Commonwealth Games: India vows to fix Delhi village

Sanjoy Majumder explains the problems with the athletes' village

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Senior officials in Delhi have insisted that the Indian capital will be ready to host the Commonwealth Games.

The comments come after the athletes' accommodation was criticised and branded as unfit for human habitation.

International delegates have said the facilities are filthy and unhygienic, just days before athletes arrive.

A senior official said Westerners had "different standards" of hygiene, but that the site was being thoroughly cleaned before the opening.

Delegates who visited the tower blocks where athletes will live during the games had described them as filthy, with rubble lying in doorways, dogs inside the buildings, toilets not working and excrement "in places it shouldn't be".

Speaking at a news conference in Delhi, Lalit Bhanot, secretary general of the Delhi organising committee, said the authorities understood the concerns shown by some member countries and the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF).

But he suggested that the complaints could be due to "cultural differences".

Start Quote

Clearly, the 'Indian way' hasn't worked - and the Games are turning out to be India's bonfire of vanities”

End Quote Soutik Biswas BBC Delhi online correspondent

"Everyone has different standards about cleanliness. The Westerners have different standards, we have different standards," he said.

Mr Bhanot said the situation was "under control" and that he was "sure and confident" that cleaning in the residential areas would be complete by the time teams start arriving on 23 September.

He said he had visited many athletes' villages over the years and had never known one of such high quality.

"This is a world-class village, probably one of the best ever," he said.

'Shocked'

Mr Bhanot's strong defence comes after Commonwealth Games Federation President Michael Fennell said he had written to India's cabinet secretary urging immediate action over the conditions in the village.

Mr Fennell said officials of teams set to take part in the games had been impressed with the international zone and main dining area, but "shocked" by the state of the accommodation itself.

The overhead bridge was to connect the car park with the main stadium

"The village is the cornerstone of any Games and the athletes deserve the best possible environment to prepare for their competition," he said.

There were also reports in the Indian media that only 18 of 34 residential towers at the village have been completed.

Chris Jenkins, chef de mission for the Welsh Commonwealth team, told the BBC there had been "major snagging issues" in the facilities.

"There was water leaking in many of the bathrooms. They hadn't been cleaned, it was filthy. There were dogs in the towers. It was terrible."

He said some of the ground floor rooms had been "effectively flooded" during heavy rain and were covered in mud.

New Zealand chef de mission Dave Currie has suggested the Games might even have to be cancelled.

He told New Zealand commercial radio on Tuesday: "If the village is not ready and athletes can't come, obviously the implications of that are that it's not going to happen.

"It's pretty grim really and certainly disappointing when you consider the amount of time they had to prepare."

New Zealand, Scotland, Canada and Northern Ireland have demanded their teams be put up in hotels if their accommodation is not ready.

Commonwealth Games England has called for "urgent" work on the facilities, raising concerns about "plumbing, electrical and other operational details".

Security fear

2010 COMMONWEALTH GAMES

  • It is the first time India has hosted the Commonwealth Games
  • 7,000 athletes and officials from more than 70 Commonwealth teams competing in 260 events in 17 disciplines
  • Opening ceremony on 3 October at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium

To add to the concerns, an elevated walkway at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium collapsed on Tuesday, injuring 23 construction workers, five seriously.

It is not clear what caused the collapse of the walkway, which was being built to link a car park to the arena, where the Games opening ceremony is to take place.

Mr Bhanot said the collapse was unfortunate, but would not affect the Games.

Security concerns surrounding the Games were heightened on the weekend, when gunmen shot and wounded two tourists near Delhi's Jama Masjid, one of India's biggest mosques.

It prompted Australia's world discus champion Dani Samuel to pull out of the Games, with her management saying she was "extremely stressed" by the incident.

"The situation in Delhi has been bothering her for some time... But the events over the weekend made it real," her manager Hayden Knowles told the Australian Associated Press.

The BBC's Mark Dummett in Delhi says the Indian government had hoped that hosting the Commonwealth Games would highlight the country's strengths.

But many Indians now worry that the opposite has happened, says our correspondent, and that the country's weaknesses have been very publicly exposed by the many problems, delays and allegations of mismanagement in the build up to the Games.

Are you in India? What is your reaction to this story? Have you seen the athletes' village? Will Delhi be ready to host the Commonwealth Games? Send us your comments using the form below.

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