Beijing having staged the 2008 Olympics, India is the most populous country never to have hosted the Games and the region is increasingly becoming a major economic powerhouse.

Kalmadi, the President of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), has promised that a successful staging of the Commonwealth Games, which are due to open on October 3, could be the launchpad for a bid for the Olympics - as soon as 2020 if things go particularly well.

He said: "The Commonwealth Games are very important for us.

"We are trying to promote Olympic sports.

"We are moving towards [bidding for the] Olympics, there is no doubt about it."

The build-up to the Games have been overshadowed by criticism over the slow pace of building work and international fears over security.

But Kalmadi claimed that Delhi's preparations were only experiencing the kind of problems that other cities hosting major events have had to face.

He said: "We are organising a major sporting event in the country after a gap of 28 years, after the Asian Games in 1982.

"It's a big challenge for us.

"You need to present a world class event when the whole world is watching.

"You need to showcase everything on a large scale.

"You cannot serve half-cooked meal.

"We are not lagging behind.

"All venues are ready barring JLN (Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium) stadium and Yamuna Sports Complex.

"There work will be over by June 30.

"You need to understand when a city organises any international sports event, it takes five to 10 years to prepare itself.

"This is the same with Delhi."

Kalmadi claimed that - despite Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) chief executive Mike Hooper recently voicing his fears about the continued delays - Delhi would put on a show to remember.

He said: "About delays and extending deadlines I want to say that when CGF [President] Mike Fennell paid his last visit to India he had said that Delhi Games will going to be best ever, even better than Melbourne.

"We want to promote Olympics sports through Commonwealth Games and we are up for the challenge.

"Winning the gold medal in the Commonwealth Games is much more important than winning a match in cricket."

India's Sports Minister M.S. Gill (pictured) who, last November, claimed that they should scrap any plans to bid in the near future because "I do not think the common man [in India] wants an Olympic Games".

But Kalmadi believes that the infrastructure left behind by the Commonwealth Games will leave Delhi with a world-class city that could cope with the Olympics.

Urban Development Minister S Jaipal Reddy claimed, that rather than being a burden on the country, the Games would give India opportunities to make an impact globally, including bidding for the Olympics.

He said: "The prestige of the country is associated with the successful organisation of the Games.

"We in the Government are treating this event as a prestigious national project.

"This is an opportunity to showcase to the world that we are up for even bigger sporting challenges.

"It not in anyway could be counted as a burden on the country, but it's a bonanza of numerous opportunity.

"With the Games we are ceasing the opportunity to put sports infrastructure in place."

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit supported Reddy and said that the huge money involved in the preparation of the event will not be a waste but will pay rich dividends in future.

She said: "Everybody is critical of the amount of money involved in the preparation for the Games.

"I want to make it clear that whatever we want to achieve as a nation will be done through this event.

"It's not a big burden but a big jackpot for the whole country.

"The legacy of India as well as Delhi, in particular, are also attached to it.

"Whatever sum of money we are spending on the stadium upgradations (sic), on building infrastructures for the visitors and athletes, all these will work in presenting Delhi as a major sporting destination."

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January 2010:
 Kalmadi refuses to rule out New Delhi bid for 2020 Olympics
November 2009: India should not bid for Olympics says Sports Minister