Athletics get back on track

After averting the ultimate embarrassment of having to delay the start of athletics competition because of a damaged track, organisers of the Commonwealth Games were dealing with a transit driver boycott today.
Competition started precisely on time in the track and field events last night, to the surprise of some commentators. Olympic triple jump champion Jonathan Edwards, who saw the condition of the track and the infield on the eve of the first events, had described it as "beyond anything that I imagined".
A last-minute rush to fix and clean sections of the track and relay turf in the infield - damaged by vehicle and human traffic during Sunday's opening ceremony - got the stadium in good enough shape for the international track federation to approve it for competition hours before athletes were set to race.
England's Mark Lewis-Francis won the first heat in a men's 100m field missing the Commonwealth's biggest star Usain Bolt, shortly after competition kicked off with the women's parasports shot put.
Uganda's Moses Ndiema Kipsiro won the first gold medal of the track programme, holding off Kenya's Olympic silver medallist Eliud Kipchoge to finish in 13min 31.25sec.
However, with one problem solved, another took its place.
Press Trust of India reported 800 bus drivers had stopped turning up for Commonwealth Games duties because of long working hours and heavy security, but organisers were bringing in more than 900 local drivers to replace them.
The driver boycott wasn't among the problems Commonwealth Games Federation president Mike Fennell and local organising committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi addressed at a news conference today, where Fennell assured "all systems are go" for the track and field competition.

Kalmadi, asked why most stadiums were almost empty on the third day of competition, said an additional 50,000 tickets had been sold yesterday.
He'd earlier said organisers might have to give away tickets for free to children and low-income people to fill the venues.
Fennell admitted negative attention around the games hurt.
"I think that a lot of the adverse publicity leading up to the games has turned off some people, there is no question about that," Fennell said. "You can't hide that. We need to rebuild it so the games can be successful."
World record holder Gagan Narang has been on target at the shooting range to help shift some of the spotlight to sports.
After helping India claim their first gold of the games yesterday, he shot a perfect 600 in qualifying for the 10m air rifle and then set a games record 103.6 points in the final round to win his second New Delhi gold - at the expense of compatriot and Beijing Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra.
That was gold medal No6 for India, keeping the hosts in second place on the table. Indian shooters collected two of the other three gold medals on offer at the range today and the host country finished day three of competition with 11 gold medals and 24 medals overall.
Australia leads the way with 21 gold medals and 46 overall after 53 events. Their cyclists collected the first three gold medals at the velodrome overnight before Malaysia's Josiah Ng won a dramatic men's keirin race to end a run of six wins for the Aussies.
The Australian swimmers won six of the nine gold medals in today's pool programme, including both 4x200m relays.
Jason Dunford won Kenya's first gold of the games in the 50m butterfly. AP

- Bay of Plenty Times

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