India confident of cleaning up Com Games mess
BY DUNCAN JOHNSTONE AND MICHAEL FIELD
Do you think the Delhi Commonwealth Games should go ahead as planned?
Criticism is mounting but Indian Commonwealth Games officials are adamant they can have the athletes' village cleaned for the arrival of competitors tomorrow.
They were given a massive wakeup call by New Zealand officials expressing their horror at the unclean state of accommodation – a stance backed up by Commonwealth Games Federation chief Michael Fennell.
And this morning Canada and Scotland joined in, levelling some damning criticism at the state of the village facilities.
But the organising committee has remained stoic despite the issue jeopardising the games which are due to start on October 3.
Organising committee spokesman Lalit Bhanot said: "Foreigners have different standards of cleanliness."
He told the Times of India newspaper: "It is not such a big issue which we should be ashamed of. This will not affect the games.
"We were aware of this issue (cleanliness) and we have already started our work. 70 percent of work on cleaning the residential blocks has been completed, we will complete the remaining in 36 hours.
"We had set the target that all work will be over by September 23 before the arrival of athletes. It still stands, all work will be completed before arrival of athletes. Only thing left is the deep cleaning of the Village. All cleaning work will be completed before the arrival of the athletes.''
That "deep cleaning" is something being demanded by Games chiefs.
"It is not a question of construction, it’s just a matter of filth," Commonwealth Games Organising CEO Mike Hooper told Radio New Zealand this morning.
A New Zealander, he said the problems raised around the Games Village were serious but he remained confident the games would open.
"It is a serious matter," he said, noting individual apartments were often disgusting with filth in many individual towers.
"It needs a massive commercial deep clean of each of the towers," he said.
The Commonwealth Games head Mike Fennell had written to the Indian Cabinet demanding action and this was expected to begin later today.
"We expected a clean environment for the athletes to prepare."
In the case of the New Zealand village, cleaners from the New Zealand High Commission had tried cleaning up, but they had been defeated and the team accommodation was moved to another tower.
Many countries had expressed "real concern" around the state of the village.
"It’s got to be fixed," he said.
Athletes cannot move in until they are clean.
"(Indian authorities) have got to move on it and take it seriously."
Canada's games president Dr Andrew Pipe said the village is "unliveable".
"I'm very deeply disappointed with the reactions of the Indian government and the organising committee to this point," Pipe told Toronto media in a conference phone call.
"They reflect a certain level of indifference that borders on the intransigent.
"They have been glacial in responding to the concerns that have been raised by my colleagues and I for weeks, and indeed months, leading up to these Games.
"This would have been an opportunity for India to shine, instead I think it risks considerable national embarrassment unless some of these deficiencies can be addressed."
"It is not ready for habitation yet," said Scott Stevenson, the CGC sporting director.
"Some deficiencies are fairly extensive.
"There have been issues to getting power to some areas and once that is completed we will focus on a very, very thorough cleaning"
CGC will make decisions now on a daily basis.
"If we are 100 percent confident that they will be able to be housed properly upon their arrival (we will go ahead), if not we will look into alternative arrangements in terms of time of departure."
Scotland's Games organisation said the Delhi village specifications had been promised to be of the highest standard, surpassing anything that had gone before, but the reality was quite different.
"... on arrival in Delhi on Thursday last week, Team Scotland officials found that building works had fallen seriously behind schedule and that its allocated accommodation blocks were far from finished and in their view, unsafe and unfit for human habitation,'' it said in a statement.
"After representation to the organising committee, Scotland was reallocated finished accommodation, but which still required serious cleaning and maintenance to bring it up to the necessary Games-ready standards.
"This has now been largely addressed by the Scotland team management, cleaning the seven-story tower block from top to bottom themselves with assistance from Delhi Games volunteers.
"However many of the other blocks in the Residential Zone still remain in a highly unsatisfactory state ... During the last few days, despite repeated promises, only slow progress has been made, to the extent that there are now grave concerns as to whether the village as a whole will meet the health and safety standards required to host all 71 CGAs and their 6,500 team members, which are due to start arriving on 23 September."
Meanwhile Bhanot claimed to local media that much of the issues were about relative standards when questioned over the state of cleanliness of the residential blocks at the village.
"For us and for you it is clean. But they (the foreign countries) have a different standard of cleanliness. It is a matter of difference in perception."
That was being addressed.
"We have now upgraded the level of cleanliness which should be there according to them. So we are looking into everything and we will deliver the Games. No country has said they are not coming," he said.
All the assurances have not come quick enough for world discus champion, Dani Samuels. The Sydney Morning Herald reported today that the negativity surrounding Delhi in relation to terrorism and disease had affected the 22-year-old's health and training and she had withdrawn from the Australian team.
- © Fairfax NZ News