Living conditions in the athletes’ village for next month’s Commonwealth Games in New Delhi have “shocked” the majority of teams, the head of the multisport event’s international governing body said.
“Many nations that have already sent their advanced parties to set up within the village have made it abundantly clear that, as of the afternoon of Sept. 20, the Commonwealth Games village is seriously compromised,” Michael Fennell, president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, said today in a statement. “Significant operational matters remain unaddressed.”
The team manager for New Zealand’s athletes, Dave Currie, told the Newstalk ZB radio network that organizers were in “severe difficulties” as they raced to finish work. “It’s pretty grim really, and certainly disappointing when you consider the amount of time they’ve had,” Currie said.
The lead-up to the four-yearly Games, which feature about 8,000 athletes from the U.K. and its former colonies and dependencies, has been marred by allegations of corruption and mismanagement, an outbreak of dengue fever, monsoon floods and the Sept. 19 shooting of two Taiwanese nationals at the city’s Jama Masjid mosque that raised fears over athletes’ security.
Adding to organizers’ woes, a footbridge collapsed today near the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, home to the opening and closing ceremonies and athletics events, injuring several people, television channels, including CNN-IBN, reported.
Government spending for the Games has overrun a 2003 estimate of $500 million by more than nine-fold. The Games have been criticized as the most expensive ever by the Comptroller and Auditor General agency and opposition parties in a nation where the World Bank says 828 million people live on less than $2 a day.
Amid a flurry of negative reports, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ordered an investigation into preparations for the event that he has said would show how India “is rapidly marching ahead with confidence.”
While the so-called international zone and main dining area have been praised, deadlines for the completion of the village are constantly being pushed out, Fennell added. High security around the site is “slowing progress and complicating solutions,” he said.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key said today Games officials were “trying very hard to resolve” problems and the country was unlikely to make a unilateral decision to pull out of the competition, the Herald newspaper reported.
Toilets at the village are in a “mess” after rooms were left unlocked and were used by laborers, the Times of India reported, without saying where it got the information.
‘Two Seconds to Midnight’
With the games village due to be officially opened on Sept. 23, Australia’s chef de mission, Steve Moneghetti, told reporters in Melbourne today that Delhi has “got two days to do what’s probably going to take about two weeks.”
Commonwealth Games England said in a statement that while it remained “optimistic” of the team’s participation in the event, “there is a lot still to be done in the village and this needs to be done with some urgency.” Monsoon rains had highlighted problems with plumbing and electrics, it said.
Currie told Newstalk ZB that hygiene standards were poor and post-construction cleaning hadn’t been done. While there is a little time for more work to be carried out, “it’s kind of two seconds to midnight,” he said.
Fennell said he had written to the Indian government requesting the immediate deployment of the “necessary resources to fix all the outstanding issues to an acceptable level.” The Games are scheduled for Oct. 3-14.
“I will arrive in Delhi at the earliest opportunity so as to assess the situation first hand and provide our member countries and territories with a frank assessment of the situation,” Fennell said.
The weekend attack at Delhi’s main mosque brought a warning from the Australian government that there was a “high risk of terrorism” during the 11-day event.