India battles to salvage CGames

September 23, 2010 12:00 am

, NEW DELHI, Sep 23 – The Commonwealth Games Federation signalled on Thursday that Delhi is succeeding in fixing the problems that have brought the event to the brink of disaster just 10 days before the opening ceremony.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh summoned leading ministers to a crisis meeting late on Thursday 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," Mike Hooper, chief executive of the Games federation, told AFP, adding that there had been a "significant additional resource deployment", with the event just 10 days 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 that the risk of cancellation was now small. Related article: Delhi Games debacle clouds \’shining\’ India

Several teams have delayed their athletes\’ departure for the Indian capital amid demands for better conditions in the village, but the first contingents were scheduled to arrive on Friday.

Wales said it was sending its team as planned after receiving assurances that the facilities were up to scratch, and Scotland said it had been "heartened" by Dikshit\’s involvement with the clean-up.

"Things are looking much better," Team Scotland\’s representative Jon Doig said in Delhi.

Several world-class athletes have already pulled out of the October 3-14 event, which has damaged India\’s image and its plans to use the platform to promote its economic emergence. Pakistan \’concerned\’ over Games

A senior member of the organising committee issued a fulsome apology Thursday for what he said was a "collective failure" to get the Games in order.

"I genuinely feel sorry for whatever has happened and would like to apologise not only on the part of the OC but everybody else who is committed," committee treasurer A.K. Mattoo told the NDTV news channel.

Urban Development Minister Jaipal Reddy and Sports Minister M.S. Gill have been summoned to Singh\’s residence with the Games "the only point of discussion on the agenda," an official in the PM\’s office said.

Commonwealth Games Federation 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 federation source said.

The Delhi organisers have come under concerted 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. Related article: Questions over safety and quality of facilities

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," New Zealand\’s Games chief Mike Stanley said in a statement, while Andrew Pipe, the president of Canada\’s Games delegation, directly criticised the attitiude of the organisers.

"Their indifference at times has seemed to border on the intransigent to us, and that\’s just unacceptable," he told the BBC.

Months of warnings about security, shoddy infrastructure and the state of the village "have fallen on deaf ears", Pipe said.

New Delhi had been expecting 7,000 athletes and officials for the multi-sport showpiece for Commonwealth countries, mostly nations and territories formerly in the British Empire. Related article: New Zealand delay a blow to the Commonwealth Games

India was hoping to show off its progress and growing economic might — the "shining India" of nine percent economic growth, high-tech software companies and new diplomatic clout on the international stage.

But a footbridge collapse this week and a shooting outside New Delhi\’s main mosque have brought simmering disquiet to a head, coming after well-documented delays, political infighting and allegations of corruption.

A top Indian builders\’ union said the rush to finish venues in time — seven years after the country was awarded the Games — had compromised safety and quality.

India\’s leading business lobby group also voiced fears of the damage to the country\’s image abroad.

"It is a sad state of affairs indeed and, psychologically, puts a question mark against Indias capacity to deliver," said the general secretary of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Amit Mitra.


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