Massive clean-up saves Games for India as key nations get back on track
Hundreds of extra workers sent to Delhi ahead of teams' arrival
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.
Friday 24 September 2010
India appeared to have narrowly escaped its Commonwealth Games crisis last night as a number of key nations took a leap of faith and committed themselves to flying to Delhi and participating in the competition.
While intense concerns remained both over security and the conditions inside the athletes' village – images released yesterday from inside the apartments showed filthy bathrooms and stained bedspreads – the English and Welsh teams announced they would be participating.
The Scottish squad said it had been heartened by developments in India over the past 48 hours and is this morning expected to announce it will travel to India. A reported 1,500 workers have been sent to the Games village to clean up the accommodation blocks that that the Scottish team had previously described as "unfit for human habitation".
An advance party of the English team was due to arrive in Delhi last night while Kenya announced its 240-strong squad would start arriving from tomorrow, having received security assurances from the Indian authorities. South African athletes are also coming to India as scheduled.
England's team organisers said in a statement last night that their concerns were being met, meaning that the athletes would travel: "Commonwealth Games England and its 17 member sports today unanimously agreed that they will go to the Delhi Games."
A spokesman for the Scottish team, Jon Doig said: "We are heartened that [Delhi chief minister] 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."
He added: "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 [on Friday] that our team will travel as scheduled on Saturday."
The Wales team said: "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."
Ten days before the games are due to start there is lots that could still go wrong. Another accident like the collapsing footbridge this week or an incident like the shooting of two foreign tourists last weekend, could yet persuade many individual athletes, or even entire teams, not to participate.
Security remains a major concern. Bob Nicholls, a South African security specialist who has worked with the Indian Premier League cricket tournament and who will be advising organisers of the cricket world cup in India next year, said the longer work took to complete the facilities the more difficult it was to secure them. "Security is one aspect of the Games that has been a concern all along. You can only create a sterile zone once all the building work is completed and the delays make it very, very difficult to do that.
"It is more difficult to keep it secure when you have large numbers of people coming in and out of the venues," he said. "Because of what the games represent, they are always going to be a potential target. Wherever it is held there will be a certain threat level." Asked about the scale of the security problem, he replied: "It will be a huge challenge."
A number of training areas and reception facilities also remain incomplete and so-called "beautification", the effort to smarten up those parts of Delhi most likely to be seen by visitors, is way off schedule. Yet the fear that the games themselves could be cancelled appears to have eased. Taken collectively, the individual threats raised by various countries that they might cancel their involvement appears to have kicked the very highest levels of the Indian establishment into action.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last night chaired an emergency meeting of his cabinet while Commonwealth Games Federation chairman, Mike Fennell, arrived in the city for meetings.
Latest in Sport
Karim Benzema to Arsenal: Real Madrid striker fuels speculation he will join Gunners with cryptic Instagram post
Memphis Depay scores amazing overhead kick from Wayne Rooney cross during Manchester United pre-season training
David De Gea to Real Madrid: Spanish club resume £28m pursuit after fending Manchester United off Sergio Ramos
Karim Benzema to Arsenal: Transfer news live - Angel Di Maria to leave Manchester United, Emmanuel Adebayor to Aston Villa
Chelsea transfer news: Filipe Luis returns to Atletico Madrid as Blues recoup £15.8m they spent on Brazilian last summer
- 1 Kate Winslet thanked 'particularly horrible' girl who bullied her at school after Titanic success
- 2 Australia to impose 24-hour curfew on all cats to protect endangered species
- 3 Black and ethnic minority people twice as likely to be hit by Tory cuts than white people, report finds
- 4 Walter Palmer: Cecil the lion killer revealed to be American dentist
- 5 What TripAdvisor users think of 16 of the world's most popular landmarks
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government
The last thing Labour needs is a leader like Jeremy Corbyn who people want to vote for
I am the Jeremy Corbyn supporter that many will tell you doesn't exist
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband
£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...
£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...
£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join the ho...