Prince Charles row brewing at Commonwealth Games

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A diplomatic feud is brewing amid the already existing chaos at the Commonwealth Games, this time involving Prince Charles and Indian President Pratibha Patil.

With Queen Elizabeth II skipping the New Delhi Games — the first Commonwealth Games she's missed since 1966 — the prince is scheduled to speak on his mother's behalf at Sunday's opening ceremony. However, many Indians feel Patil should be the one to officially inaugurate the games, the first to be held in India and only the second in Asia.

"There is no row. Both the Prince of Wales and the president of India will have a prominent role in the opening ceremony in Delhi," the prince's office, Clarence House, said in a statement. "We cannot be specific about the choreography, but the prince will read out the Queen's baton message, ending by declaring the games open."

Patil's office did not want to comment on the matter.

"This is a diplomatic issue which will be decided on by the ministry of external affairs," the Indian president's office said.

The latest scandal to hit the Commonwealth Games comes as more and more athletes — 850 were expected Tuesday — are arriving in New Delhi and moving into the athletes' village, which was described last week as filthy and uninhabitable.

New Zealand, which had delayed its arrival in India until the village was cleaned up, sent its first athletes into their living quarters on Sunday night — two days later than planned.

"Obviously, there's been a bit of work go in over the past few days, but as far as we're concerned, it's fine," New Zealand lawn bowling coach Dave Edwards said. "There's a little bit of dust and some poor finishing with plaster and paint and things like that, but we're very happy with what we've got."

Some of the buildings still had leaks in them, and there was still water in some basements, according to New Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who took charge of the work at the athletes' village last week.

"They're keeping ahead of it. They've got a lot of cleaners and workers here, but I understand there are still a few countries experiencing problems," New Zealand chef de mission Dave Currie said.

The New Delhi police on Tuesday said that security forces have fully taken over the at the venues for the Commonwealth Games.

"(The) security situation is totally under control," New Delhi police commissioner Y.S. Dadwal said. "Everything is looked after."

Organizers were also working to shield visitors from one of India's most enduring problems: poverty. Many of this city's beggars have been arrested or forced from the streets, migrants have been rousted, and thousands of homes hidden from sight.

Another top athlete also withdrew from the games on Tuesday. Cypriot high jumper Kyriakos Iannou, who won the silver medal at last year's world championships in Berlin, pulled out of the competition "for strictly personal reasons," Cyprus Olympic Committee director Olga Piperidou said.

High-profile athletes including Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, Jessica Ennis and Chris Hoy have already bowed out of the games for various reasons.

The local wildlife is even making its mark on the games as a 4-foot (1-meter) cobra was reportedly found at the tennis stadium. A member of the South African delegation found a snake in a room at the village.

Last week, a footbridge leading to the main stadium collapsed and injured several constructions workers, and two tourists were recently shot outside one of New Delhi's top attractions. Both incidents fueled speculation that the games would be scrapped or that countries would pull out. Some high-profile athletes withdrew due to health and safety concerns.

Australian netballer Catherine Cox said she and her teammates had been discussing whether the games would be canceled because of all the problems.

"We talked at home about it. We were wondering a while if it's going to go ahead," Cox said. "But we're just stoked to be here finally."

Some athletes were facing other problems.

The Indian shooting team, which won 27 medals at the last Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, had to practice with borrowed ammunition because their own stock had not yet arrived in New Delhi. And the host country's cycling team squabbled with the Sports Authority of India and reportedly threatened to go on strike because of a rule that makes athletes accountable for the loss or damage of imported bikes.

According to Indian cycling coach Chayan Chowdhury, things were resolved amicably when the cyclists discovered that they would not be forced to pay anything.

"The cyclists thought that if they sign, they have to pay money," Chowdhury told the Times of India newspaper. "But when they were told the cycles are fully insured, they decided to go ahead and accept the equipment."