Top athletes pulling out of C'wealth Games

England’s world champion triple jumper Phillips Idowu pulled out of the Games due to security reasons, saying his family is more important than a medal. Idowu’s pull-out came came hours after his compatriots — Olympic 400M champion Christine Ohuruogu and 2006 Melbourne Games 1500M gold medallist Lisa Dobriskey — decided to withdraw from the Games due to injuries.

To add to the woes of the harried CWG Organising Committee, the false ceiling of the weightlifting arena at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, main venue of the Games, came crashing down amid heavy rains here through the day. Though nobody was hurt in the incident, it was enough to add to the prevailing anxiety about the readiness of the venues after a foot overbridge collapsed outside the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Tuesday.

Shockingly, the authorities, for whom the Games was a means to showcase the country’s rising economic might, viewed the incident as a routine problem. “It’s all because of the rain. These things do happen and it’s a just a minor issue. The cables for the data network were placed on the false ceiling and due to its weight the ceiling fell down. It's a minor thing and it will be corrected,” Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said.

Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrashekhar, too, described the false ceiling collapse as not a big issue. He claimed that all the Games venues and practice arenas along with the Games Village were ready.

A day after New Zealand hinted at pulling out of the Games, Canada and England also sounded sceptical of India’s preparedness to host the event. The two countries indicated that they would not be hesitant to boycott the Delhi Games if the cleanliness issue of the residential blocks was not attended to immediately. New Zealand, England, Canada, Scotland, Ireland and Wales had expressed concerns over the cleanliness of the residential towers in the Games Village, terming them as “filthy and uninhabitable.”
Dikshit’s words did precious little to soothe the already ill-at-ease foreign contingents. Wales was swift to act after the latest mishap. “With yesterday's news of the bridge collapse and now the roof of the weightlifting venue falling in, we have to take a step back and examine how safe it is to bring athletes into this environment. We have given the Delhi Organising Committee a deadline of this evening to confirm if all venues and the Games Village are fit for the purpose,” Sports Wales said in a statement.

Sir Andrew Foster, Chairman of Commonwealth Games England, joined the chorus: “Next 24 to 48 hours is very crucial for the Games Village, which is our main area of concern now. It’s a situation that hangs on knife’s edge.

“We don’t have any complaints about the competition venues but there is a lot more work to be done in the Games Village. We sincerely hope that a turnaround comes in the situation and we get a favourable word from the Organising Committee,” Foster said in his statement.

“But at this point of time we are not certain about the situation in the Games Village and so we can’t guarantee that we will be sending our team until we are confident,” he added. CWG Canada President Andrew Pipe echoed his England counterpart’s stand.
Scotland announced that they will not send their team to Delhi till Friday and will wait for a clearer picture to emerge regarding the state of the Games Village and security in Delhi. “We will wait till Friday before taking a decision regarding sending the team to Delhi for the CWG. We are waiting for a clear word on the state of the Games Village and the overall security during the Games,” CWG Scotland said in an e-mail. “This, we hope will the Organising Committee more time to address our concerns about the accommodation. Though we are committed to the Games, we can’t compromise on areas like athletes’ safety, security and health,” it added.

Meanwhile, Commonwealth Games Federation President Mike Fennell will arrive in Delhi on Thursday evening to assess the progress of work at the Games Village residential blocks. Fennell has also sought time to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who will prepare for a round of crisis talks.

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