The threat of a boycott by teams has faded, yet the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) said on Saturday that the next 24 hours would be crucial for the October Games. Addressing the media on the progress of work at the Games Village, CGF chief Mike Fennell stated that both the CGF and the Organising Committee (OC) should share the blame for the mess, adding: “Lots of work still needs to be done”.
Fennell, who rushed to Delhi on Thursday after top Commonwealth nations complained about the lack of hygiene at the Village, said progress had been made in the last 48 hours. But he was depressingly candid on the effect of the mismanagement so far: “A lot of damage has been done not just to the Commonwealth Games, but also to India as a nation. People are asking ‘Should we come to India?’”
However, he added, though progress was slow, the clean-up process had picked up and the CGF was monitoring it closely.
Asked whether it was a mistake to allot the Games to India, he said, “India is the largest Commonwealth country and, as the largest developing country, it was their place to host the Games. We have learnt a lesson and so has India.
“In hindsight, I thought a lot of things could have been avoided. There have been problems in other Games also and I hope things will be sorted soon... The CGF has been warning India since last year but we also understand that the OC has been working with different stake-holders.”
Suresh Kalmadi, the OC chief, said other agencies should be blamed for the mess. “I am not the constructing agency, which was supposed to hand over the Village to us,” he said.
On whether the CGF took things lightly during Fennell’s last visit on August 18, when he said things would be ready by September 23, the original date for athletes to enter the Village, Fennell said he did warn the OC about the work that needed to be done. “I had asked them to clean up the Village. I also told the OC that things need to be replaced.” Asked about safety concerns, he said that concerns still remain about evacuation from the towers in case of an emergency and health.
While Perry Crosswhite, the head of the Australian CGA, and Chris Jenkins, the chef de mission of Wales, were happy that the pace of work had picked up, the New Zealand team has delayed its entry.