Stadium bridge collapse heightens Games fears
Tuesday 21 September 2010
The build-up to the Commonwealth Games descended into chaos today when a bridge near the main venue for the Games collapsed. At least 23 construction workers were injured.
The 100 metres long bridge was being constructed to provide better access from a car park to the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in New Delhi. Officials said it collapsed when labourers were applying a concrete layer.
The injured, five of them reportedly in a serious condition, were taken to hospital.
The stadium is due to host opening and closing ceremonies as well as showpiece athletic events for the 3 to 14 October games.
It is further bad news for organisers already reeling after several nations this morning expressed concern at the state of the athletes' village.
Team leaders from England, Scotland, Wales, New Zealand, Australia and Canada admitted "grave concerns" over the accommodation for the 6,500 team members and said some was "unsafe and unfit for human habitation".
A statement from Commonwealth Games Scotland today confirmed the crisis saying: "Representation has been made to the Commonwealth Games Federation to make a realistic decision as to at what point and under what conditions they would determine whether the Games will be able to go ahead should the village issues not be resolved."
The Scottish team were given other accommodation after complaining but this still required a major cleaning and maintenance programme carried out by team officials and local volunteers.
"However many of the other blocks in the residential zone still remain in a highly unsatisfactory state," said their statement.
The Games start on October 3 and Commonwealth Games England said although they remain optimistic the event can go ahead there is a need for "urgent" work before their athletes begin arriving on Friday especially with plumbing and electrics.
Commonwealth Games Federation president Michael Fennell has admitted that the village is "seriously compromised" and has written to the Indian Cabinet Secretary expressing his "great concern".
He said: "The village is the cornerstone of any Games and the athletes deserve the best possible environment to prepare for their competition.
"Many nations that have already sent their advanced parties to set up within the village have made it abundantly clear that, as of the afternoon of September 20, the Commonwealth Games village is seriously compromised."
New Zealand chef de mission Dave Currie confirmed the facilities were below standard.
He told Newstalk ZB: "The way things are looking, it's not up to scratch.
"The reality is that if the village is not ready and athletes can't come, the implications are that it's not going to happen.
"It is unacceptable from the organising committee that they have put athletes through this."
Fennell said that the high security measures at the Games mean work which ought to have been in place is taking longer to complete.
He added: "Since the nations have been arriving at the village they have all commented favourably on the appearance of the international zone and the main dining area.
"However, the condition of the residential zone has shocked the majority of CGAs that are in Delhi and, despite their attempts to work with the organising committee in a constructive manner since arriving on September 15, significant operational matters remain un-addressed.
"The problems are arising because deadlines for the completion of the village have been consistently pushed out. Now, the high security around the site, while vital, is slowing progress and complicating solutions."
Commonwealth Games England said: "There is a lot still to be done in the Village and this needs to be done with some urgency so that it is ready for the arrival of our first athletes on Friday.
"Since our first inspection, monsoon weather has highlighted a number of different issues which need to be addressed including plumbing, electrical and other operational details."
Wales chef de mission Chris Jenkins said impressive progress has been made with his team's accommodation but there are still major concerns for other teams.
Jenkins said: "We have been working closely with the Delhi organising committee to resolve the issues we faced on first inspection of our tower and while there has been impressive progress made, we also still feel there are a number of operational issues that need to be addressed.
"We are in a good position because we came out early to set up. Therefore, we have had time to improve the standard of our building. Our major concern is for other countries yet to arrive."
Jenkins added that the security was also "impressive".
Michael Cavanagh, chairman of Commonwealth Games Scotland, said he had been told piles of rubble were lying around the village.
Cavanagh told BBC Radio Five: Very soon, 6,500 people from 61 countries will be coming and we have real concerns about whether they can be accommodated.
"The problem is that there are other aspects, not just the accommodation, there are parts of the Athletes' Village that aren't functioning.
"We've been told there are piles of rubble lying around the village. They have a very short space of time so we hope the Indian government will put real pressure on the organisers.
"The Delhi organising committee are running out of time and they need to do it very, very quickly."
Cavanagh said there were a series of meetings happening in Delhi today that there was a possible 'Plan B' but would not give details.
Organising Committee vice-president Randhir Singh said some of problems had come from the labour force "dirtying" the completed apartments but that the flats were "perfect".
Singh said: "There were some flats that the labour force was working on and they had dirtied certain other flats.
"They will be looked into and I'm sure there will be no problem. We still have two days for the teams to come and the situation will be under control.
"The buildings are perfect, they've all appreciated, and 24 hours is a long time and we will organise it."
The Australians are more hopeful about the standard of accommodation.
Australia's chef de mission Steve Moneghetti said Indian organisers needed to cram two weeks' work into two days.
"It's probably not up to western standards... but hopefully it will be suitable for the athletes," he said.
The first two officials from the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Council will arrive in Delhi today.
The council said in a statement: "They will assess the facilities at first hand in the village as well as the various competition venues and prepare a report which will be presented to the chef de mission Robert McVeigh.
"Only when full facts have been ascertained will any decision be made. This will be done in conjunction with other home nations and statutory bodies."
India's Urban Development minister Jaipal Reddy has responded to claims of inhospitable living conditions in the Commonwealth Games village, by assuring participating nations over New Delhi's ability to host the event.
Speaking to reporters, Reddy said: "Concerns about cleanliness and maintenance will be addressed urgently and properly. You have nothing to worry about.
"There is no complaint on the quality of Commonwealth Games village. This is abut the quality of services and the quality of maintenance.
"They wanted more labour to be pressed into service. And more labour will be provided to attend to cleanliness and maintenance.
"These are all minor hiccups. We don't like to neglect any one of them. The athletes have not arrived yet and by that time they come in a couple of days, all concerns will be addressed.
"I can tell you with all the sincerity at my command that I am not worried at all. I am as confident and as cool as ever about organising the Commonwealth Games in a successful, comfortable way.
"You must form your judgment until after the games are held. If the staging of games is faulty or deficient you should definitely raise questions.
"But at the moment we are all in the process of preparing and I would ask everybody to withhold their judgment."
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