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In my previous post, I said the athletics event at the Commonwealth Games would be hampered by top athletes’ absence, some from injury, some from more spurious reasons.
Since posting that the problems the Games have experienced have taken a turn for the worse with part of a ceiling at one venue falling down, and a footbridge collapsing.
The athletes’ accommodation in the Games village is apparently unhygienic according to some visiting team officials. Scotland and Canada have delayed the departures to Delhi of the first group of athletes while England is warning it’s team could still withdraw if safety and heath concerns are not addressed immediately. New Zealand is making a final decision on its participation very soon.
Some people might counter this by saying they’re being too fussy and that in India you have to expect there won’t be the same standards as in the west.
It could end up looking like 1986 in Edinburgh when most of the African, Caribbean and Asian countries boycotted the event over the lenient stance of the British PM, Margaret Thatcher, toward apartheid South Africa.
Games organisers insist everything will be ready in time but with just over a week to go, as I write, they are battling against time given there seems to be a lot to do to complete the accommodation and venues.
Against this backdrop of uncertainty several more athletes have decided to pull out, including three top Kenyans, and two English runners Lisa Dobriskey and Christine Ohuruogu, who I read previously had already made up her mind not to go due to a lack of fitness.
Two more, Australia’s Dani Samuels, and England’s Phillips Idowu, have been straight and said they are concerned about safety. I admire their honesty in not giving an injury excuse but are they making the right decision? Samuels, a world discus champion said in a statement she did not want her decision to lead to other Aussies pulling out but she isn’t exactly showing the best example and her decision will surely lead to more withdrawals from the team.
Dame Kelly Holmes has expressed concerns about the condition of the venues but has also said that, at the 2004 Olympic Games, at which she won two gold medals, trees were still being planted on the opening day. There may have been a rush on then to get everything prim and proper but no-one recalls that and the Athens games are considered a success story.
New Delhi has more pressing concerns than trees and at this rate terrorists need not target the Games, the organisers and the Government are doing a perfectly good job of making it look like a farce on their own!
No matter what happens it was right for the Commonwealth Games Federation to award the event to India – when it did there was less political problems than there is now. It is important to move the Games out of its’ western strongholds and give developing nations a chance to prove they can host such events.
If it turns out this Games is a disaster, invaluable lessons will be learned for India, other aspiring Games hosts and the Federation itself.

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