Signs of improvement in Delhi

New Zealand support staff's move into the Commonwealth Games village is seen as a sign that progress is being made in getting the athletes' accommodation in New Delhi up to scratch, says a top official.

Last week the unhygienic state of the accommodation areas and the amount of work that still needed to be done cast doubt on the Games, which are due to open on Sunday and run until October 14.

The situation led the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) to delay the arrival of the first New Zealand athletes into the village from last Saturday to tomorrow.

A 13-strong New Zealand operations team finally moved in yesterday to spend its first night on site.

"It's certainly an important first step," NZOC president Mike Stanley said.

"We've always said we want to have a team at the Games and we're working really hard, and the team on the ground is working really hard, to ensure that this is the case. This is a signal we are moving in the right direction."

Stanley said chef de mission Dave Currie had consistently said the New Zealanders would not start shifting into their allocated towers until he was confident they were safe and hygienic.

"While all the issues are not solved, they have enough comfort that they can do it."

Stanley said the remaining issues with the accommodation were "becoming more minor".

"There's also the unknown of how everything is going to work under load when you have the whole accommodation block full," he said.

"But the attention is very much turning now to transport and just how efficient that is going to be and are they going to deliver on the plan they said they would."

The first New Zealand athletes expected in New Delhi are the bowls team, who are due to arrive tomorrow just after midnight (local time).

Stanley said the plan at this stage was for them to check into the village on their arrival.

The bowlers were originally scheduled to get into the Indian capital last Saturday, as they wanted plenty of time to get used to the slow greens at the competition venue.

Instead, with the accommodation delay, they headed to Abu Dhabi to continue their preparations.

Stanley, along with NZOC secretary-general Barry Maister, last week made a rushed visit to New Delhi to get a first hand look.

He is due to fly back there on Thursday, this time for the Games themselves.

Asked how much doubt there had been over New Zealand's participation, he said the NZOC's plan was always to have a team at the Games.

"Clearly last week the list of things that had to be done was significant, but we didn't ever sit down and say this is the time we are going to go or not," he said.

"We always said we wanted to ensure that our team was safe and secure and we wouldn't put them in harm's way. We had a certain window to do that. We are still within that, and it's just that problem solving process."

- NZPA

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