Games chief defends record

By Andrew Alderson

Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive Mike Hooper will not stand down despite the problems that plagued the New Delhi event.

The expatriate Kiwi suffered criticism, even from his New Zealand Olympic Committee secretary-general successor Barry Maister and president Mike Stanley, for his role in the performance of the host city.

But he is already planning for the future and is even urging countries like New Zealand to consider bidding for scaled-down versions of the event.

Hooper insists he did all he could to make the Games a success during his three years based in the Indian capital. He told the Herald on Sunday he should not be ousted for any perceived inaction.

"That is a silly question. It is my job and I've done it well, despite what others might think. It was my role to point out and highlight things [that needed improvement] and I did it consistently."

However, having effigies of him burned in the street was a Games low. "The burning of the effigy upset me but let's put that into context. It was based on a totally false premise. I am alleged to have made certain remarks about the population of India which I didn't. It was scurrilous reporting."

While all manner of problems became accepted as the norm during the Games, Hooper is adamant athletes were not adversely affected.

"I'm pleased with how it panned out ... we got the village, catering and transport right for them [athletes]. You'd have to say the venues got there in the end too. It was reassuring to see so many happy smiling faces at the closing ceremony."

Cynics would interpret those smiles as relief. It is hard to justify a successful event programme when, amongst other gaffes, scales weighed boxers inaccurately, a shooting range had faulty targets and there were empty venues because of a bung ticketing system.

Hooper says Delhi has a much-improved infrastructure legacy as a result, but would not be drawn on a potential Olympic bid for 2020 or beyond.

Questions have been raised about the future of the Games but Hooper claims that with 71 members, the federation justifies its existence.

"People mistakenly compare it to the Olympics, which is unrealistic and inappropriate. They are specifically designed for Commonwealth countries and are not trying to compete."

Hooper says that reflects in the bid process. Auckland failed to get up a 2018 bid because of the need for so much new infrastructure but the Gold Coast bid is based along similar lines, making use of what they have.

"We don't say a Games has to have the maximum 17 sports. Ten (swimming, athletics, badminton, boxing, hockey, bowls, netball, sevens, squash and weightlifting) are a must, then a potential bid may choose seven more from our approved list. It's not like the Olympics where thou shalt have 28 sports full stop."

- Herald on Sunday

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