Commonwealth Games: Officials point the finger

By Andrew Alderson

A burgeoning blame game is being played as New Zealand frustrations with the inadequate state of Commonwealth Games preparations peak just a week out from Delhi's opening ceremony.

New Zealand's Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) chief executive officer Michael Hooper has hit back at criticism from New Zealand
Olympic Committee (NZOC) secretary-general Barry Maister and president Mike Stanley - themselves exposed to criticism after this week's shock discovery the conditions for the New Zealand team in the Delhi
athletes' village were unacceptable.

The NZOC bosses said that what their advance party team, led by chef de mission Dave Currie, found on arrival last week in Delhi was "inexcusable".

Hooper says the NZOC need to take some responsibility for their position, rather than just lashing out at organisers.

"As far as I'm concerned the members have been fully informed, that's why we had a chefs de mission meeting in March last year. We shouldn't
be looking back in hindsight saying 'this and that should have happened'."

Maister claims the CGF could have done more: "We sent a delegation to the village four months ago and did not see the tower we were going to be in, nor did any other country, nor did the evaluation commission
who went to check out the village. The CGF has a lot to answer for in that regard. It was their job to ensure the village was ready for habitation."

Stanley agrees: "Mike Hooper has been based in Delhi for some time to oversee these very things. I don't think we were being naive relying on that sort of information to base our judgments on. We had a full
expectation resources would be applied to the project to get it right and that hasn't happened. It is the organising committee's responsibility to deliver, and the CGF's responsibility to see jobs
are ticked off."

It could be argued the NZOC should have had more on their minds than the seemingly trivial matter, mentioned by Currie, of signage, banners and decorations.

Maister says it was a reasonable expectation to plan for those sorts of things: "We have a process on how we build teams and the feedback from
athletes over time says we do it well. That's part of what we
normally do."

Hooper is defending any perceived lack of action by the CGF. He says Games organising committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi tried to get him
recalled to the Commonwealth Games office in London a year ago for being too demanding.

"Go back and google it," Hooper says. "Mr Kalmadi was trying to get me thrown out of the country because I was too outspoken and pushing them.
We've consistently gone on about the safety of the village and venue buildings. We were trying not to hide things. So I'm frustrated these comments are now being made."

Hooper - the NZOC secretary-general prior to Maister - says the NZOC needs to be more accountable.

"They have been fully appraised on an ongoing basis, like at our general assembly last year. You would have to be blind not to see the CGF pushing hard to get the organising committee and the government
agencies to deliver the venues and village on time. It's nonsense to say we have not maintained pressure, despite having a staff of five in Delhi.

"We were naturally concerned with delays in finishing the venues. The organising committee did not get them fully signed off with building
completion certificates until September 6. That's unacceptable, but if Mike and Barry are saying they knew nothing about this and we should have pushed harder, I disagree.

"We have done everything possible, including fully briefing our members. We put out a release to members 16 weeks ago, saying the key issue was getting the village finished."

"The criticism about the state we find ourselves in is fair because the village should have been ready on September 16, but you can't [with the Indian organising committee] make a horse drink after you have led it
to water.

"I'm disappointed people are starting to play these finger-pointing games. Let's have the post-mortems later. I know the CGF has done everything they can to encourage, cajole and get people moving.

But Maister claims the NZOC was misled.

"A year ago we stood inside a finished unit and they said 'this is how it is going to be'. We took them at their word. Six months later we were again denied access to the rest of the village, but it was under the presumption the CGF would ensure delivery of the Games. In retro
spect we should have pushed harder early on to see our facilities."

The first New Zealand athletes will move into the Games village on Tuesday.

- Herald on Sunday

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