CWG mess: Manmohan intervenes after delegates fume (Roundup)

September 21st, 2010 - 8:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Sep 21 (IANS) With just 12 days to go for the Commonwealth Games, host India faced the prospect of major international embarrassment Tuesday with both its showpiece structures, the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and the Games Village, coming under harsh scrutiny, forcing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to intervene once again.
An under-construction foot overbridge near the main venue of the CWG collapsed, injuring 23 labourers, five of them seriously, just as Games officials and several foreign contingents complained that the village was still not fit for accommodation.

In a major blow to the preparations for the mega sporting event, expected to be attended by about 7,000 participants and officials from 71 countries and territories, the foot overbridge linking the Nehru Stadium to the parking lot, collapsed leaving red-faced officials scrambling for an explanation.

Delhi Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta said the bridge would be rebuilt in 10 days, just in time for the opening ceremony on Oct 3.

“The bridge was constructed by Hyderabad-based PNR Infra at a cost of Rs.5 crore (Rs.50 million/$1 million). Construction was to be completed in two-three days,” Delhi Public Works Department (PWD) Minister Raj Kumar Chauhan told IANS.

The opening and closing ceremonies ceremony of the Oct 3-14 Games, the biggest sporting event being hosted by India since the 1982 Asian Games, will be held at the stadium that will also host the athletics and other field and track events.

The accident came as CWG president Michael Fennell said parts of the Village needed “urgent attention” and hygiene concerns were raised by New Zealand, Scotland, England and Canada amongst others.

Complaints that stray dogs were jumping on the beds, that the towers were full of rubbish and that the toilets were filthy came in from the contingents. But Indian officials dismissed these complaints, saying these things happen everywhere before major events and “standards of hygiene differ” from country to country.

Fennell gave the Organising Committee (OC) just 24 hours to take “quick action” and set things right before the athletes start arriving Thursday.

In a stern letter to Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrashekar, the government’s top pointsperson for the Games preparations, he said: “I am expecting some serious action in the next 24 hours. We have been waiting for the Village to be ready before the athletes arrive but we have not seen any action so far.”

“Many nations that have already sent their advanced parties to set up within the village made it abundantly clear that, as of the afternoon of September 20, the Commonwealth Games village is seriously compromised.”

The Village has 1,168 apartments spread across 34 towers that will house the more than 7,000 athletes and officials.

Fennel’s colleague, CGF chief executive Mike Hooper said the conditions at the Games Village were “filthy and unlivable.”

New Zealand team’s chef de mission Dave Currie, who has been camping here for a week, warned that the Games could be called off.

“That’s not a decision that we’ll make (alone) but there are some realities. If the village is not ready and athletes can’t come, obviously the implications of that are that it’s (the Games) not going to happen,” he was quoted as saying by the New Zealand Herald newspaper.

“They’ve got a little bit of time but it’s kind of two seconds to midnight really.”

His prime minister, John Key, was quick to respond.

“There’s no point in sending them to Delhi if they end up feeling like I currently feel at the moment. We need to make sure they are fit and healthy and can compete well,” Key was quoted as saying in the New Zealand media.

His comments came a day after he said that Games should be held despite the shooting incident outside the Jama Masjid mosque that left two Taiwanese nationals injured in the Indian capital Sunday.

Scotland too hit out and said the village was “unsafe and unfit for human habitation”.

Team Scotland in a statement said they are currently still planning to take part in the Games but have warned they “will not compromise on issues of health, safety and security”.

“The athletes’ village is not only at the heart of any Commonwealth Games, but is fundamental to the staging of the event,” a Commonwealth Games Scotland statement read.

As the events of the day unfolded with unhappy rapidity, the Indian prime minister swung into action.

He summoned Delhi Lieutenant Governor Tejinder Khanna and directed him to personally oversee the clean-up and refurbishment of the apartments to house athletes and officials, a senior official told IANS.

Khanna will be submitting a day-to-day status report to the prime minster. He was summoned after Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar, who visited the billage in the morning, submitted a report to Manmohan Singh.

On his part, Urban Development Minister S. Jaipal Reddy said these were “minor hiccups” and he was “confident and cool” that “we will have a very successful Games”.

OC secretary general Lalit Bhanot promised that things would be cleaned up at the soonest.

“We have told the Chefs de Mission that the level of hygiene and cleanliness at the Games Village will be upgraded within 36 hours. We are doing entire cleaning of the residential wing. In fact cleaning in the 50 percent of the towers is already complete and the remaining will be done in 36 hours.”

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