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Asia

Commonwealth Games organizers stagger towards starting line

Ever since criticism and photographic evidence emerged of filthy rooms and shoddy workmanship, the organizers have been scrambling to ensure that preparations are up to the mark and that more athletes do not withdraw.

Putting the finishing touches on a bridge near the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium

Putting the finishing touches on a bridge near the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium

After the collapse of a footbridge near the main stadium, a dengue fever scare and the images of the appalling state of the Athletes' Village, collapsing beds and invading snakes in sporting venues have heaped further embarrassment on the organizers of the Commonwealth Games.

The bad publicity has sent the multiple agencies overseeing the Games into a tizzy and many are working round the clock to ensure the country is ready for the event that is taking place from October 3. to 14.

The remodeled Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium is where the opening and closing ceremonies are due to take place

The remodeled Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium is where the opening and closing ceremonies are due to take place

Several athletes from Australia and the UK have already withdrawn from the Games due to health and safety concerns.

Difficult situation from the start

The crisis for Games organizers started long ago with several deadlines for completion of sporting venues and infrastructure being missed.

"We inherited a very difficult situation," said Sheila Dikshit, the chief minister of Delhi, who has been monitoring the preparations. "But it is improving almost by the hour. Of course there have been some seepages that the builders should have looked at earlier but we will finish whatever we can and do whatever is possible."

But recent events have cast doubt on whether it is really possible to improve matters considerably. A snake was found in a South African athlete's room at the Games Village and a cobra was recovered from the R K Khanna Tennis Stadium.

Many migrant workers have been sleeping on the streets of Delhi

Many migrant workers have been sleeping on the streets of Delhi

Mark Doyle, an Australian athlete, tried to downplay the incident however. "I think we are okay from the snake point of view. We are Australians and used to dealing with the most venomous, so a couple of snakes is not going to be an issue for us."

After initially staying in hotels, more than 1,000 athletes, including 36 from Australia, have now moved to the athletes' village.

Blame game in full swing

However, the blame game is in full swing and the knives are clearly sharpening for some accountability.

The Commonwealth Games Village dining hall will welcome thousands

The Commonwealth Games Village dining hall will welcome thousands

One man seems willing to take responsibility - Suresh Kalmadi, the Commonwealth Games Organizing Committee Chairman (OC), who has come under fire from all sides for his shabby handling of the preparations.

"I have just come back from the Village and I had lunch with all the athletes. All of them love the Village and said they had never seen such a village anywhere. It is true that the cleanliness part was not maintained but this is because we got the venue late. There was a big fight between the builder of the place and the contractor. For three months, there was no work going on there. I am ready to take all the blame - I will accept all the blame," he said.

Already organizers have overshot their budget by nine, spending at least $ 4.6 billion upgrading stadiums, refurbishing roads and building power and water utilities. The government itself has spent $ 2.7 billion more on a new airport terminal.

Author: Murali Krishnan
Editor: Anne Thomas

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