Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Problems mount at Games, spectators needed

The empty stadiums that have marred the first two days of competition at the crisis-hit Commonwealth Games may be filled by children and the underprivileged given free tickets if attendance doesn't improve.

After weeks of problems and delays in a wide range of areas in the buildup to the Games, the sporting events are starting to grab some focus in New Delhi with host India winning five gold medals on Tuesday and England winning its first two in the pool.

But the problems persisted outside of competition. Workers were rushing to relay turf on the infield and try to clean up Sunday's opening ceremony at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium so it's ready in time for the athletics program to start Wednesday.

Police scoured the athletes village after an anonymous bomb threat, but it was later confirmed as a hoax. Authorities said a 16-year-old local boy had been cautioned after calling the police from a mobile telephone and claiming that a bomb had been placed in the village.

Led by Montreal weightlifter Marilou Dozois-Prevost, Canada won a gold and two bronze Tuesday.

Dozois-Prevost's total of 182 kilograms — 82 in the snatch and 100 in the clean and jerk — in the women's 53-kilogram class earned her a first international gold.

Fredericton wrestler Eric Fuenekes lost his third-place bout in the 96-kilogram Greco-Roman division but still won a bronze medal thanks to Hassene Fkiri's lack of manners.

The Australian was stripped of his silver for making a rude gesture to judges during his final against India's Anil Kumar. A South African was bumped up to silver and Fuenekes got the bronze.

Canada's women's gymnastics team — Catherine Dion of Gatineau, Que., Kristin Klarenbach of Edmonton, Cynthia Lemieu-Guillemette of St-Hubert, Que., Gabby May of Winnipeg, and Emma Willis of Sarnia, Ont. — also won bronze in the team competition.

Canada has two gold and five bronze after two days of competition.

Against the background of bungling, many of the venues across the city remained nearly empty, prompting local organizers to admit that they are considering giving away free tickets.

"We are working on the children from schools. Already steps are being taken in that direction," local organizing committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi said Tuesday at a news conference that was sometimes farcical. "And also from the low level of society."

While Indian shooters were busy winning the country's first gold medal of the Games, the leaders of the local organizing committee were sitting alongside the heads of the Commonwealth Games Federation and faced the media for the first time since the event opened.

Kalmadi was confident that the glitches from the first day of competition Monday had been solved overnight, saying that the transportation issues were dealt with and the addition of ticket booths at all venues would lead to bigger crowds.

"As of today, things are all right," said Kalmadi, who also mistakenly noted that "Prince Diana" had attended the opening ceremony before correcting himself and identifying Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall as the attendees.

Lady Diana was the ex-wife of Prince Charles, who is the heir to the British throne and the person who officially declared the Games open. Diana died in a car crash in 1997.

Despite the optimism shown by Kalmadi, Commonwealth Games Federation president Michael Fennell said his organization still had a number of concerns.

"There are some issues that we had to deal with and we have assigned those issues to various people to correct," Fennell said. "And we're expecting that those will be corrected during the course of the day."

New scales were used for the belated weigh-in before boxing competition started Tuesday. Athletes and coaches were upset when the scales used Monday were found to be giving incorrect readings, forcing some boxers to take desperate, unnecessary attempts to shed weight.

Organizing committee secretary-general Lalit Bhanot said it had been "rectified" and "There's no problem at all."

Mike Hooper, the CEO of the Commonwealth Games Federation, also responded to claims that he has been living a lavish lifestyle in India instead of ensuring that deadlines for the Games were met.

"It's just simply not true," said Hooper, who has also been burned in effigy by locals for reportedly criticizing India in the run-up to the Games.

"Obviously it was upsetting personally. I'm not going to delve into it," Hooper said. "The basis of what led to that, it's clear, is not correct."

The 19th edition of the Commonwealth Games have been plagued by construction delays, allegations of corruption and security worries, but with 18 gold medals awarded Tuesday and now 26 overall, much of the focus has now turned to sports.

India picked up two in shooting and three in Greco-Roman wrestling on Tuesday, with Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang starting the rush with victory in the men's 10-metre air rifle pairs event.

"It was always important for us to do well on home ground," Bindra said. "It gives us a good start and hopefully, we will have many more medals in the coming days."

Ravindere Singh won the 64-kilogram class in Greco-Roman wrestling, Sanjay claimed the 74-kg gold and Anil Kumar won the 96-kg event.

Singapore claimed two shooting gold medals when Swee Hon Lim and Bin Gai won the men's 50-metre pistol pairs event and Xiang Wei Jasmine and Aqilah Sudhir won the 50-metre rifle pairs.

In track cycling, Australia won the men's and women's time trial races and the men's pursuit. Olympic champion Anna Meares won the women's 500-metre time trial in 33.758 seconds, Scott Sunderland took the men's one-kilometre time trial in 1:01.411.

