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World watches with concern

The bridge collapse has raised questions on whether the Games will be held at all.

delhi Updated: Sep 22, 2010 00:06 IST
Avishek G. Dastidar
Avishek G. Dastidar
Hindustan Times

A newly built pedestrian bridge next to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, crumbled like a pack of cards on Tuesday afternoon, barely 12 days ahead of the mega event.

But for the Games organisers, who have failed to meet every deadline, this was an incident waiting to happen.

Last month, Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) President Michael Fennel, after visiting the various venues had said the mismanaged construction sites were “hurting the image of the Games”. He was talking about construction waste. The Games were still a good 45 days away then.

Now, even the cold comfort of time is gone as athletes have started arriving. This time it is not sundry waste around the stadiums but a whole pedestrian bridge that has fallen apart.

“This is shameful. The pending work is so much that it seems impossible that they would be completed without compromising quality,” said V.K. Malhotra, member of the executive board, one of the highest authorities within the Organising Committee (OC).

The latest incident, coupled with Sunday’s shootout near Jama Masjid by unidentified miscreants, has already made the foreign media sing obituaries of the Delhi Games.

"It is the latest crisis to befall the Games, which is already mired in controversies over security, poor planning, alleged corruption and a soaring bill for Indian tax payers," said the Guardian in London.

Canada’s Vancouver Sun said, "Preparations for next month’s Commonwealth Games are down to the wire and the event risks descending into farce.”

The officials are alarmed. New Zealand and Scotland have already gone as far as saying that the Games might not take place at all.

“The way things are looking, it's not up to scratch. The reality is that if the Games Village is not ready and athletes can't come, the implications are that its (Games) not going to happen,” Dave Currie, head of the Kiwi delegates told Radio New Zealand.

Understandably, the Commonwealth Games Federation had been seeking fitness certificates from the Organising Committee for over a month.

They shot several emails before the Organising Committee hurriedly compiled few no-objection certificates on stadiums and handed them to the CGF last month.

This had been the most delayed handing over of fitness certificates for stadia in the history of the Games, some CGF officials had commented at that time.

However, the Organising Committee Secretary General Lalit Bhanot is positive about everything and said, “Everything is under control. The collapse of the bridge has nothing to do with the preparedness of the Games.”

Faced with all the odds, the OC has given itself 36 hours, barely 12 hours before the first team checks in at the Games Village. This is one last deadline the OC desperately does not want to miss.

First Published: Sep 22, 2010 00:00 IST