Daily problems steal golden glow from athletes at India’s Commonwealth GamesBy Ravi Nessman, AP
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Problems still mar Commonwealth Games in India
NEW DELHI, India — Thursday’s results at the Commonwealth Games saw the usual haul of gold medals by some of the world’s top athletes — but the glory was accompanied by glitches: A large scoreboard crashed to the ground at the vacant rugby stadium and more than a dozen swimmers fell ill with a stomach virus.
New problems overshadowed athletic achievements at the largest international sporting event in India’s history, drawing more than 6,000 athletes and officials from 71 countries and territories.
India had hoped its widely praised opening ceremony, with neon sitars, hundreds of yoga masters posing in synch and a catchy pop anthem from Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman, would sweep away memories of the scandals that plagued the run-up to the event.
They were wrong.
Though none of the worst fears of terrorism or mass outbreak of illness has materialized, smaller problems have marred an event intended to burnish India’s image as an emerging economic power.
Many can be attributed to the last-minute rush to finish the venues and facilities. There were no test events to find and fix any glitches.
As competition began Monday, many venues were nearly empty of spectators. The scales so critical to boxers who need to fit into their weight class were off by as much as 1.5 kilograms (3 pounds).
The scales were fixed. Booths were hurriedly erected at all venues to make it easier to buy tickets. Organizing committee chief Suresh Kalmadi said swimming and rugby were sold out, and tickets for boxing and tennis were nearly gone. Crowds at the venues Thursday were far larger than earlier in the week.
Damage to the track and the infield at the main stadium from the opening ceremony forced organizers to rush in more than 1,000 workers, who made repairs just in time for competition to start as scheduled Wednesday.
But Thursday night, a large scoreboard crashed to the ground at the rugby venue when a supporting chain snapped.
Competition manager Kevin Culliver told the games news service that the board was lifted into place two days ago and it was lucky that rugby does not begin until next week so no spectators were present.
Earlier in the day, more than a dozen swimmers from Australia and England fell ill and one had to withdraw from the 50-meter butterfly.
Commonwealth Games Federation president Mike Fennell said officials would conduct tests to make sure the pools were not the source of the illness.
“If there is something unsafe, you cannot swim in that water. It is a matter we have to deal with a great deal of urgency,” he said.
The aquatic events went on as scheduled.
“Let us assure you, there is nothing wrong with the water here,” pool announcer Kurt Hanson told spectators. “The way these athletes train, their immune system is so low that they tend to pick up any bug that is going around.”
England delegation chief Craig Hunter said he had received safety assurances from the organizing committee, leaving open the possibility the athletes had picked up a virus somewhere — or were just having trouble adjusting to the food.
Daniel Bell of New Zealand said a bout of diarrhea had kept him up at night but did not prevent him from setting a national record in the backstroke.
“We’ve been talking about it (cleanliness) continuously, sanitizing our hands before we eat and before we go to bed. We just hope it keeps us from sickness,” he said.
On Tuesday night, three Ugandan officials were injured when a spiked security barrier that recedes into the ground to admit authorized vehicles malfunctioned and struck their car as they drove into the village, police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said.
The officials had cuts and bruises and were hospitalized overnight for observation, said Dora Kutesan, a Ugandan diplomat.
The Ugandan Embassy complained to the Indian government, and Ugandan Sports Minister Charles Bakkabulindi said he was furious that he had not received an apology from India.
“If they had seen their mistake quickly and shown sympathy that they have done a mistake, we wouldn’t have been annoyed. We would have said, ‘OK that’s an accident,’” he told India’s Times Now television. “But our concern is why is it that they are not coming out to say sorry to us, to make an apology? Should we take it that they are discriminating (against) some of the African countries to that extent?”
Many of the athletes brushed aside the games’ ongoing problems.
“You will be a bit picky if you start complaining about the facilities. It is not the right thing to do,” Anna Meares, an Australian cyclist who won three gold medals, told The Associated Press.
She noted a few minor problems, such as electricity cuts, but said they were fixed immediately, and she praised the accommodations and food in the village.
Indian boxer Akhil Kumar said the focus “has been on the 1 percent of things that are going wrong, rather than the 99 percent that are going right.”
Associated Press writers Dennis Passa, Vijay Joshi, C. Rajshekar Rao and Chris Lehourites contributed to this report.
Tags: Africa, Aquatics, Asia, East Africa, India, Men's Boxing, New Delhi, Rugby, South Asia, Swimming, Uganda