x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Games trouble blamed on rain

Indian officials blamed bad weather for problems that have led to a growing number of teams delaying their arrival in Delhi and putting at risk the Commonwealth Games.

Indian officials yesterday blamed bad weather for problems that have led to a growing number of teams delaying their arrival in Delhi and putting at risk the Commonwealth Games which are due to open on October 3. New Zealand have joined Scotland and Canada in delaying travelling while Julia Gillard, the Australian prime minister, said athletes should decide for themselves whether to attend. Members of the Indian Commonwealth Games committee said monsoon rains, which arrive annually between June and September, delayed additional work on the buildings, giving rise to fresh concerns about a dengue fever epidemic. Tarlochan Singh, head of media relations for the Commonwealth Games 2010 in Delhi, said: "There have been initial problems with the village but [it has] been opened now." "For one month, there has been rain around [the athletes village] and because of that some problems have arisen about cleanliness and debris," added Mr Singh. The Indian prime minster, Manmohan Singh, held an emergency meeting last night with his sports minister and other top officials to assess the state of preparations for the Games. They did not give details on what was discussed, the Associated Press reported.

Seven thousand athletes and officials were expected for the event, but several teams have delayed their arrival and some prominent athletes have pulled out of the competition citing security concerns. Joining a growing list of athletes who have decided to give the Games a miss are two Canadian archers, Kevin Tataryn and Dietmar Trillus, who pulled out of the games citing health and safety concerns.

"I'll take my safety over a medal any day," Tataryn told Canadian media. "It seems like it's all a bunch of little things that they are having problems with, what the people in India make it seem like. But I think it's quite a bit larger of a problem from what I'm being told by our Commonwealth Games representatives." Mr Singh said yesterday that members of the Indian team and other international teams were already moving into flats in the village that had been called, "unlivable" and "unfit for human occupation" by Sir Andrew Foster, the chairman of Commonwealth Games England. This week, a pedestrian bridge linking a parking lot to one of the main stadiums collapsed and ceiling tiles fell inside another venue. "Everything [in the village] has been checked," Mr Singh said. "The toilets have been checked twice, thrice."

He said Sheila Dikshit, the chief minister of Delhi, was supervising the clean-up of the village. Although the Organising Committee promised a "deep clean" in a statement released Tuesday, Mike Fennell, president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, said, "many issues remain unsolved". He added: "I wrote to the Indian cabinet secretary expressing my great concern with the preparedness of the athletes village to welcome the teams of the Commonwealth for the 2010 Commonwealth Games."

He said deadlines for the completion of the village had been "consistently pushed out". But the Federation signalled yesterday that Delhi was beginning to succeed in its promises to address the safety and hygiene issues. "There has been progress and there is more to do," Mike Hooper, chief executive of the Games federation, told AFP, adding that there had been a "significant additional resource deployment".

A representative from Emaar, the Dubai-based developer that built the village, said the company had handed over 35 towers with more than 4,000 flats to the Organising Committee between March to June, on schedule. Organising Committee officials confirmed that Emaar delivered what was required of it. "The problem is maintenance," said Santosh Singh, a spokesperson for Emaar MGF in India. "There are issues with cleanliness, hygiene, issues of paint and washroom maintenance, and [that is] the responsibility of the organising committee."

There have been complaints about doors opening the wrong way, toilets that do not work and human feces indoors. "The OC is responsible for the furniture and fixtures to be provided in the apartments and the temporary overlays in the village," said a statement from Emaar MGF. "The current controversy is due to housekeeping issues arising out of such work being carried out by the OC." Once the games finish on October 14, the flats will be returned to the developer, which will spend two to three months refurbishing the buildings before handing them over to customers who have bought the flats as homes, Mr Singh said.

@Email:sbhattacharya@thenational.ae