x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

It's business as usual as Delhi hits more snags

Blocked toilets,?a major communications blunder, a faulty results system and disappearing spectators.

NEW DELHI // The pool water is clean, but the toilets in the aquatic venue are blocked. Ticket sales are on the increase but the stadiums still seem mostly empty. 

There was a "major communications blunder" at the track that nearly resulted in athletes presented with their medals despite the race being protested. It is day five of competition at the Commonwealth Games but somehow, based on all the problems, they all seem to have a common theme.

Mike Fennell, the Commonwealth Games Federation president, said yesterday that officials at the athletics stadium erred the previous night by not telling the medallists in the women's 100m that the event was under protest. Just as well as the original winner, Sally Pearson of Australia, was later disqualified. "There was a problem ... there was a major communication blunder," Fennell said. The sports often seemed to be an afterthought, not helped by a results system that has not worked properly since the Games opened a week ago. Fennell is part of what is called the "Games-time management committee."

It meets every morning, and yesterday they had several new and continuing issues to handle: a Pakistan official reporting that US$550 (Dh2,020) had been stolen from his room at the athletes' village; the reports of blocked toilets at the swimming venue; poor quality food for volunteers and trying to get approval for helicopters to encroach on restricted airspace over the city for television coverage of the marathon and road cycling events.

But the biggest question mark of all: if 900,000 tickets have been sold, why do many of the stadiums appear nearly empty? Previous problems in the lead up to the Games included construction delays, corruption allegations, concerns about security, outbreaks of dengue fever and, perhaps the most damaging, complaints about unfinished and filthy accommodations in the athletes' village just days before teams were due to arrive.

One mystery out of the way yesterday was the quality of the pool water, which was suspected of being responsible for a dozen or more cases of "Delhi belly" suffered by mostly Australian and English swimmers. Track athletes have also suffered and William Sharman, who finished second in the 110m hurdles yesterday, picked up a stomach bug on the eve of the race and spent time in hospital on a drip yesterday between his qualifying heat and the final.

"I was close to tears this morning," he said. The only reason why I ran the final was because my mum flew over here to watch me." Fennell said three pools were tested - including the main pool and warm-up pool at the aquatics venue - "and the tests results of all those pools is that the water is in keeping with the standards that are required. There are no problems with the water in those pools". He said the Commonwealth Games Federation doctor had spoken to several team doctors and "they all agreed that the problems they are having with some of the athletes and officials in the village is not from the water, but could be caused by a number of other things".

Fennell also said that the security barrier which malfunctioned and slammed into a Ugandan team car, injuring three officials, would be "demobilised so there could be no fear of a recurrence". And a scoreboard crashed to the ground at the Commonwealth Games rugby sevens venue. Kevin Culliver, the rugby sevens competition manager, said it was lucky the incident "happened when no spectators were around" at the Delhi University complex, which will host the event on Monday and Tuesday.

A chain support apparently gave way at one corner of the massive temporary scoreboard, sending the left-hand side pivoting downward, smashing the bottom left of the screen into the ground and the bottom right into the iron support frame. 

* Agencies