What an aweful mess!

By Drum Digital
29 September 2010

IMAGINE this: you arrive at the Commonwealth Games athletes' village in New Delhi, India, after a long flight, hoping for a well-deserved rest but even before you get to your room torrents of water from the monsoon rains cascade down passages and stairs.

You pick your way through the flood to your room only to find the floor slick with mud. When you lie down on the bed it collapses ? and a snake slithers from underneath it. A putrid smell comes from the bathroom and when you open the door you find excrement covering the toilet, shower, even the hand basin. Outside you see workmen frantically fixing a collapsed pedestrian bridge that had been built specially for the games...

Far-fetched? Well, this was the scene in the village just days before the start of the world's biggest mixed sporting event after the Olympics. Team South Africa arrived a week ahead of the start and checked into a five-star hotel after receiving assurances from the Indian authorities that they would be accommodated in style until the village was ready.

In the run-up to the opening ceremony on 3 October, India was rushing to deal with chaotic, filthy and unsafe conditions that were threatening to become a major embarrassment.

Less than two weeks before the start a footbridge leading to the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium collapsed, injuring 27. A day later a ceiling in the weight-lifting hall caved in when it was pounded by monsoon rains. The stench of animal and human excrement coming from the hastily built Games Village, which will house 7 000 athletes from around the world, was overwhelming and stray dogs roamed the grounds. A snake was even found in one of the rooms allocated to Team SA.

But it's dengue fever (a life-threatening disease spread by mosquitoes that results in high fevers and acute pain ? it's also called breakbone fever because it's so painful) and the possibility of terror attacks that athletes fear most.

Indian politicians and sports officials scrambled to cover up the fiasco because they had hoped to use the Games as an example of their country's growth and prestige as a regional power. But TV crews evaded shoddy security in the athletes' village and created a firestorm of negative publicity.

It didn't help when one of India's own participants' boxer Akhil Kumar was kept waiting for four hours before being transported from the Games administration office to the village. Exhausted by his ordeal, the 50 kg Kumar wanted to rest but his bed collapsed when he lay on it. When he went to freshen up in the bathroom it was covered in excrement.

Although several athletes have pulled out of the Games, all the national teams scheduled to compete were expected to take part after the Indian government pledged everything would be ready on time.

Read the full article in DRUM of 10 October 2010

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