Homegrown group’s threat to disrupt Commonwealth Games follows Delhi shooting, with Kashmir unrest as backdrop.
|Many participating nations have issued security warnings to citizens travelling to the Games in India [AFP]
The president of the Commonwealth Games Federation has said immediate action is needed from the Indian government to fix what he called a “seriously compromised” athletes’ village in New Delhi ahead of the Games, scheduled for October.
Michael Fennell said advance parties from participating nations were “shocked” at what they saw when they arrived in the Indian capital ahead of the October 3-14 multi-sport Games.
“Many issues remain unresolved and, as such, last night I wrote to the Indian cabinet secretary, expressing my great concern with the preparedness of the athletes village,” Fennell said on Tuesday.
“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 September 20, the Commonwealth Games Village is seriously compromised.”
To add to the preparation woes, a footbridge near the main stadium collapsed on Tuesday.
“We have reports of 19 people injured after the entire bridge near gate number three of the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium collapsed,” police said.
Prerna Suri, Al Jazeera’s correspondent reporting from the athletes’ village, said questions are going to be asked about whether compromises were made on the quality of construction materials used for the bridge.
“The Delhi administration has been under considerable pressure to complete the bridge on a very tight deadline. There will be questions as to whether [this contributed to the collapse],” she said.
“Residents of Delhi are quite angry and ashamed about where their tax payers money is actually going. And some delegates are questioning whether certain safety standards have been flouted.”
Officials from New Zealand, one of the team delegations already in New Delhi, said that dirty and unhealthy conditions at the village were compromising the entire Games.
Games ‘may not happen’
Dave Currie, New Zealand’s team manager, said the Games “may not happen” because large sections of the village were still not ready.
“The reality is that if the village is not ready and athletes can’t come, the implications are that it’s not going to happen,” Currie told New Zealand commercial radio, referring to the Games as a whole.
New Zealand – along with Canada, Scotland and Ireland – described the accommodation as “unlivable” and the 300-strong New Zealand contingent of athletes and officials have been allocated new quarters.
Currie said New Zealand would consult with other countries before making a final decision on attending the Games.
Ayaz Memon, a sports columnist in India, told Al Jazeera that preparations have encountered “a whole string of problems around infrastructure”.
“A lot of people are asking why the government is [spending so much money] … one of the biggest businessmen in India is saying it should have gone to a less developed state like [eastern] Bihar rather than redeveloping a city that is already [well developed].”
However, New Delhi’s Commonwealth Games organisers shrugged off criticism, saying they will provide an “excellent facility” for guests.
“I can assure everyone there is no cause for worry,” Randhir Singh, the organising committee vice-chairman, said on Tuesday.
“Delegates have praised the village as one of the best … We are working round the clock to take care of any problems. When the athletes arrive here they will find an excellent facility.”
But finishing infrastructure is not the only worry facing authorities.
Security concerns are high, particularly after a gun attack outside New Delhi’s main mosque injured two Taiwanese tourists on Sunday.
Authorities are still assessing the motive behind the attack, making assurances that it was not targeted at the Games.
However, following the shooting, Australia gave a warning of a “high risk of terrorism” at the Games and on Monday the US asked Americans to exercise caution in New Delhi.