Dylan Cleaver on sport
Sport analysis and comment from Dylan Cleaver

Dylan Cleaver: Officials' promises as empty as seats


It has fast become the hottest ticket in town, but not one you can pay for.

The daily press conference of the Commonwealth Games Federation and Delhi Organising Committee reached new levels of entertainment yesterday as OC chairman Suresh Kalmadi and CGF president Mike Fennell tried to explain away issues surrounding the state of the athletics track and the chronic lack of crowds.

Fennel was at all times distinguished if not convincing while Kalmadi seems to be rapidly turning into a slapstick character in a poor sitcom whose signature line is (cue canned laughter): "We have a committee looking at it and it will be fixed tomorrow."

Evidently that did not apply to the running track or infield at the main Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, which was fixed yesterday.

A huge section of the back straight was ripped up following the lavish opening ceremony and had to be relaid. The grass in the infield also suffered under the weight of the show and has been re-turfed.

"I've been to other Games where there has been damage to the track," Fennell said, insisting that there was nothing out of the ordinary about the prospect of the athletics being postponed while repairs were carried out.

"Over a thousand people were working on the track [on Tuesday]," chirped Kalmadi.

It's hard to say whether that statement is more remarkable because it shows just how badly ripped up the track was, or how readily available casual labour is in this city.

If that 1000-strong workforce had turned up to some events, it would have swelled the crowd by a multiple of 10, more in some cases.

The vast swathes of emptiness have been the most disappointing aspect of these Games.

"We have discussed this with the Organising Committee because we have seen this," Fennell said. "They are taking some important steps to see how this can be improved."

Step forward Kalmadi.

"Well, this is the start of the event. Now that India has won gold the public interest is quite high. I told you 50,000 tickets were sold yesterday and there are now queues in every stadium. So hopefully things will be okay by tomorrow."

Kalmadi then engaged in a debate with a British journalist about the size of the crowd on hand to witness Indian hero Abhinav Bindra's gold medal at the shooting range.

"There were only 30 spectators," said the journalist.

"I was there myself, there were a few hundred," said Kalmadi.

"I took a picture so we can count them together if you like," retorted the journo.

It is difficult to see how the CGF can have confidence in Kalmadi to sort the Games' myriad problems. Helpfully, that exact question was asked of Fennell.

"We tackle all the problems. We have to pay attention to how we can fix those problems, rather than discuss the amount of confidence we have in one another."

On a scale of ringing endorsements, this barely registered a sound.

- NZ Herald

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