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2010 Commonwealth Games on brink of cancellation [Sep. 22nd, 2010|11:47 am]
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Sept 22, 2010

Leading Commonwealth nations may stage an alternative swim meet somewhere in the Middle East or Asia should the Commonwealth Games in Delhi be canceled because of poor conditions. The Games are due to unfold October 3-14 and it is far from clear as yet whether the show will be able to go on.

Canada has now added its name to the list of nations to give warning that they will pull out if there is not a drastic change in the Games environment, while Wales has now issued a statement that it too had been forced to consider whether it "is safe to bring our athletes into this environment".

Hours after England gave warning that it would need to see plumbing, lighting and other issues, including cleanliness and functioning toilets, sorted out at the Athletes' Village before the first of its teams arrives in Delhi tomorrow, Jan Cameron New Zealand high performance manager told Radio Sport back home that leading swim federations would move quickly to stage an alternative international meet if they had to.

Cameron, her team bound for camp in Abu Dhabi, said: "I think the Australians are in Singapore, the British are in Doha, the Canadians are in Singapore as well," she said. "We can all talk to each other. Should it eventuate, we will act quickly."

Preparations for the Commonwealth Games have been plagued by problems, some of them because of monsoon weather. Delays on construction of venues is everywhere to be seen, a pedestrian bridge close to the main stadium collapsed yesterday injuring more than 20 people while part of a roof at the weightlifting venue is reported to have given way, according to international agency reports. Beyond that, there have been allegations of corruption, concerns remain over the condition of the Athletes' Village and the spectre of terror threats is never far away in a week in which two tourists were gunned down in Delhi.

The Indian government stepped in yesterday under mounting pressure of international criticism. The result: operation 'deep clean' is about to begin at the Athletes' Village.

Two world champions from track and field athletes yesterday decided enough was enough and withdrew from the Games. However, some have taken a different view over conditions and security. "We've all got our mosquito nets and we're all going to be packing our pillows," former world 50m butterfly champion Geoff Huegill (AUS) told AAP. "I think we have to remember, while we are used to staying in some pretty nice, high-rise places, India is still classed as a third-world country. So to them what might seem really adequate might not be as adequate or at the level we think so I think for us as athletes, we don't want to show any disrespect to them."

In Canada, Scott Stevenson, Commonwealth Games Canada’s (CGC) director of sport, who arrived in Delhi last week to prepare for Team Canada’s arrival, told Canadian media: "We are deeply concerned that the condition of the residence facilities is not at all what we expected, nor anything like what was promised. Beyond the major cleanup required, there are other issues with plumbing, wiring, furnishings, Internet access, and mobile telephone coverage."

In Ottawa, Sports Minister Gary Lunn talked of "very serious concerns" over athlete accommodation and added: "We all want to see a very successful Commonwealth Games in India. That is obviously the goal. We think it would be fantastic for India. But, having said that, it’s their responsibility to provide these Games and there are serious concerns. And that’s why those discussions are ongoing."

Adding weight to the embarrassment of India, Commonwealth Games Canada president Dr. Andrew Pipe, also a leading anti-doping light, said: "It is not as if the Indian government has been unaware of these problems - and that is, I think, the source of so much frustration on the part of many of us. This would have been an opportunity for India to shine. Instead, I think, it risks considerable international embarrassment unless some of these deficiencies can be addressed."

A statement from Team Wales issued today reads: "The health and safety of our team has always been our top priority - which is why we’ve been so desperate to resolve the issues in the Games Village. With yesterday’s news of the bridge collapse and now the roof of the weightlifting venue, we have to take a step back and examine how safe it is to bring athletes into this environment.We have given the Organising Committee a deadline of this evening to confirm if all venues and the Games Village are fit for purpose. On the basis of that announcement, we will be contacting athletes via our team managers and advise them of the latest position and will issue a further update."

Embattled organisers will have a lot of explaining to do when Games federation chief Michael Fennell arrives in Delhi tomorrow to open an Athletes' Village that is yet something not much beyond a building site in some areas.

Fennell hwrote to the Indian Government this week detailing what he described as the “unlivable” conditions at Athletes’ Village. There is speculation that Fennell may now meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to urge him to take urgent action to save the Games.

"The final preparations for the Games Village have been of concern to the CGF since viewing the residential zone along with a number of Commonwealth Games Associations advance parties on September 15," Mr. Fennel had said in a strongly-worded statement. "Many issues remain unresolved and I wrote to the Indian Cabinet Secretary, expressing my great concern with the preparedness of Athletes' Village. The condition of residential zone has shocked majority of the CGAs that are in Delhi. However, with the Village to be officially opened on September 23, timely acceptable solutions to prepare for the arrival of athletes are of paramount importance."