Fri, Sep 24, 2010 - Page 1 News List

India makes progress as criticism over Games pours in

AFP , NEW DELHI

An Indian works at the construction site of a hockey training stadium in New Delhi yesterday ahead of the Commonwealth Games, which open on Oct. 3.

PHOTO: AFP

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

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh summoned leading ministers to a crisis meeting late yesterday and Delhi 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,” Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive Mike Hooper said, 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 federation president Michael Fennell was due to arrive in New Delhi.

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.

Several teams have delayed their athletes' departure for New Delhi amid demands for better conditions in the village, but the first contingents, including a party from Malaysia, were scheduled to arrive yesterday evening.

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

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.

Indian 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 prime minister's office said.

Fennell was to inspect progress and seek a meeting with Singh, but face-to-face talks with the prime minister were still in doubt, the federation source said.

The Indian organizers continue to come under attack for their lack of preparation, particularly in the village, where photographs 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,” New Zealand's Games chief Mike Stanley said in a statement. “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 organizers.

“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 to the organizers about security, shoddy infrastructure and the state of the village “have fallen on deaf ears,” Pipe said.

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