Jack Bobridge won the 4,000-metre individual pursuit.

England won its first two gold medals of the Games in the swimming pool. Francesca Halsall beat world champion Marieke Guehrer of Australia in the women's 50-metre butterfly, and world champion Liam Tancock won the men's 50 backstroke.

Also, Leiston Pickett gave Australia its fourth gold of the six-day swimming meet by winning the women's 50-metre breaststroke and Robert Renwick won Scotland's first gold with a victory in the 200 freestyle.

Australia won the women's team gymnastics gold for the fourth time in a row and led the medal standings after two days with nine gold medals and 23 overall. India was second with 11 overall.

Canada is sixth.

India looks towards shooters, lifters for more medals

India, who broke open the gold medal chest with a haul of five yellow metals on Tuesday, once again would look up to their star-packed shooting squad and lifters to boost their medals tally in the Commonwealth Games on Wednesday.

The Games hosts looked well on way to achieve their target in the multi-sport spectacle as the second-best country on day two on Tuesday when shooters and grapplers combined to give them five gold medals as well as two silver medals for a two-day tally of 5 gold, 4 silver and 2 bronze.

Australia, as projected before the Games, are leading the bunch with a 8-9-4 medal haul going into the third day's competitions. They ended the day with 9-9-5.

After grabbing the pairs gold, top marksmen Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang would compete against each other for the individual title in the 10m air rifle.

Similar would be the predicament faced by women pistol shooters Rahi Sarnobat and Anisa Sayyed who nailed the gold in the 25m pairs event as they will line up as opponents at the Dr Karni Singh range.

Commonwealth Games: Mentor's girls win again

BOURNEMOUTH netballer Geva Mentor helped England make it two out of two at the Commonwealth Games, but insists they will need to up their game to hang on to their 100 per cent record.

The 26-year-old was heavily involved as England got their campaign off to a comfortable start with an 81-20 win over Barbados on the opening day of the Games in India.

Mentor ensured they repeated the trick against South Africa, although it proved to be a tougher test as England were made to work hard to come out on top 54-36.

Next up for Mentor and co is New Zealand tomorrow – strong pre-Games favourites and |reigning champions having |seen off Australia four years ago in Melbourne.

And with that in mind, Mentor – a veteran of two Commonwealth Games – insists they will have to move up a notch to maintain their unbeaten start against the Silver Ferns.

“The game against South Africa was just one of those games that we just had to grind out to get the result we wanted,” said Mentor.

“At times it looked like we weren’t going to do that but we got the result at the end of the day and that is what we needed so we have got to be happy.

“The result was a big boost for us in the end, this is what we have been training for and we will be going all out to beat New Zealand.”

Commonwealth Games: Weaver won't accept anything but gold

Ferndown  fighter Iain Weaver believes he has already won the psychological battle at the Commonwealth Games – but insists he will finish the job off in the ring and leave Delhi clutching gold.

 The 20-year-old star has been in impressive form in his first full year with the Great Britain squad, winning silver at the June European Championships and the Commonwealth Feds, and gold in the Prime Ministry tournament in Turkey.

And while the surroundings of Delhi might be alien to some, Weaver is back in India having won gold in his last two outings there – at the March Commonwealth Feds and the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games.

But the former Ferndown Upper School pupil insists he is not done in India just yet and believes the gold medal is his to lose.

Weaver, who kicks off his Games bantamweight campaign with a bout against Vusie Simelane of Swaziland tomorrow, said: “This season has been brilliant I’m on top of my game and it will be great if I can finish it all off with gold at the Commonwealths.

“In my weight the field is quite strong but most of them I have fought and beat before so that will give me the edge when we step in the ring.

“I’ve been to India a couple of times before and have done well but this time is much better because we’re in an athlete’s village and have our own cooks.

“That bodes well for more success because when I’m well looked after outside the ring I can focus better on my game inside the ring.

“Anything less than gold will be a disappointment but I fully expect to medal. I won’t accept anything but that gold right now.”

Even though the Games will be a big notch on the belt of the Golden Ring boxer, Weaver has already set his sights on following in the footsteps of James DeGale by winning gold at London 2012.

“The London Olympics is not far off now but I’m just trying to stay at the top of my game until then,” he added.

“It’ll be superb to fight in front of the home fans and qualification starts next year so hopefully I can head into 2011 as Commonwealth champion and really give myself a boost.

“You see a lot of people like DeGale and Amir Khan make their names from the Olympics and I want to do the same – and my journey starts with the Commonwealth Games.”

• Lloyds TSB Local Heroes is an initiative in partnership with SportsAid providing support and funding to over 270 of Britain’s most talented developing |athletes on their journey to London 2012 and beyond.

Commonwealth Games pushes ONE to the top

ONE pulled a share of 4.8% last night as the top digital channel for the night.

