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Time Is Running Out, Says England

London, Sep 22: Chef de Mission of England Craig Hunter today warned the Commonwealth Games organisers that time is running out for them to clean up the preparation mess even as sports minister Hugh Robertson
PTI September 22, 2010 13:28 IST
PTI
London, Sep 22: Chef de Mission of England Craig Hunter today warned the Commonwealth Games organisers that time is running out for them to clean up the preparation mess even as sports minister Hugh Robertson said it would be "an utter tragedy" if next month's Games does not go ahead.

Hunter demanded safety guarantees of the English athletes from organisers following the collapse of a footbridge near the main venue of the Games yesterday but assured that as of now his country has no plans to pull out of the October 3-14 mega event.

"Time is beginning to run out. We are close to the wire, and teams may start to take things into their own hands. Athletes will start getting on planes soon and decisions will have to be made. We need new levels of reassurance," he said, but added that "it's hard to cancel an event of this magnitude".

Hunter made it clear that he was not at all happy about the unfinished work at the residential zones allocated to English athletes. He said 60 of the 280 rooms were leaking, while showers, air conditioning units and electrical sockets were malfunctioning.

"There is mud everywhere, there is a lot of remedial work to be done but the days of monsoon rain have delayed the work. There is unsafe electrical equipment in some rooms, in some areas there are plumbing issues, things like doors not fitting properly and one of the walls adjacent to our accommodation which has washing machines has not been plumbed in. On the top floor there is no secure barrier," he said.

"A significant number of bedrooms are not watertight and have been flooded, while the monsoon and the security lockdown of the village means there have been significant delays to what we thought was a relative straightforward process," he was quoted as saying by 'Daily Telegraph'.

"Later we heard the tragic news of the bridge collapsing and workers injured. We are now pressing the organising committee and the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) to give us real guarantees that the venues are safe."

Sports Minister Robertson, who will spend several days in Delhi next month, however, said Games organisers needed support -- and not threats by teams that they might withdraw.

"It would be an utter tragedy if anything went wrong at the last moment but I have had no indication that this will not go ahead and I expect it to do so. They need support and understanding and for people to back their Games, it is not helpful to just throw your hands in the air," he said.

"We are clearly in a slightly fevered media environment and it's important that one takes a sensible and strategic long-term view. There is nothing that I have seen or heard that has suggested that these are problems that cannot be sorted out," Robertson said.

"I'm expecting that our teams will turn up in Delhi as announced and that the Games will go ahead as planned," he added.

Robertson said he remained confident that the Games would be remembered for the spectacle and sport rather than the problems with the preparations.

"I always suspected that this would come down quite close to the wire but I'm confident when we all get to Delhi they will lay on the most fantastic show.

"I will be very surprised and disappointed if we didn't all look back at two weeks of really good sport with Indian colour and excitement and vibrancy. For anyone like me who is lucky enough to be going I believe it will be a really memorable experience," he said.

Commonwealth Games England also issued a statement that it remains optimistic that England participation at the Games can go ahead.

"There is a lot still to be done in the village and this needs to be done with some urgency so that it is ready for the arrival of our first athletes on Friday. Since our first inspection, monsoon weather has highlighted a number of different issues which need to be addressed including plumbing, electrical and other operational details," it said.

England men's hockey team are due to check into the village on Friday though officials have not ruled out putting them up in a hotel if work on the village is not complete. PTI