x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Fennell stands firm over Delhi as choice of venue

Commonwealth Games president adamant India deserved its chance and says he never considered giving up on Delhi.

Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium was the venue for the closing ceremony of the XIX Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium was the venue for the closing ceremony of the XIX Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

Mike Fennell, the Commonwealth Games Federation president, never considered giving up on Delhi despite the problems during the build-up to the event.

He conceded that the decision to award the Games to Delhi had been questioned in many quarters as preparations fell behind deadlines.

But Fennell remains adamant that Delhi deserved the opportunity to stage the Games, and while there have been problems -notably last-minute preparations at venues, a collapsed pedestrian footbridge, ticketing confusion and poor crowds at some sports - most were overcome.

"Before the Games people were asking me, 'Why are you going to India? Why are you going to Delhi? When are you going to cancel the Games?' But we felt it was our job to fix what was wrong not give up," said Fennell yesterday, "and the problems were fixed.

"A year out from the Games people asked 'what is your Plan B?' I said 'our Plan B is Delhi'. It was Delhi and Delhi has performed.

"The competition has gone well, the venues were of a high standard and the athletes are happy." Suresh Kalmadi, the Delhi 2010 organising committee chairman, was upbeat in his assessment.

"The whole Games has been built around the athletes and they have enjoyed themselves, enjoyed their stay here.

"Also India has won a lot of medals, double our tally in Melbourne, and we have seen some young sporting [talent] emerge, which is good for our sports."

Fennell acknowledged pre-Games coverage of issues such as the lack of preparations in some of the accommodation blocks in the athletes' village had helped get the Games back on track.

"I don't blame the media for exposing what had to be exposed," he said. "It was important to expose some of the fundamental problems and that helped. It helped us to get action going in some areas."

Fennell also accepted that a tough task lies ahead in persuading some top athletes to fit the Games into their calendars.

"A lot of were put off by the reports on a lack of preparedness and chose to pull out.

"More could have been done to mobilise spectators because it was disappointing that a lot of stands were empty.

"We have to make sure we present the Games in a more positive way."