With just 10 days to go before the start of New Delhi's scandal-ridden Commonwealth Games, India is scrambling to prove that preparations are in order after New Zealand became the latest country to delay its athletes’ arrival due to safety concerns.
REUTERS - New Zealand became the latest country on Thursday to delay its arrival in New Delhi for the Commonwealth Games, as organisers scrambled to provide suitable athlete accommodation in time for the multi-sport event.
Scotland and Canada had already announced they were delaying sending athletes to New Delhi and Wales has said it sought guarantees that venues and athletes' accommodation were safe.
Other nations have also threatened to stay home and some big ticket athletes have already pulled out.
On Thursday, the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) told their athletes to delay their arrival in the Indian capital until at least next Tuesday, just five days before the showpiece event is due to open.
New Zealand's lawn bowls, hockey and badminton teams, and officials from cycling and athletics, were all scheduled to begin arriving in Delhi from Saturday.
However, after an inspection by NZOC President Mike Stanley and Secretary General Barry Maister on Wednesday, they decided to push back their arrival dates.
"It is tremendously disappointing," Stanley said in a NZOC statement on Thursday. "The long list of outstanding issues has made it clear the village will now not be ready for New Zealand athletes to move in as planned."
Commonwealth Games Federation president Michael Fennell, who was due to arrive on Thursday for a probable meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has said the two-week event suffered from filthy conditions.
India had hoped to use the $6 billion Games, held every four years for members of the organisation of mostly former British colonies, as a display of its growing global economic and political clout, rivalling China.
Instead, the Games have descended into farce with the threat of mass withdrawals from an event which is so far only showcasing Indian traveller-tale clichés of filth, chaos and corruption.
The event has also been plagued by security concerns.
Two foreign tourists were shot and wounded at the weekend by unknown assailants in Delhi and Australian TV broadcast how a reporter bought bomb-making devices to smuggle through security points. Indian police have denied he ever crossed a checkpoint.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Thursday highlighted security fears surrounding the event and said athletes should decide for themselves whether or not to attend the Games.
She said India was responsible for security at the Games but Australia planned to "boost the number of officials" deployed by Australia in the Indian capital. She was asked if these were security or intelligence officials, but did not elaborate.