Games on ‘knife edge’ as more athletes start to pull out

INDIA was yesterday struggling to keep its Commonwealth Games on track, with England warning the event was on a “knife edge” over complaints of filthy housing and growing structural and security fears.

Officials said Commonwealth Games Federation chief Mike Fennell was flying in today for a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss the problems overwhelming the October 3-14 event in New Delhi.

The latest high-profile withdrawals include the English Olympic 400m gold medallist Christine Ohuruogu and world triple jump champion Phillips Idowu, with Australia warning more of its competitors might follow.

Their decisions came after complaints by some teams about the state of the athletes’ village, safety fears due to the collapse of a footbridge near one of the venues and question marks over security after a gun attack on tourists.

Commonwealth Games England chairman Andrew Foster warned that the next 24 to 48 hours would be “critical”.

“It’s a situation that hangs on a knife-edge. We will not be sending our team unless we are confident,” Foster said, with athletes due to begin arriving this week for an event that was meant to showcase the modern India.

Adding to the organisers’ woes, a section of false ceiling fell down yesterday at the weightlifting venue, although there were no injuries.

Indian officials have struggled to keep a positive outlook on the event, despite the mounting concerns at home and abroad.

“There are some problems. But they are not insurmountable,” New Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit told reporters. “To make out that the whole thing is collapsing – I am sorry, we do not agree with that.”

Scotland – which hosts the next games in 2014 – announced it was delaying the departure of its athletes by a few days, while Team Wales said it had given the organisers hours to confirm the village and venues were “fit for purpose.”

England’s Idowu wrote on Twitter on Tuesday: “Sorry people, but I have children to think about. My safety is more important to them than a medal.”


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