It bettered GO’s 4.5%, 7TWO’s 2.8%, 7mate’s 2.3% and GEM’s 2.0%.

Its top audience was Commonwealth Games Primetime Late with 208,000. The same broadcast on TEN was 725,000 -a combined audience of 933,000. TEN tells TV Tonight it ceased aggregating ratings for simulcast programming on TEN and ONE at the start of this year.

TEN’s combined audience for the Primetime Early session was 737,000 viewers, however TEN claims a combined audience of 1.22 million viewers watched 18-year old Leiston Pickett take out the Gold Medal in the Women’s 50m Breastroke Final.

4.8% isn’t a record for ONE, which pulled 6.2% in early April, but that was with a Formula One race in non ratings.

The top show on a digital channel last night was The Vicar of Dibley on 7TWO with 231,000.

Seven won the night in network share.

Giant screen in CP to telecast events

With shoppers finally returning to Connaught Place, the Organising Committee has put up a giant LCD screen at the Inner Circle for people to watch Commonwealth Games events, especially during the cycling event in the area. The 10x15 feet wide screen has been placed in the parking lot of B-Block and, according to officials, will start working in a couple of days.

With the beautification work mostly over, many people have started thronging the area in the past few days. “Connaught Place looks very beautiful in its new coat of white paint. It is easier for people to move around and the parking spaces are well laid out. I love the new look,” said Shreya Upadhyay, a frequent visitor. She said the screen will also be a big attraction for visitors.

The Organising Committee has put such a screen in several areas of the Capital. OC spokesperson Lalit Bhanot said, “These screens are for citizens of Delhi. Those who are out shopping and dining in the markets can still catch up on every event.” There is also a Youth Festival going on in the Central Park.

Meanwhile, with a large number of people coming to CP, the Delhi Police has increased security there. Along with Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Delhi Police commandos, two Quick Reaction Teams have been also stationed in the area.

Luxury train rides for winners
The government on Tuesday offered free luxury train packages to Indian medal winners in the Games. Athletes who excel in their respective fields would be gifted an all-inclusive, complimentary trips aboard the Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, Golden Chariot, Deccan Odyssey or Maharaja Express by the Union Tourism Ministry. Tourism Minister Kumari Selja said the medal winners will also be felicitated at a special function to be held in Delhi soon after the Games.

Malaysia lifts another gold in Delhi

There were more cheers in the Malaysian camp on the second day of the 2010 Commonwealth Games (CWG), when weightlifters added a gold and silver while cycling provided a silver lining to boost the medal tally.

Though defending overall champion, Australia pulled away from the pack, after taking a lion’s share of the 18 gold medals at stake today, Acricco Jumitih managed to pluck one from the men’s 62kg weightlifting category while his compatriot Naharudin Mahayudin made it a grand finish by taking the silver.

Late yester evening, Raihan Yusoff clinched a bronze in the women’s 53kg-class after lifting a total of 169kg.

Earlier in the day, cyclist Mohd Rizal Tisin made Malaysia proud by becoming the first Malaysian to win a medal in Commonwealth Games cycling events when he collected a silver medal in 1km time trial.

Host India managed to improve its medal standings, with two gold medals, while Australia continued to prove its dominance among the 71 participating Commonwealth nations and associations.

The Aussies won eight gold medals, England rose to second spot with two gold medals, both from shooting.

Today, a total of 27 gold medals will be up for grabs and swimming offers 9, the highest for today’s take.

Malaysia will be hoping for another golden outing today as four swimmers dip into the pool in search of gold while Katrina Ann Abdul Hadi moves into the final of the women’s synchronised swimming solo technical routine final.

Another Malaysian duo, Lee Zhien Huey and Png Hui Chuen would be taking part in the finals of the synchronised technical duet finals. Apart from the pool, medal hopes remain bright in the finals of the men’s artistic individual all-around competition through Lum Wan Foong.

Despite a bad outing for Malaysian shooters yesterday, they would be hoping to gun down a medal or two through Benjamin Khor and Khor Seng Chye in the finals of the double trap (pairs) event tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, Mohd Faerol Talib and Mohd Hafifi Mansor will be competing in the finals of the men’s 69kg category weightlifting finals and certainly would aspire to emulate the success of Amirul Hamizan Ibrahim and Acricco.

But while the Malaysian camp was rejoicing the win by weightlifters and cyclist, there was disappointment in the hockey arena as the Malaysian girls failed to keep up Monday’s winning momentum (defeated Canada 3-2) after losing 0-5 to New Zealand in pool B match.

The men suffered a similar fate when host India snatched a final minute 3-2 victory in their opening Group A match.

Boxing: Haroon can be better than Amir

Haroon Khan stepped out of the shadow cast by big brother Amir with a stunning Commonwealth Games debut win.

