Event suppliers still in lurch from Indian Commonwealth Games debacle

Months after the close of the Commonwealth Games in India and Australian event suppliers are still left hanging waiting for millions of dollars owed.

Months after the close of the Commonwealth Games in India and Australian event suppliers are still left hanging waiting for millions of dollars owed.

Following a string of recent sackings of top officials from India’s Commonwealth Games committee, Australian companies, many of them event service suppliers are stuck, frustrated and waiting for payment, said federal Sport Minister Mark Arbib.

The Games, held last October were a public relations disaster attracting much criticism for poorly constructed venues and delayed construction.
“We did the job for the sake of the Commonwealth Games and for the sake of India,” said Spectak Productions Ric Birch, executive producer of the Delhi ceremonies.

Australian suppliers for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies at India’s Commonwealth Games are still awaiting payment for their work after creating what many feel were the best parts of the entire event
image courtesy of AP

“We all had government contracts and fully expected that those contracts would be honoured. I thought we could trust them. As things have turned out, we can’t,” he said.

Birch has commissioned a likely multi-million dollar class action against Delhi organisers for substantial unpaid bills. The lawsuit is shaping a possible $3 million-plus class action involving at least four of Australia’s biggest major event names – including Birch’s Spectak Productions, Norwest Productions and Pyrotechnics group Howard & Sons who provided services for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

All are still waiting for substantial parts of their contracts to be paid, while some have been forced to deal with the additional blow of having millions worth of equipment, which has been need elsewhere for other events, still stuck in Delhi.

Howard & Sons’ Andrew Howard said the combination of the unpaid money and the hold-up of the company’s unique pyrotechnics firing equipment in Delhi had left their company in an unfortunate crisis.

“The past three months have probably been the most challenging in our 89-year history, in terms of both cash flow and equipment,” he said.
Birch has been quoted in jest as calling India an acronym for ‘I’ll Never Do It Again.’ Calling the games organisers “totally unreliable, totally incompetent, and often told total untruths.”

Birch who is still owed $350,000 on his Games contract joins Howard & Sons who are owed $300,000 in unpaid bills, but up to $900,000 once compensation for not having crucial equipment available was also considered. Event sound company Norwest Productions said it was now owed $1 million, including $160,000 a week for the past six weeks, for multi-million dollar equipment needed elsewhere by the start of December but was held up in Delhi.

Birch was creative director for the Delhi ceremonies, Howard & Sons provided all of their fireworks, and Norwest provided all the sound.

Despite the financial strife, both the opening and closing ceremonies were hailed a huge success among the games chaos.
The Australian companies also join a list of English, German and Italian organisations in the same predicament.

India’s ability to host international events has been called into further question, with at least five venues for the cricket World Cup still uncompleted.

Minister Arbib has said that all diplomatic attempts to recover payments had failed to provide results.

India’s organising committee chairman, Suresh Kalmadi, was recently sacked by the country’s sports minister following controversy surrounding the Games including allegations of dubious funding practices by the committee.

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