Commonwealth Games crisis eases

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The Independent Online

The Commonwealth Games appeared to be pulled back from the brink of collapse today after the Scotland and Wales teams announced they had been heartened by the latest developments in New Delhi.

A series of guarantees about safety and improvements to the athletes' village have been made by organisers while the Delhi Government, under the leadership of chief minister Sheila Dikshit, has agreed to put in place "concerted action" to resolve the problems.

Scotland team officials will confirm tomorrow whether their athletes will fly out as planned on Saturday. At least eight major countries have already expressed their reservations over the October 3-14 event in the Indian capital.

Team Scotland's representative Jon Doig said: "We are heartened that Sheila Dikshit has personally taken control of the situation and ensuring that the necessary additional resources are brought in, including support from the Delhi hoteliers association to address standards of cleanliness and hygiene and oversee quality control.

"We have continued to make progress addressing the maintenance and operational issues within our own accommodation block and things are looking much better.

"Therefore subject to a number of assurances from the organising committee being realised over the next 24 hours, we feel we will be in a position to confirm tomorrow that our team will travel as scheduled on Saturday."

The assurances include accommodation maintenance, plus proof that all structural safety certificates for both the village and the venues are in place, backed with full insurance cover through the Delhi 2010 Organising Committee.

The Scottish athletes due to travel on Saturday are competitors in archery, lawn bowls, shooting, tennis and weightlifting. Plans are currently being made to reschedule those who were due to travel today from rugby sevens, boxing and wrestling.

The Wales team said they had been given confidence by organisers' assurances.

A statement from Team Wales said: "The Commonwealth Games Federation has received assurances from the Delhi 2010 organising committee that all venues and village are fit for purpose. We are confident in the assurances that have been provided. The advance party will now be moving into our accommodation and we look forward to welcoming our athletes in the coming days."

Commonwealth Games Wales president Anne Ellis told Sky Sports News: "We asked for extra documentation to make sure the facilities, including the village, were fit for purpose and safe for athletes to live and compete in, and we have had that from the Commonwealth Games Federation and the organising committee today.

"We are satisfied that everything is all systems go and we are looking forward to going to Delhi.

"A week ago it was like a building site, although most of it was cosmetic work there were serious problems with plumbing and electricity.

"But that wasn't in the village .The food zone has been ready for some time, the international zone has been up and running and our tower block, which we went into last week with our advance party, has been turned round and is now comfortable for our athletes."

Lalit Bhanot, the secretary general of the Delhi organising committee, remains confident the Games will be a success.

Bhanot, who on Tuesday caused a media storm by referring to western standards of hygiene as being different from the host nation's, insisted all possible efforts were being made to bring the athletes' village up to scratch.

He told Press Association Sport: "The government along with the organising committee have made all efforts to get the place up to the standard that is desirable.

"Everything is fine. We have seen the work that has gone on in the past few days and you will see that the standard will be brought to the desired level."

Earlier a prominent member of the Games organising committee apologised for a "collective failure" in preparations.

On a day when Commonwealth Games Federation president Michael Fennell was due to hold crisis talks on the Games with Indian Government officials, the organising committee's treasurer AK Mattoo admitted to failings.

Apart from "filthy" living conditions in the athletes' village, a bridge linking a car park and the main stadium collapsed on Tuesday - injuring up to 23 workers - and yesterday further fears were raised when part of a ceiling in the weightlifting arena fell in.

Mattoo said: "I apologise for whatever has happened, whether directly or indirectly by us or by one of the stakeholders in this event.

"I genuinely feel sorry for whatever has happened and would like to apologise not only on the part of the OC [organising committee] but everybody else who is committed. This is a collective failure."

The New Zealand team confirmed today their departure for India would be delayed but chef de mission Dave Currie remains optimistic the Games will go ahead after a meeting with Dikshit.

Currie said: "She is in charge... now we wait to see the process and evidence that things can be rectified. There has been a lot of talk, now we want evidence.

"But she has brought leadership and a layer of administration to act. They have brought in some resources because there have been a lot of people milling around not being effective.

"There is some hope now. I'm more optimistic now that someone has taken ownership. But it's a bit like trying to stop the Titanic and putting it in another direction."

South Africa plan to send their team as planned, despite the concerns over the readiness of Delhi.