Billed as a showcase for India’s newfound wealth, the Games appear to have highlighted the country’s problems instead.
|Fennell said failing to get ready on time for games has done a “lot of damage” to India’s international image [AFP]|
The head of the Commonwealth Games says India still has extensive work to do before it is fully ready to stage its showcase event amid concerns about security and safety conditions.
Mike Fennell, the president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, acknowledged on Saturday that New Delhi has made progress in addressing the multiple problems surrounding the event, due to begin on October 3, adding that the Games would go ahead.
But he said accommodations for participants of the Games are still unsuitable for teams to use, citing problems with transport, security arrangements and medical services.
“There is still a lot of work to be done and it is not over yet,” Fennell told a news conference a day after he visited the Athletes’ Village.
“What is of great concern is the safety and security of athletes and officials. What is clear is that the massive work that is being done now ought to have been done before,” he said.
“A lot of damage has been done to India as a country.”
‘All nations attending’
Several athletes have pulled out of an event, citing concerns about filthy accommodation, shoddy construction and security.
|Games at a glance|
It is the 19th Commonwealth Games.
A portion of false ceiling in the weightlifting venue caved in on Wednesday, a day after the collapse of a footbridge at the main stadium injured 27 workers.
In another incident, armed men shot and wounded two foreign visitors near a historic mosque in Delhi on Sunday in a suspected terrorist attack.
But Fennell said all the Commonwealth nations would take part in the event.
“There will be full participation in the Games. All 71 countries will be attending,” he said.
Al Jazeera’s Divya Gopalan, reporting from the Indian capital, said many people were now asking why the federation did not respond to the concerns sooner.
“Questions are being raised: Where was the federation, and why they are acting so late?
“But the fact remains that a lot of work need to be done [with] eight days left for the kick off. The good news is there seem to be more athletes on board, but the bad news is the Athletes’ Village is not ready for them.
“The British athletes are staying now in a five-star hotel, which is adding to the cost of these games. These games are one of the most expensive ever. But the government, the federation and the organising committee, are giving little clarity on where all the money is going.”
The Games, held every four years for mostly former British colonies, are expected to cost Indian taxpayers close to $6bn, making it the most expensive Commonwealth Games ever.
“It wasn’t supposed to be so expensive but the budget has gone up by 16 times since Delhi won the bid seven years ago,” our correspondent said.
“Nobody we spoke to could pinpoint what’s behind the price jump – not even the committee’s treasurer,” she said.
On Friday, John Coates, Australia’s Olympic chief poured more fuel on the controversy, saying the Games should never have been awarded to India.
“I don’t think it is a cultural thing. When you agree to host [the Games], you are required to provide the basics in terms of health and hygiene for the athletes,” Coates said.
“The Games shouldn’t have been awarded to Delhi in hindsight.”
But in an encouraging sign for the Indian organisers, two senior international sports officials declared on Friday that conditions at the Games’ village had greatly improved, though they said clean-up work should continue urgently.
Many sporting events have hit trouble before opening, such as the 2004 Athens Olympics, and some of Delhi’s infrastructure projects, including a new metro and airport, have won praise.
But polls in the local media show that a vast majority of Indians are ashamed of the Commonwealth Games mismanagement.