Idowu may quit Commonwealth team after day of crisis in Delhi
Defending triple-jump champion will decide this week whether to pull out as Games descend into chaos
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Wednesday 22 September 2010
Phillips Idowu will decide by the end of the week whether to compete in the Commonwealth Games. The world and European triple jump champion has not yet pulled out of the England team but is "considering his position" and seems likely to become the latest star name to pull out of the troubled event.
Idowu had been determined to defend the title he won in Melbourne four years ago, his first major gold medal. But dramatic claims yesterday that the athletes' village is "unfit for human habitation" and the collapse of a bridge leading to the stadium in Delhi, allied to ongoing concerns over security, has caused to the 31-year-old to think again.
Yesterday Christine Ohuruogu and Lisa Dobriskey withdrew from the England team, joining the likes of Jessica Ennis and Kelly Sotherton. Other big-name absentees include Usain Bolt, the world's fastest man, and Chris Hoy, Scotland's triple Olympic champion. Although Idowu may well stay at home in Birmingham, team officials are holding a place open for him for the time being.
Both Ohuruogu and Dobriskey have blamed injury for their non-participation, but Idowu is fit and is simply believed to have understandable reservations about taking part.
"Phillips is considering his position," said Ricky Sims, Idowu's manager, last night. "He will have a few days to think it through and make sure he does not rush into a rash decision."
Yesterday Dani Samuels, Australia's world champion discus thrower, became yet another leading athlete to pull out, citing security concerns.
England's 170-strong contingent of athletes and swimmers will be based in a holding camp in Doha, Qatar, before making the long hop over the Indian Ocean shortly before their individual events. The use of a holding camp is standard practice for the British team at the Olympics as it minimises the time spent in the athletes' village.
Officials from both England and Scotland have been alarmed by the state of the village just 12 days from the opening ceremony, while Canada and New Zealand, two of the other larger teams, have also called on the organisers to make drastic improvements before athletes start arriving on Friday. There were reports that workers had defecated on the floor of some of the tower blocks being constructed to host the competitors. England's lawn bowlers and the hockey teams are scheduled to fly out from the UK tomorrow night.
There is the very real prospect that teams will start to pull out in their entirety if the situation is not hugely improved by Friday. Once one team declines to take part it could, according to officials from some of the smaller territories, spark a spate of withdrawals.
Ohuruogu, the Olympic 400m champion and defending Commonwealth champion, has been regularly sidelined through injury throughout her roller-coaster career and with London 2012 – on her home turf in Stratford – "on the horizon" she is not prepared to risk any more long-term absences from the track. She said she felt a cramp during a training session last weekend and has pulled out of the Games rather than risk irritating the quad injury which saw her miss part of this season.
"I am disappointed to miss the Commonwealth Games after working so hard to get fit since my quad injury in June," said Ohuruogu. "However, with the 2012 Olympic Games on the horizon the last thing an athlete wants to do is risk re-injury to the same muscle. It was very important for me to be cautious in dealing with my previous injury, and although training was progressing well, intense competition over three days may prove to be more harmful than good and may compromise the long-term functioning of the muscle. I had already picked up my team kit and was getting ready to go to the preparation camp in Doha. Instead I will have a short break now and resume winter training in October."
Dobriskey, like Idowu and Ohuruogu, is a defending Commonwealth champion. She won the 1500m title in Melbourne, but has been advised to rest and focus on winter training after she too suffered an injury-troubled season. "I was really looking forward to competing and I'd worked so hard to get back into shape," Dobriskey said. "I'm really disappointed but I just ran out of time."
Sotherton yesterday added to the rapidly escalating air of crisis surrounding the Games and the athletes' participation. "I'm quite relieved that I'm not going to CG!" she tweeted. "It's enough to worry about performing but worry where you sleep and walk is another thing."
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