And that has convinced proud father Shah he can be even better than his world champion sibling.

Shah was ringside in the Talkatora Stadium in Delhi to see Khan, wearing the vest of Pakistan, dismantle Tanzanian opponent Sunday Elias, with the referee stopped the bout midway through the third round as Khan held a commanding 12-1 lead.

Shah said: "Haroon can be better than Amir. If he puts 100 per cent into his training he can do it. He's got to fend for himself now. He's got a lot to prove and that's going to make a difference to him."

Khan made the decision to box for Pakistan after being overlooked for the Great Britain elite squad and Shah believes Haroon was the victim of politics, with jealousy over Amir's success a factor in the decision.

Shah added: "There's loads of politics in this game. 'If one [Amir] does well, why should the other do well?' - that's the thing that comes to my mind. They should have let him have a fair crack at everything.

"There's nothing else left for Haroon to do with the ABA now. Fighting for Pakistan has given him the hunger. He will probably go to the Asian Games with them in November, then we will see what happens from there."

Khan resembled his older brother in his novice days with his lightning movement and eagerness to finish the job, which looked spectacular although it left him open for counter shots from fighters better equipped than Elias.

Khan faces a possible third round meeting with one of GB elite squad members Tommy Stubbs or Welshman Andrew Selby, and he is clearly determined to take his chance to make his point.

"This is a big opportunity for me to prove the critics wrong in England and I'm glad I've done that," added Khan. "My job is to perform in the ring and I didn't let it get to me. I'm not going to bother about the bad publicity I've had."

Bradley Saunders and Anthony Ogogo got England's boxing campaign off to an explosive start as both fighters scored early stoppage victories over their outclassed opponents.

Saunders dumped Dominic Boatswain of Grenada on the canvas twice for a first round victory, then shrugged off the expectations which come with being gold medal favourite in the light-welterweight division.

Saunders said: "This is all about me coming out and performing. I think I've made my own pressure in the past. But my results speak for themselves and people expect a lot from you."

Ogogo took marginally longer to dispose of Andrew Kometa of the Kiribati Islands. Ogogo slammed home right hands to force Kometa to take two standing counts before the referee waved the fight off with Ogogo 8-0 ahead.

Ogogo said: "The first one's always going to be nerve-racking but everyone gets nervous, from Ricky Hatton to Lennox Lewis. It was a massive occasion for me and I tried to keep a level head.

"This is my big chance. I've been dreaming, sleeping, eating and drinking the Commonwealth Games. I want to become known as a boxing superstar rather for any of the other stuff I've done."

Northern Ireland had two winners out of three on the first day with middleweight Eamonn O'Kane a 5-0 winner over Ranil Jayathilkage of Sri Lanka and Mark O'Hara beating Namibia's Mikka Shonena 6-3 at flyweight.

Welsh middleweight Keiran Harding beat Habib Ahmed of Ghana to move into the second round and the Ebbw Vale youngster paid tribute to the help provided by returning veteran Kevin Evans.

"Kevin's been great to have around the team and giving us all tips on how to succeed in an environment like this," said Harding. "It's great to be a part of such a strong squad and having Kevin as a father figure can only be a benefit for us."

Harding's team-mate Chris Jenkins went down 7-0 to Louis Colin of Mauritius. Northern Ireland light-welterweight Steven Donnelly was unpicked 10-0 by Australian Luke Woods.

Uganda: Kipsiro Eyeing No Less Than a Medal

UGANDA'S biggest medal bet Moses Kipsiro enters the athletics arena today, wary of a Kenyan trio who are ready to do anything to box him out of the Commonwealth Games men's 5000m final.

After denying him a medal podium in his favourite race at the Africa Senior Athletics Championships over two months ago, the Kenyan trio of Eliud Kipchoge, a last minute replacement of Edwin Soi, Vincent Yator and Mark Kiptoo, will not be willing to let Kipsiro break their pattern in the race here at the JN Sports Stadium.

But Kipsiro, used to running in fields where Kenyans are dominant, is least worried of this and for the first time revealed that he wants a medal in the international games after the Olympic medal eluded him in Beijing in 2008. He finished fourth then.

"I can not say what I am going to do but I will plan for the race. I badly need this medal," he said earlier.

With his partner Geoffrey Kusuro pulling out, Kipsiro -- who is focussing on a double, wants to maintain Uganda's routine of winning at least a medal at the Games. Dorcus Inzikuru (3000m steeplechase) and Boniface Kiprop (10000m) won gold medals in Melbourne, 2006.

Also Annet Kabasindi, who finished 6th in Manchester 2002, will be competing in the women javelin final, while Justine Bayigga, and Ali Ngaimoko take to the track in a fight to qualify through the sprints.

Action will also be in the badminton, tennis, swimming and archery.

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