Commonwealth Games ‘may not happen’

2010-09-21 10:16

New Delhi, India – Alarming delays in completion of the athletes’ village has prompted fresh fears about the viability of the Commonwealth Games, with a New Zealand delegate saying that next month’s event “may not happen”.

Even before New Zealand said it may 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 today that New Delhi organisers “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 games, scheduled to take place between October 3 and 14.

“That’s not a decision that we’ll make (alone) but there are some realities,” he said. “If the village is not ready and athletes can’t come, obviously the implications of that are that it’s not going to happen.”

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 organisers “have got two days to do what’s probably going to take about two weeks”.

“When I spoke to Perry yesterday he said there were some furnishings, some problems with the information technology that he was concerned about but he didn’t seem that concerned about the overall condition of the village,” Moneghetti was quoted as saying.

“It’s probably not up to western standards but hopefully it will be suitable for the athletes.”

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 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 organising committee in a constructive manner since arriving on September 15, significant operational matters remain unaddressed,” Fennell said in a statement.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key was hopeful the games’ organisers would be able to remedy the outstanding issues but did not rule out a withdrawal from the event.

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 the weekend after two unidentified gunmen on a motorcycle shot and wounded two tourists near the Jama Masjid, one of India’s biggest mosques.

Police patrols have been increased and a massive hunt for the gunmen launched.

The two injured tourists were recovering from their injuries and were expected to leave the hospital later this week.

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