England set for Commonwealth

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LONDON, September 24 – England will compete at the crisis-hit Commonwealth Games in Delhi, team officials announced on Thursday, after "unanimously" agreeing the decision with its 17 member sports.Competitors and officials from several nations have raised concerns about the cleanliness of the athletes’ village and the condition of some venues ahead of the October 3 start of the multi-sport event.

But a Commonwealth Games England (CGE) statement said: "Commonwealth Games England and its 17 member sports today unanimously agreed that they will go to the Delhi Games.

"CGE’s chef de mission, Craig Hunter, and our team in Delhi, are now seeing the improved levels of resourcing which are required to resolve the significant operational issues, but we will continue to monitor the situation daily to ensure the village and stadia are safe and fit for purpose."

However, the statement added: "The board continues to press the organising committee of the Commonwealth Games Federation for assurances on both the stadia and the accommodation as well as liaising with the British Government. At all times the safety and security of our team is paramount."

CGE chairman Andrew Foster revealed they had been close to withdrawing — a move that may well have sparked the end for this edition of the Games — but that the intervention of Delhi’s chief minister, Sheila Dikshit, had helped persuade them into sending a team.

"We really were close to not going," Foster told BBC Radio Five. "When we got into the back end of the village – not the show flats – it was a long way off being ready.

"There didn’t seem to be a sense of urgency but the big thing that’s happened today (Thursday), that made a substantial difference, was they’ve put the whole development under the cabinet minister for Delhi and she went down to site at 7am with 40 or 50 people."

Despite the CGE statement, several English athletes have taken it upon themselves to withdraw from the event, although in some cases this has been as a result of injury rather than concerns about the venue.

English cyclists Ian Stannard and Ben Swift joined the growing list of absentees, along with Welsh Olympic champion Geraint Thomas earlier on Thursday.

Thomas expressed fears over the presence of mosquito-borne dengue fever at the site of the competition, which starts on October 3.

Phillips Idowu, England’s world triple jump champion, announced Tuesday — the same day as a footbridge near the main stadium collapsed — he would not be defending his Commonwealth title by saying: "Sorry people, but I have children to think about.

"My safety is more important to them than a medal."

Olympic and Commonwealth 400 metres champion Christine Ohuruogu also withdrew from England’s team, as did compatriot Lisa Dobriskey, the reigning Commonwealth 1500 metres champion.

But both runners insisted their exits were injury-related.

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