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HindustanTimes Wed,22 Oct 2014

CWG to go ahead with full participation: Games chief Fennell

Reuters  New Delhi, September 25, 2010
First Published: 18:54 IST(25/9/2010) | Last Updated: 20:51 IST(25/9/2010)

The Commonwealth Games Federation chief said on Saturday there was still work to be done amid concerns about security before the Commonwealth Games starts next week, but that it would go ahead with all countries taking part.

Several athletes have pulled out of an event plagued by filthy accommodation, shoddy construction and security fears. The Government is rushing against time to ensure all is ready before the opening on Oct 3.

"There is still a lot of work to be done and it's not over yet," Michael Fennell, chief of Commonwealth Games Federation, said a day after he visited the Games Village.

"What is of great concern is the safety and security of athletes and officials. There will be full participation in the Games. All 71 countries will be attending."

Athletes from Scotland will begin travelling to Delhi on Saturday, while Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Northern Ireland and Wales have all confirmed that they are satisfied with preparations to send their teams.

The Games, held every four years for mostly former British colonies, are estimated to have cost $6 billion. Asia's third-largest economy was awarded them in 2003 but did not begin proper preparations until two years ago.

India had hoped to use the Games to display its growing global economic and political influence, rivalling neighbour China which put on a spectacular 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

Instead, they have become a major embarrassment for the world's largest democracy where infrastructure projects have remained slow paced and a drag on economic growth.

"A lot of damage has been done to India as a country," Fennell said.

Moody's rating agency said investment in India could be damaged as a result. "The negative publicity could deter foreign investment and give multinational businesses considering expanding in India reason to think twice," Moody's Analytics, a unit of the rating agency, said in a research note.

"PROBLEMS STILL EXIST"

The first batch of athletes arrived in India on Friday, opting to stay at a hotel instead of unfinished accommodation.

Desperate officials on Friday asked the Indian Army to build a temporary bridge to replace the $1.1 million footbridge that collapsed on Tuesday. The bridge, providing access to the main Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, should be finished within five days.

The bridge collapse and a suspected militant attack on two foreign visitors had thrown the Games into crisis. An outbreak of dengue has only compounded worries.

Fennell said the work that needed to be done was quite extensive.

"These centre around the clean-up of the (Games) village ... You can see where there has been water in the basement, and this has proven very difficult to remove," he said.

"There are matters relating to transport, and difficulties there, the security arrangements, the fire safety arrangements, evacuation of the buildings and certification of the buildings, the technological difficulties such as the wifi service."

While the Indian Organising Committee has been at the receiving end of much of the flak, there is rising criticism of of the Commonwealth Games Federation as well.

Fennell said much of the problem was because of the Organising Committee's failure to understand the complexities of holding the event in India. "We all must share the blame," he told the CNN-IBN news channel in an interview.

The Delhi Games may turn out to be the most compromised since a 1986 boycott of the Games in Britain, when 32 nations stayed away because of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's objections to sanctions against apartheid-riven South Africa.

Cyclist Greg Henderson became the first New Zealand athlete to withdraw over concerns about health and security. Olympic cycling champion Geraint Thomas, two English riders and one Isle of Man rider also opted out of the Games.


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