Thursday, September 23, 2010

Clegg calls for urgent assurances on Commonwealth Games preparation

Progress is needed “pretty urgently” to provide assurances that the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi will be a success, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said today.

Mr Clegg pledged “every support” to the Indian government as the country battles to complete preparations ahead of the opening ceremony in 10 days’ time.

Amid concerns about the state of athletes’ accommodation and the safety of facilities, the Deputy Prime Minister said the situation needed monitoring “carefully” but that he was not telling teams to stay away from India.

Several participating nations have delayed the departure of their athletes while others are waiting for assurances the issues will be resolved before the Games open on October 3.

During a series of interviews in Washington on his first trip to the US as Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Clegg said he could understand why people were “very concerned”.

“We are not saying to people now, ’Don’t go’, we are saying that this needs to be looked at carefully, that we all want the Commonwealth Games to be a success,” he said.

“Clearly something needs to happen pretty urgently to give people the confidence that it is going to be a success.”

He added: “We all want to make sure that every support is given to the Indian government to try to turn this around, get things right, give the athletes the confidence – not to mention everybody looking at the Games – that it will be, after all, a successful Games.”

Earlier a prominent member of the Games organising committee apologised for a “collective failure” in preparations.

The committee has come under fire over the past few days, not only over reports of “filthy” living conditions in the athletes’ village but also faulty infrastructure around the facilities – criticisms which intensified when a bridge linking a car park and the main stadium collapsed on Tuesday, injuring up to 23 constructors.

Yesterday further fears were raised when part of a ceiling in the weightlifting arena fell in.

The first English athletes are due to fly to New Delhi tonight, despite England having joined with seven other major countries in demanding written reassurances from India over safety and conditions.

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