Lawsuit threatened over India's Commonwealth Games

Firms in Australia, Britain, France and Germany are among those owed money while national Commonwealth Games Associations complain of missing refunds and travel subsidies.

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NEW DELHI // Indian organisers of the Commonwealth Games have left foreign contractors and sports bodies with millions of dollars of unpaid bills, business owners and diplomats said yesterday.

Several hundred containers of equipment were also impounded in India after the Games, and companies say they have been unable to contact officials whose e-mail addresses and telephone numbers were cancelled.

Firms in Australia, Britain, France and Germany are among those owed money, officials in New Delhi said, while national Commonwealth Games Associations have complained of missing refunds and travel subsidies.

A legal battle is now looming with foreign companies seeking full payment for their services plus compensation for delays with specialist equipment often taking months to remove from India.

"Last time we told them (the Games accountants) to pay everything in full that is due under all agreements," Lalit Bhanot, the secretary general of the organising committee, said yesterday.

"Now we will check what is the position and what is the problem if there is one."

Ric Birch, the Australian impresario behind the opening and closing ceremonies, has instructed lawyers to launch a lawsuit on behalf of companies involved in the Games against the organisers.

"There were up to 15 other companies involved with the opening ceremony and many more companies involved with the Commonwealth Games overall," Mr Birch said.

"None of the companies have received their payments which were due under contract by the end of October."

Mr Birch, who has produced opening ceremonies for several Olympics, said his Commonwealth Games experience had soured his view of the host country.

"We decided that India stood for: India I'll never do it again," he said.

Mr Birch's company Spectak said it was owed 350,000 Australian dollars (Dh1.3m), the sound company Norwest Productions is owed about 1m dollars and the fireworks company Howard & Sons about 300,000 dollars plus a claim of up to 900,000 dollars in compensation.

British diplomats said that the broadcasting company SIS Live was also lobbying the British High Commission to help it collect about 30 per cent of unpaid fees for producing and transmitting the Games' television coverage.