Fears for Games recede as Delhi ‘fixes the problems’

THE Commonwealth Games Federation signalled yesterday that Delhi was succeeding in fixing the problems that have brought the event to the brink of disaster, with fears receding about its cancellation.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh summoned ministers to a crisis meeting and Delhi’s chief minister, Sheila Dikshit, oversaw the deployment of hundreds of staff to clean the athletes’ village.

“There has been progress and there is more to do,” said Mike Hooper, chief executive of the Games Federation, adding that there had been a “significant additional resource deployment“, with the event over a week away.

“We’re concentrating on fixing the problems. My attitude is that the Games are on. We are working at the highest levels of government,” he said shortly before the president of the federation was due to arrive in the Indian capital.

A source in the federation, which went public with complaints about the “filthy” and “seriously compromised” village on Tuesday, said that the mood was more upbeat and the risk of cancellation was now small.

Several teams have delayed their athletes’ departure for the Indian capital amid demands for better conditions in the village, but the first contingents including a party from Malaysia were scheduled to arrive on Wednesday.

Several world-class athletes have already pulled out of the October 3-14 event, however, and New Zealand yesterday joined other nations including Canada and Scotland in pushing back its team’s departure.

India’s premier, Singh, has become personally involved in the faltering preparation for the Games, which have already damaged India’s image and its plans to use the platform to promote its economic emergence.

Urban Development Minister Jaipal Reddy and Sports Minister MS Gill have been summoned to the premier’s residence with the Games “the only point of discussion on the agenda,” said an official in the PM’s office.

Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) president Michael Fennell was to inspect progress and seek a meeting with Singh, but face-to-face talks with the premier were still in doubt, the CGF source said. The Delhi organisers continue to come under attack for their lack of preparation, particularly in the village, where photos emerged of the conditions that greeted the first foreign officials to visit this week.

Pictures leaked to the BBC by an unnamed member of a national delegation showed a filthy leaking toilet, a stained and dirty shower, a bed with muddy dog paw prints on it, as well as rubble and water-logging.

“It’s tremendously disappointing,” said New Zealand’s Games chief Mike Stanley. “The long list of outstanding issues has made it clear the village will now not be ready for New Zealand athletes to move in as planned.”

Andrew Pipe, the president of Canada’s Games delegation, launched a scathing attack on the Indian organisers. “Their indifference at times has seemed to border on the intransigent to us, and that’s just unacceptable.”


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