Games chief in cuckoo-land, says Currie

By Dylan Cleaver

An incredulous Dave Currie has accused Commonwealth Games organising committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi of living in "cuckoo-land" and asked him to attend today's chefs de mission meeting to offer a please explain.

Kalmadi has angered delegations with comments he made in a BBC interview yesterday. He said photos distributed to media that showed appalling conditions in the village in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games featured accommodation that was never intended for athletes.

According to Kalmadi, they were photos of staff quarters.

"He's living in cuckoo-land really," said Currie, NZOC chef de mission.

"We're a bit grumpy about that comment really, so I've asked him to come to the chefs' meeting tomorrow and explain to us the reality of what he's just said.

"I'm sure he won't come."

Currie arrived in an advance party more than a week before the opening ceremony and was dismayed by the filth he found and the fact some buildings had not been completed.

"It's disappointing he [Kalmadi] won't accept reality. That was true all the way through. That first week we were here he simply didn't accept there was a problem. If the chief minister [Sheila Dikshit] hadn't stepped in and said 'I'm sorry, I will fix it', who knows where we would have been."

Kalmadi, boosted by India's huge medal haul and a Games that might be glitch-free by the closing ceremony, is talking bullishly about an Olympic bid. Currie said it was not out of the question, as long as this organising committee was not involved.

"We've found some extraordinarily effective young people who, I think, if they were running it, yes, there is a possibility they could do it," he said.

"I think Delhi itself has been somewhat disillusioned by this group [the OC], by the way it's operated and by some of the ethics in the things that they have done. That is not a true reflection of the quality of young Indian people who are here.

"With the right leadership and releasing the potential of the 30 to 40-year-olds, there probably is the ability to stage an Olympics.

"India itself, you've got to be really impressed with it. What you tend not to be impressed with is leadership who are not ... being as honest as they need to be."

During his daily press briefing, Kalmadi was asked if he thought the raft of negative stories from the Games were a Western conspiracy and part of a general anti-Indian sentiment.

"No comment," he said.

The small crowds will be the saddest legacy of the Games, said Currie.

He is not surprised Indians have been staying away in droves from most venues and believes organisers should carry much of the blame.

While pleased that most aspects of a logistically-challenging Games had run smoothly, Currie said the sight of empty stadia was a "poor look" for the image and it hadn't gone unnoticed by the New Zealand athletes.

"The real disappointment, I guess, is the lack of spectators and therefore the lack of atmosphere around venues," he said.

"Our athletes see it. I don't think it affects their performance. They come here to do the business but it's one of the things you expect and hope when you come to a large multisport event.

"For an athlete who doesn't compete in front of a lot of people usually, it's one of the joys to do it in front of 10,000 to 20,000 people."

- additional reporting NZPA

- NZ Herald

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