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More Pullouts, Fresh Complaints On Games Village Hit CWG

New Delhi, Sep 26: Just as things were beginning to look up for the crisis-hit Commonwealth Games, a spate of pullouts, more complaints about the athletes' village and the continuous negative publicity added to the
PTI September 26, 2010 18:09 IST
PTI
New Delhi, Sep 26: Just as things were beginning to look up for the crisis-hit Commonwealth Games, a spate of pullouts, more complaints about the athletes' village and the continuous negative publicity added to the hassled organisers' woes just one week before the mega-event.

Although there was no serious threat of any contingent pulling out, the Games Village, where cleaning up operations have been going virtually round the clock, came in for fresh criticism with Malaysia and Botswana complaining about the poor state of the residential blocks.

 To compound the misery for the organisers, female Scottish tennis star Elena Baltacha, ranked 50th in the world, pulled out along with Australian cyclist Travis Meyer, table tennis player Stephanie Sang and Malaysian sprinter Siti Zubaidah Adabi citing health and security concerns.

 A day after Commonwealth Games Federation boss Mike Fennell spoke about sharing the blame for Delhi's under-preparedness, its CEO Mike Hooper sang a different tune saying the CGF cannot be held responsible for the Organising Committee's failure to meet deadlines.

 Launching a fresh offensive against OC, with which he has had a strained equation, Hooper said even the government agencies in India did not act in time and delayed the handing over of the venues.

"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. They consistently failed to meet deadlines," he said.

However, Hooper's outburst did not go down well with the OC or the government which called the attack completely unacceptable. The New Zealander has been in the country for the last three years to oversee the event.

There was some good news as well with England's delegation checking in at the Village to do the groundwork for their athletes' arrival tomorrow.

A group of around 20 support staff were the first occupants of the accommodation to ensure that conditions continue to be on track for 48 athletes from the sports of hockey (32), lawn bowls (12) and shooting (4) to move in on Monday.

They will be followed by gymnasts (10), archers (12) and weightlifters (14) on Tuesday, a statement released by the Commonwealth Games England press office said.

England Chef de Mission Craig Hunter said, "It's exciting but also a relief to be able to occupy our accommodation.

 "We are now getting back on track with the planned and phased arrival of athletes and we will begin to reach a peak of team numbers (more than 500) on October 5."

But the security lockdown of venues could not be completed yet again as last-minute finishing work continued at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium, where the opening and closing ceremony is scheduled.

The authorities have missed at least five deadlines for handing over the stadium to Delhi Police, the nodal security agency for the Games, the first being September 3 which is exactly a month before the event commences.

The Games Village continued to be a target of criticism with African nation Botswana complaining about lack of cleanliness in the residential complexes being provided for its players.

"There are lot of construction materials lying in our rooms. Besides filthy bed sheets, bathroom fittings do not work. They are not clean. It is unlivable for our athletes," Chef De Mission of Botswana Tuelo Daniel Seruftho told PTI.

About 31 athletes from the African nation will be arriving here in two batches --- tomorrow and the day after.

However, Commonwealth Games Organising officials dismissed those allegations and claimed that everything is in order.

"All things here are in order. We have received complaints related to lack of cleanliness from certain blocks which are being looked into. Our men are involved in the job and it will be done soon," said Dalbir Singh, Mayor of Commonwealth Games Village.

Racing against time to set things right before the Games, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit also inspected the Village. She also met Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrashekhar during the inspection.

OC vice-chairman Randhir Singh was also among the high-profile visitors to the Village.

Dikshit stayed for about 90 minutes and took stock of the progress of the house-keeping work at the Village, which has been criticised as "filthy and unlivable" by many foreign delegates.

'We only saw the coordination among all the agencies involved in different works here. We also checked food and recreational facilities. The quality of food is excellent. We all are visiting here to ensure that athletes and other delegates who are coming here do not face any problems," she said.

After boxers were made to wait for their official for nearly four hours yesterday, the shooters also had a similar experience before checking in at the Village late last night.

The absence of central points for athletes at the domestic terminal of the Delhi airport was the reason for Indian shooting contingent being stranded for hours, on their arrival here from Pune.

"The shooters were transported to the international airport for security purpose. They had to go to the central point and if you look at it from a security point of view there was nothing wrong with that," said Rajeev Bhatia, general secretary of the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI). PTI