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Delhi makes frantic effort with just a week to go for Games

Organisers of the Commonwealth Games scrambled to finish facilities and reassure athletes amid warnings much work still had to be done.

New Delhi: Organisers of the Commonwealth Games scrambled to finish facilities and reassure athletes on Sunday amid warnings much work still had to be done in New Delhi just a week before the opening ceremony.

National teams arriving at the athletes' village were greeted by a massive clean-up operation as hundreds of extra staff tackled uncompleted apartments, dirty toilets and piles of builders' rubbish.

The Commonwealth Games Federation denied it had failed to supervise Delhi during preparations for the event, which Indian leaders had hoped would be a demonstration of the nation's recent economic progress.

Federation chief executive Mike Hooper on Sunday pinned the blame squarely on Indian officials.

"I'm not a construction engineer. I'm not a builder. We're at the hands and the mercy of, effectively, the government of India, the Delhi government, the agencies responsible for delivery of the venues," he said.

"Renewed deadlines came and went. New reasons for delays kept coming up. Absolutely exasperation from our perspective," Hooper, a New Zealander, told Television New Zealand.

Hooper said all 71 competing nations had been kept aware of issues that needed to be resolved and that his "constant cajoling" had often brought few results.
"We can all do these post-mortems later. The reality is right now we need to focus on getting as much as we can done," he said.


Problems facing the Games range from shabby accommodation to security fears, an outbreak of dengue fever and doubts about public safety after the collapse of a new footbridge next to the main stadium on Wednesday.

South African High Commissioner Harris Mbulelo Mejeke complained a snake was found in one room at the village, the Press Trust of India reported Sunday, while Indian boxer Akhil Kumar said his bed collapsed as soon as he sat on it.

Athlete withdrawals

In the latest withdrawals, two Australian athletes pulled out, citing health concerns and the risk of a militant attack.

Cyclist Travis Meyer and table tennis player Stephanie Sang joined high-profile withdrawals on similar grounds by English Olympic 400m gold medallist Christine Ohuruogu, world triple jump champion Phillips Idowu and Australian world discus champion Dani Samuels.

The threat of whole teams withdrawing has receded, and the rest of Australia's participants begin arriving in New Delhi on Monday.

Around 1,100 foreign athletes, officials and technical staff arrived on Sunday, Press Trust of India news agency said.

The 112-member Kenyan delegation was the largest contingent to arrive, followed by Nigeria with 69 and Scotland with 60.

Canada, Tanzania, Bermuda and Jamaica were among the other arrivals, while about 20 support staff from England moved into the Games village ahead of the country's first athletes.

"It's exciting but also a relief to be able to occupy our accommodation," said chef de mission Craig Hunter. "It has been a challenging experience but one which will make us stronger."

The English men's hockey side were forced to book into a hotel when they landed in Delhi because their apartments were unusable.

"It was very, very bad when we arrived," Jefri Ngadirin, the team manager for Malaysia, told AFP at the athletes' village. "We're working hard to get things OK for when our athletes fly in."

Ngadirin said he had been lifting furniture, cleaning rooms and lobbying Indian officials to repair air-conditioning units and taps.

"The organisers promised to help us and now they have got a lot more people," he said. "Progress is good. They just didn't plan ahead. This place should have been ready in July, but our hopes were dashed when we saw it."

Mike Fennell, president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, on Saturday said "extensive work" still had to be done and warned of the damage done to India's image.

He added that problems with transport, security, fire and evacuation procedures and medical services all needed to be addressed immediately.

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