Commonwealth Games: Warning on Delhi came two years ago

By Dylan Cleaver

The NZOC were given a graphic warning two years ago about the conditions they could face in Delhi - by themselves.

A report compiled after the Youth Commonwealth Games in Pune, signed off by team manager Danyon Loader and chef de mission Barry Larsen, has turned out to be remarkably prescient.

Yet it seems the key message of the report - that progress in Delhi had to be closely and constantly monitored - fell on deaf ears.

In his role as NZOC Olympic ambassador, Loader was at Friday's announcement by president Mike Stanley and secretary-general Barry Maister that New Zealand would compete in Delhi.

Two years ago the two-time Olympic gold medallist took the youth team to Pune where they faced challenges beyond what had been expected and planned for.

The summary of the report from that trip lists four key aspects that required constant monitoring, including travel, security, transport and accommodation.

"This area must be monitored closely to ensure what is being promised is delivered," read the section under accommodation.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee was shocked at the state of the residential towers at the Games village, but perhaps they shouldn't have been. The Youth Games team walked into a similar scenario in Pune.

"We were housed in Annex C ... Although new and supposedly never used, the annex had the appearance of being much older," the report said.

In detailing the problems the report noted intermittent water supply; dirty toilets with faulty plumbing; leaking walls and cracked plaster; substandard and exposed wiring; and incomplete construction.

There were also "regular reports given of local tradesmen and housekeeping being found in the rooms having a nap".

If you add stray dogs and an extra level of filth, the report could have been looking two years ahead.

"It is little comfort that the organising committee for these Commonwealth Youth Games will also be responsible for Delhi 2010," the report said.

New Zealand is just one of many countries who have been blindsided by the conditions they have arrived to in Delhi. Most of the finger-pointing has been aimed at the Delhi organising committee and the Commonwealth Games Federation, run by New Zealander Michael Hooper.

He appeared on TVNZ's Q+A yesterday where he defended his and his organisation's reputation.

"It's just been a very unfortunate set of circumstances," Hooper said. "The federation has been pushing the organising committee and all other stakeholders for a very, very long time now and throwing up alarm bells for the last two years.

"I take responsibility for my areas of responsibility, and that has been working very hard with the organising committee to get things done. Now, at the end of the day, I'm not a construction engineer. I'm not a builder. We're at the hands and the mercy of, effectively, the government of India, the Delhi government, the agencies responsible for delivery of the venues. They consistently failed to meet deadlines."

The Games were meant to open next week in a blaze of glory, but so far all there has been is a monsoon-like deluge of negative publicity.

Last night two more Australian athletes pulled out of the Games. Cyclist Travis Meyer and table tennis player Stephanie Sang joined discus world champion Dani Samuels, who withdrew last week, on the sidelines.

The Times of India yesterday reported that boxer Akhil Kumar, who won gold for India in the 54kg division at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, was shocked when his bed collapsed as he sat down.

- NZ Herald

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