Given the number of Commonwealth Games- related deadlines India has failed to meet in the seven years since it won the hosting rights for the 2010 Games, there was little surprise on Sunday when the deadline for getting the Games Village as habitable as possible under the circumstances was deferred again to Wednesday.
The Games begin next Sunday.
But as Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said, whether this new deadline will be met or not too remains debatable. Hopefully the promise will be kept, because on Sunday, even as Dikshit announced just 600 of the 1,168 flats at the Village were ready for moving in, nine more foreign teams arrived.
Nigeria, Rwanda, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, Australia, Jersey, Norfolk Islands and Brunei have all reached Delhi. While some were brave enough to venture into the Village, others moved into city hotels.
One of the teams that ventured into the Village was South Africa. Soon after, South African Commissioner made the main news of the day by revealing a snake had been found in one of the athletes’ rooms.
Animal rescue organisation Wildlife SOS, told Hindustan Times another snake was discovered at the R.K. Khanna Tennis Stadium, a Games venue.
The snake, a King Cobra, was sleeping near Gate No. 12. Police called the NGO, seeking its help to remove the dangerous reptile. Wildlife SOS obliged.
Fortunately, the chefs de mission meeting in the morning was less venomous than it has been over the last few days. Though many of the issues raised remained the same --- sanitation, cleanliness etc --- the tone of many of the teams was far more positive.
A source told HT, “The three straight days of sunshine has helped a lot. The water is drying up and work is progressing on a war footing. The main issue now is transport, which is in a state of crisis.”
The Organising Committee had asked for 3,000 drivers for the vehicles allotted to team officials and athletes. Because the drivers could not be found locally, a majority have been brought in from outside the state.
Their lack of knowledge of the roads is becoming a major concern. As first reported by HT, many teams have complained about the inefficiency of the transport department, a problem compounded by the fact that most drivers speak no English, and reportedly, “lack basic courtesies”.
The Samoan chef de mission, Shelly Burich, had to face one such nightmare. She was being driven from the Ashoka Hotel to the Games Village, a drive that should not take more than 15 minutes in the special Games lane, and ended up beyond Noida. The journey took her more than two hours. “The lady was on the verge of tears when she arrived at the Village. She couldn’t communicate with the driver, was scared and appeared very shaken up,” said a source.
Another added, “If this is the case with only 25 nations here, we will be in all sorts of trouble when all 71 come in.” On the security front, sources revealed that the Commonwealth Games Federation was being pressurized into providing police escorts for all officials, as reported by HT. While the Delhi Police had opposed this, it now appears that they might be forced into meeting this demand. (With inputs from Neelam Pandey)