Commonwealth Games head sees improvement in conditions

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The Independent Online

In a boost for India's beleaguered preparations for the Commonwealth Games, two top international sports officials said today that conditions at the squalid athletes' village had greatly improved even as they urged clean-up work to continue urgently.

While several teams have delayed their travel here because of the problems, the first athletes — the English hockey and lawn bowling teams — were due to arrive this morning, though they were reportedly going to stay in hotels until the village was ready.

The games were intended to be a source of international pride for the emerging Asian power, but corruption scandals, huge delays in getting facilities ready, and the filthy conditions of the games village have turned the event into an embarrassment for India.

At least nine athletes have withdrawn from the games in recent days because of concern for their health and safety, and the president of Australia's Olympic Committee said today that India should not have been awarded the games in the first place.

Amid the criticism this week about the conditions in the village, India committed major resources to rectifying the problems, games officials said.

Commonwealth Games Federation President Mike Fennell, who rushed to Delhi to deal with the troubles, was touring the village Friday morning and meeting with top athletic officials from participating countries. He will also meet with Indian Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar, the prime minister's top aide for the games.

Fennel's staff informed him that "considerable improvements have been made within the village," he said in a statement.

"It is vital that all remedial work that has already started continues with the greatest urgency," he said.

The head of Australia's Commonwealth Games Association, Perry Crosswhite, was upbeat as well.

"Conditions at the Commonwealth Games Village are acceptable. Things are getting better every time," he said in New Delhi.

There were still problems with water in the basement inside the village, but Delhi officials promised it would be fixed by Friday night "and we think the assurance given to us will be fulfilled," he said.