Australia clinched both Commonwealth Games cycling road race golds yesterday, but an eerily quiet New Delhi resembled a ghost town as the organizers’ hair-trigger security concerns kept spectators away.
Rochelle Gilmore took the women’s title, with Allan Davis winning the men’s gold on a course that should have shown off this teeming city of almost 18 million at its best, but with TV helicopters relaying majestic views of the races which passed iconic Connaught Place, India Gate and Parliament House, Delhi organizers were once again embarrassed by yet another event played out with nobody watching.
Apart from soldiers and police, the riders only had the heat, dirt, wild dogs and monkeys for company.
“There wasn’t much atmosphere. The crowd was very bare apart from the armed guards everywhere,” English cyclist Katie Conclough said. “It was a shame to have had this big event and not have many people out there to watch it.”
Bizarrely, embattled organizers insisted that there were spectators present.
“There was no shortage of crowds,” said Suresh Kalmadi, the organising committee chairman.
Pictures of empty streets being beamed around the world was the last thing organizers needed after an event which has lurched from one crisis to another against a background of ever-increasing ridicule.
The races also proved a personal disaster for pre-race favorites Mark Cavendish of the Isle of Man and Olympic champion Nicole Cooke of Wales, who limped home outside of the medals.
There should have been no shortage of spectators at the Major Dyan Chand Stadium later yesterday when India were to tackle old rivals Pakistan needing a victory to reach the men’s hockey semi-finals.
“Pakistan are playing very well in this tournament, much better than what they did in the World Cup. We will have to match them and be on top of our form if we are to get the better of them,” India’s Spanish coach Jose Brasa said.
On a day when 32 golds were up for grabs, India, England and Singapore shared the titles on a day of thrilling shooting.
Aaron Reading of England won gold in the men’s trap, beating a world class field boasting double Olympic champion Michael Diamond of Australia.
India’s Harpreet Singh came from behind to beat compatriot and medal favorite Vijay Kumar in the men’s 25m center fire pistol.
Singapore bagged the third gold on offer on the seventh day of the competition, with Jasmine Ser Xiang Wei winning her second gold of the Games in the women’s 10m air-rifle individual event.
India also won both titles in men’s and women’s recurve archery, as the hosts moved above England in the gold medal race, although Australia comfortably has twice as many as the two nations combined.
Samoa, who had never won Commonwealth gold before this year, claimed their second in two days when Ele Opeloge dominated the women’s super-heavyweight weightlifting competition.
The 25-year-old’s victory, secured by a huge 30kg margin, could also be the first of a family double, as brothers Niusila and Tovia were both competing in the men’s 105kg competition later yesterday.
Opeloge’s win followed Faavae Faauliuli’s triumph in the men’s 94kg division on Saturday.
On Saturday, Sania Mirza, India’s most popular sportswoman, failed to win Commonwealth tennis gold for a fanatical home crowd as Australia’s Anastasia Rodionova spoiled the party with a 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 victory.