After all the fuss, let the Games begin...

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The Independent Online

There have been snakes and snarl-ups, filthy bathrooms and faulty ceilings. There have been pull-outs and put-ups, tears and tribulation.

But tomorrow evening – a full seven years after India made its successful bid to host an international event that it hoped would help it to showcase the country to the world – the Commonwealth Games will open in Delhi.

To say that preparations for the event have been problematic would be a huge understatement: mismanagement, allegations of corruption and fraud, and an unfathomably shambolic rush to complete the facilities to international standards, have all damaged India's image. But now the athletes will finally take centre stage.

"We've worked tirelessly in the face of lots of challenges to get the village ready for our athletes," the English team's chef de mission, Craig Hunter, said as the athletes' village in the east of the city was officially opened last night. "But now is the time to turn to them and their performances." The 60,000 spectators expected to attend the opening ceremony in the renovated Jawaharlal Nehru stadium are to be treated to a masala of Indian culture.

India believes it can match the drama and splendour of the extraordinary ceremony at the Olympics in Beijing two years ago. It if can pull it off, it will be a huge achievement. Reports suggest that among the highlights will be a performance by 1,000 drummers, a simulated rail journey across the heartland of India, and a segment featuring huge, vibrantly coloured traditional dolls from Rajasthan. The entire stadium floor will be transformed into a dancefloor and at its centre will be a huge floating balloon onto which will be projected video images.

An issue that appeared to greatly concern some people – who precisely will have the honour of declaring the games open? – has also been resolved. "[Prince Charles] will read out the Queen's message and receive the Queen's Baton [and declare] the Games open. After that, President Patil, on behalf of Delhi, will declare the Games open," said the British High Commissioner, Sir Richard Stagg. "It is more normal for other members of the Royal Family to open the Games."

The sport will begin on Monday, a prospect the athletes appear to be relishing. "We just want to get on with it," said the Australian hockey player Mark Knowles. "We're probably going to be playing in the best hockey stadium in the world. There are no worries from us for sure."

The Indian boxer Vijender Singh, who won a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics, agreed it was good that the focus was turning to the sports. "Finally, we are being asked about our chances. These Games are important for us because we will have the support of spectators. Our family members and friends will all be there to watch us. We hope to inspire a whole generation of youngsters with our punches."

However, controversy surrounding the preparations for the £3.8bn Games, will not go away for long. The head of the Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi, has said there must be a full inquiry into allegations of corruption, and the Supreme Court has indicated it intends to examine the Games' preparations. Speculation is growing that the organising committee chairman, Suresh Kalmadi, may be held accountable.

Bowled over by the charm of staff and volunteers

Sian Gordon, lawn bowler

Few things make Sian Gordon more angry than the suggestion that lawn bowls may be a steady, sedate sport best suited to those in the autumn of their years. "It's buzzy – there are high-fives, shouting, people are running up and down the green," says the 22-year-old whose first competitive Commonwealth Games match takes place on Monday. "It's noisy."

The English literature graduate from Whitstable, Kent, is skippering the triples in the woman's competition and relishing the chance to get started. Before the team left the UK, publicity about the state of the athletes' village and concerns about security had made some consider their positions. Worse was dealing with the worries of friends and family who were not due to travel.

The team arrived in Delhi to find their accommodation not ready and things a little chaotic. Everyone needed to throw themselves into getting things looking spick and span. But Ms Gordon has been charmed by the staff and volunteers in the games' village and impressed by their willingness to sort out problems. She's also a big fan of the Indian food in the athletes' airy cafeteria, which offers cuisines from around the world. (Ironically, the Indian team has been most interested in the "Western" food while the teams from the West have been keen to sample Indian and Asian dishes.) Ms Gordon says: "Once you find the right channel of communication, nothing is a problem."

It's a bonus that this is not her first time in India; she came in April for a run-out at the bowls' venue and returned to discover that the facilities there had improved. In practice sessions, she has also learned that the Indian bowls' squad has been honing its skills.

"There are no bowls at the Olympics," she adds. "So this is the pinnacle."

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