Friday, October 8, 2010

1 step forward, often 2 back at Commonwealth Games

The pool water is clean, but the toilets in the aquatic venue are blocked. Ticket sales are on the increase but the stadiums still seem mostly empty. There was a "major communications blunder" at the track that nearly resulted in athletes presented with their medals despite the race being protested.

It's day five of competition at the Commonwealth Games. But somehow, based on all the problems, they all seem to have a common theme.

Commonwealth Games Federation president Mike Fennell on Friday said officials at the athletics stadium erred the previous night by not telling the medalists in the women's 100 that the event was under protest. Just as well, as the original winner, Sally Pearson of Australia, was later disqualified.

On a day when 43 gold medals will be presented, the sports often seemed to be an afterthought, not helped by a results system that has not worked properly since the games opened a week ago.

Fennell is part of what is called the "games-time management committee." It meets every morning, and on Friday they had several new and continuing issues to handle: the reports of blocked toilets at the swimming venue; poor quality of food to volunteers; and trying to get approval for helicopters to encroachment on restricted airspace over the city for television coverage of the marathon and road cycling events.

But the biggest question mark of all: if 900,000 tickets have been sold, why do many of the stadiums appear nearly empty?

Previous problems in the leadup to the games included construction delays, corruption allegations, concerns about security, outbreaks of Dengue fever and, perhaps the most damaging, complaints about unfinished and filthy accommodations in the athletes' village just days before teams were due to arrive.

One mystery out of the way Friday was the quality of the pool water, which was suspected of being responsible for a dozen or more cases of "Delhi belly" affecting mostly Australian and English swimmers.

Fennell said three pools were tested - including the main pool and warmup pool at the aquatics venue - "and the tests results of all those pools is that the water is in keeping with the standards that are required. There are no problems with the water in those pools."

He said the Commonwealth Games Federation doctor had spoken to several team doctors and "they all agreed that the problems they are having with some of the athletes and officials in the village is not from the water, but could be caused by a number of other things."

Fennell also said that the spiked security barrier which malfunctioned and slammed into a Ugandan team car, injuring three of its officials, would be "demobilized so there could be no fear of a recurrence."

In early athletics action at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Jamie Adjetey-Nelson ran the second-fastest time in 110-meter hurdles and the second best throw in the discus to stay in the lead of the decathlon after seven events. The Canadian finished the hurdles in 14.76 seconds and threw the discus 45.21 meters to increase his total to 5,888 points.

The first of eight track gold medals on Friday's program went to Diane Roy of Canada, who won the parasport 1,500 in 3 minutes, 53.95 seconds. Chineme Bibian Obeta of Nigeria was second in 4:09.29 and Anita Fordjour of Ghana took bronze in 4:18.83.

Later, 11 gold medals were scheduled to be awarded in the pool, five each in gymnastics and shooting, and the first in badminton.

Many of those venues were completed well after they were supposed to, which prevented many so-called "test events" from being held. Staging test events would have allowed officials to iron out many of the major problems they are being forced to deal with during these games.

"I don't want to argue that if the stadiums had been delivered to the organizing committee earlier, it would have been better," Fennell said. "There is no question about that."

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