Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Delhi Games teeter on 'knife's edge'

British team officials have warned the Commonwealth Games are on a "knife edge" over complaints of filthy housing and growing structural and security fears.
There is growing concern among athletes and team officials about the ability of the city to host the Games, after a series of incidents including a bridge collapse and a shooting attack on a busload of tourists.

Now officials from England, Scotland and Wales say they could withdraw their athletes if their concerns are not met within the next two days.

"I think the next 24 to 48 hours is the critical time which will tell us whether the village, which is where the main problem is now, has got enough accommodation for everybody to come into it," Commonwealth Games England chairman Andrew Foster said.

"It's a situation that hangs on a knife-edge.

"The things that could change it are guarantees about the safety of the stadia and a significant improvement in the quality of the village accommodation."

Adding to the headache for organisers, this morning there were reports that an overflow of sewage had swamped homes in the north of the Indian capital.

The Times of India reported that toilets overflowed into homes and sewage as much as four to five feet deep had accumulated on some streets because of flooding.

But Indian foreign minister SM Krishna says despite the setbacks, the Games are going ahead.

"Once the games are over, I'm sure that India will vindicate itself, and then perhaps Commonwealth countries will feel proud that India was able to deliver on the games, even against very heavy odds," he said.

With the Games due to start in 10 days' time, Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive Mike Hooper is awaiting a response from the Indian government on the state of the athletes village.

Mr Hooper says the Federation has written, outlining very serious concerns about hygiene at the accommodation units, which he says must be addressed before the athletes arrive.

Mr Hooper dismissed suggestions the complaints were politically motivated or based on cultural insensitivity.

"This is not a conspiracy against anybody, this is just a statement of fact that the cleanliness is just nowhere near up to standard," he said.

"I described it yesterday as 'filthy' in many parts of the village and it's not just the CGA saying that, it's the CGAs that are there.

"You've heard comments yourself from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, England, Wales, Scotland, you know, they're all part of the advance groups that are here, and they're not happy and quite rightly so."

But India's high commissioner to Australia, Sujpa Singh, has defended her government's preparations for the Games.

Ms Singh says delays in construction are largely the result of unprecedented heavy rains in New Delhi and that the Government is working round the clock to complete venues.

She says that despite the delays, venues will be ready and the Games will go ahead.

"I know that the Games are going to go on," she said.

"We have too much invested in this and whatever needs to be done will be done."

Athletes insulated

Meanwhile, Australian athletes will be virtually insulated from the general population in India and advised not to travel anywhere except to and from their accommodation and the Games venues.

Speaking in New Delhi overnight, Australian Commonwealth Games Association (ACGA) head Perry Crosswhite said there would be some flexibility, but warned that security had to be tight.

Mr Crosswhite said athletes could stay on after the competition if they wanted to experience India, but equally, if they felt unsafe, they would be assisted to leave.

"[Security is] going to be tight. It has to be," he said.

"We're really at this point looking at only certain Games venues and potentially some other protected spots, but I think [we are] erring on the side of conservatism."

The Australian team has already had discus world champion Dani Samuels withdraw over security and health fears.

"This is the hardest decision of my life and not one I took lightly," the bronze medallist from the 2006 Melbourne Games said in a statement on Tuesday.

But Victorian archer Dawn Nelson says she has spent years training to win selection for the Commonwealth Games and that she will be heading to New Dehli to compete.

"The consensus of the whole team is that we are definitely going," she said.

"It seems to be more of a media hype. For a lot of people it is their first Games, as it is mine, and yes, everybody has worked very hard to get here."

No comments:


back to top