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Race is on to finish sports village before competition starts

Video by FRANCE 24


Latest update : 2010-09-27

Australian and English athletes arrived at the Commonwealth Games village in New Delhi on Monday despite widespread concerns over safety and hygiene at the unfinished village ahead of the start of games on Sunday.

AFP - Athletes from Australia and England moved into the Commonwealth Games village in New Delhi Monday despite warnings that work is unfinished just six days before the crisis-hit event starts.

Most teams have expressed satisfaction with progress being made in the village, but a diplomatic row between India and Britain is reportedly looming over Sunday's opening ceremony.

Problems plaguing the Games range from shabby accommodation to security fears, an outbreak of dengue fever and doubts about public safety after the collapse of a new footbridge next to the main stadium.

India has been sharply criticised for a catalogue of problems despite having seven years to prepare for the multi-sport showpiece.

In a frantic bid to finish work on time, hundreds of extra workers at the much-criticised athletes' village tackled uncompleted apartments, dirty toilets and piles of builders' rubbish.

Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit said the village would only be finished by the middle of the week.

"All the towers will be ready by Wednesday," Dikshit said late Sunday after inspecting the site.

"The problems in the village ranged from broken windows to malfunctioning of lifts. We are putting all our efforts to put things in order."

Indian newspapers reported a spat between New Delhi and London over whether Indian President Pratibha Patil or Prince Charles would officially open the Games.

Queen Elizabeth II, the head of the Commonwealth, is not travelling to Delhi, leaving organisers with a protocol headache, the Mail Today reported.

"New Delhi believes that with the Queen not attending the Games, there is a qualitative change in the situation," the newspaper said.

Prince Charles's office in London said he would fulfil all the Queen's duties, while the Indian government was not immediately available for comment.

A blame game has begun between the local organisers and the event's federation over the chaos surrounding the event.

Commonwealth Games Federation president Mike Fennell was forced to defend the organisation's chief executive Mike Hooper, who blamed the Games' chaotic run-up on Indian officials.

"We're at the hands and the mercy of, effectively, the government of India, the Delhi government, the agencies responsible for delivery of the venues," Hooper told Television New Zealand on Sunday.

"Renewed deadlines came and went. New reasons for delays kept coming up. Absolutely exasperation from our perspective," he said.

Fennell said Hooper had "merely stated the fact that the responsibility for delivering and operating the Games lies with authorities in India" and was a victim of a "vicious and totally unwarranted attack" in the media.

South African High Commissioner Harris Mbulelo Majeke complained a snake was found in one room at the village, while Indian boxer Akhil Kumar said his bed collapsed as soon as he sat on it.

In the latest withdrawals, two Australian athletes pulled out, citing health concerns and the risk of a militant attack.

Cyclist Travis Meyer and table tennis player Stephanie Sang joined high-profile withdrawals on similar grounds by English Olympic 400m gold medallist Christine Ohuruogu, world triple jump champion Phillips Idowu and Australian world discus champion Dani Samuels.

About 1,100 foreign athletes, officials and technical staff arrived at the village on Sunday, with many more expected Monday, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

Athletes from Kenya, Nigeria, Scotland, Canada and Jamaica were among the first arrivals.

Nearly 50 British athletes were to move in during Monday.

"We have sufficient bedrooms for this first group of athletes, and activity at the village has picked up a lot," said England team spokeswomen Caroline Searle.

Fennell on Saturday said "extensive work" still had to be done and warned of the damage done to India's image.

He added that problems with transport, security, fire and evacuation procedures and medical services all needed to be addressed immediately.


Date created : 2010-09-27


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