Sunday, September 26, 2010

'World-class facility with minor issues'

Workers painted walls, drained out rain water and removed a snake at the Commonwealth Games Village yesterday as India raced to address complaints of filth and hygiene a week before the start of the showpiece event.

Indian organising committee officials met to review the work at the athletes' village where masons plastered walls while workers struggled to dry out the basements of the site, which sits on the flood plains of the Yamuna river.

"All finishing work is in full swing," said Dalbir Singh, mayor of the Games Village where the athletes will stay. "It's a world-class facility with some minor issues and work is going on to fix those problems."

Indeed, most of the 34 apartment blocks are gleaming and spacious and fitted with Italian marble. But the view of the facilities has been overshadowed by athletes' complaints of filth and unfinished work in some of the living quarters. About 150 rooms meant for athletes were described as uninhabitable.

"Labourers have done a very bad job. They had spit paan (chewing tobacco] on the walls, stains of which are almost unremovable," said Lalit Bhanot, secretary general of the Games organising committee. "We are identifying rooms which are dirty and shutting them down. But we have adequate rooms so there is nothing to worry about."

India was awarded the Games in 2003 but did not begin proper preparations until two years ago. Michael Fennell, chief of Commonwealth Games Federation, has said India's image has taken a beating, following images of filthy toilets, safety barriers with shattered glass and soiled beds.

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