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English team arrives, Delhi breathes easy

The government, according to sports ministry sources, spent Thursday and Friday detailing measures taken to make the Games Village habitable and hygienic. Indraneel Das and Siddhanth Aney report. All hands on deck | See pics

india Updated: Sep 25, 2010 07:15 IST

The withdrawal threat is over. Delhi welcomed its first batch of athletes — from England — on Friday. Other contingents are reportedly en route.

The first lot of Australian sportspersons is scheduled to arrive early next week.

As first reported by HT on Friday, the government’s efforts to allay the fears of the Commonwealth countries — to assure them all will be well on the security, safety and health fronts — seem, for now, to have persuaded them to fly to India.

The government, according to sports ministry sources, spent Thursday and Friday detailing measures taken to make the Games Village habitable and hygienic. “Sports Minister M.S. Gill spoke to counterparts in New Zealand, Australia, England, Canada and Scotland,” said a source.

“England sports minister Hugh Robertson assured us England would participate and, in fact, said he was looking forward to visiting India.”

The only problem area now is the Village, where delegates attended a two-hour assessment meeting in the morning. Sources said New Zealand, Canada, Scotland and England voiced concerns about some hygiene and safety issues.

Sources said their chefs de mission complained about structural and health problems and were angry that promises made to them by the Organising Committee (OC) had not been kept.

The day also saw Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrashekhar reassure Commonwealth Games Federation chief Mike Fennell that the government was addressing his concerns at the highest level. He reportedly told Fennel all issues, including crucial security concerns, had been addressed, and that remaining concerns could easily be dealt with by the Village housekeeping staff.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit, who made a surprise visit to the Village, stated: "Everything is falling into place".

However, till Friday night, no foreign team had checked into the Village. English sportspersons, including the hockey and lawn bowls teams, checked into luxury hotels and England's chef de mission, Craig Hunter, said the teams would not move into the Village before early next week.

As for the Indian athletes, they felt the accommodations were adequate, despite morning power cuts.

However, the gymnastics team, which arrived late on Thursday, had a harrowing time dealing with dirty rooms and malfunctioning toilets. In addition, lifts in two of the three towers allocated to India (Tower 30-31) were out of order because of waterlogging in the basement.