Wed, Sep 22, 2010 - Page 19 News List

Commonwealth Games viability questioned

AP, AFP AND REUTERS , NEW DELHI

Indian security personnel stand guard yesterday in front of a collapsed pedestrian bridge outside the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi, India.

PHOTO: REUTERS

While a footbridge under construction near the main stadium for the Delhi Commonwealth Games collapsed yesterday, injuring at least 23 laborers, alarming delays in completion of the athletes’ village have also prompted fresh fears about the viability of the Commonwealth Games, with a New Zealand delegate saying yesterday that next month’s event “may not happen.”

Even before New Zealand said it might be impossible to make the full village habitable in the two days before it officially opens to the first of 7,000 athletes and officials, Commonwealth Games Federation chief Michael Fennell had contacted the Indian government urging immediate action to finish “seriously compromised” accommodation that had shocked foreign visitors.

New Zealand team manager Dave Currie told radio network newstalkZB that New Delhi organizers “are in severe difficulties.”

“In the time frame that is left, unless there is tremendous effort and energy and problem-solving ability to get it done, it’s going to be extremely hard to get across the line,” he said.

Currie said New Zealand would consult with other countries before making a final decision on whether it can take part in the Oct. 3 to Oct. 14 games.

His fears were echoed by Australia’s chef de mission, retired marathon runner Steve Moneghetti, after he had talks with Australian Commonwealth Games Association chief executive Perry Crosswhite, who had checked into the village.

Moneghetti told reporters in Melbourne that Indian organizers “have got two days to do what’s probably going to take about two weeks.”

New Zealand, along with Canada, Scotland and Ireland, described the accommodation as “unlivable” and the 300-strong New Zealand contingent of athletes and officials had been allocated new quarters.

Fennell said advance parties from the international Commonwealth Games Associations (CGA) had been impressed with the international zone and main dining area within the village, “however, the condition of the residential zone has shocked the majority of CGAs that are in Delhi.”

“Despite [the CGAs] attempts to work with the organizing committee in a constructive manner since arriving on Sept. 15, significant operational matters remain unaddressed,” Fennell said in a statement. “The problems are arising because deadlines for the ­completion of the village have been consistently pushed out. Now, the high security around the site, while vital, is slowing progress and complicating solutions.”

The buildup to the games has been plagued by problems with construction of venues and infrastructure falling well behind schedule, causing concern over the safety and quality of the buildings and speculation of corruption in the awarding of contracts and structural compliance certificates.

But the delays in construction have been overshadowed more recently by safety concerns, heightened on Sunday after two ­unidentified gunmen on a ­motorcycle shot and wounded two Taiwanese ­tourists near the Jama Masjid, one of India’s biggest mosques.

Meanwhile, the collapse of a footbridge under construction injured at least 23 laborers, police said. Fivewere reported to be in serious condition.

The structure, a steel arch supporting an approximately 50m footbridge, fell down just outside the main Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, which will host the opening ceremony and athletics.

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