Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Commonwealth Games boss holds crisis talks with India’s PM

Indian workers remove debris of the collapsed bridge near Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in New Delhi
Cranes remove debris of a collapsed bridge near Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in New Delhi, India (AP)
A homeless man tries to shelter in New Delhi, India. (AP)

The head of the international organisation that controls the Commonwealth Games is today to arrive in Delhi for crisis talks with India's Prime Minister in an attempt to salvage a situation rapidly descending into chaos and farce.

With athletes due to start arriving in this monsoon-lashed city 24 hours from now, Mike Fennell has requested a meeting with Manmohan Singh to see if anything be done to ensure the completion of facilities and accommodation as competing nations weigh up whether to pull out.

Northern Ireland team officials are still pushing ahead with plans to compete at the troubled games despite growing fears over the event.

“I have spoken to several of our athletes and they are remaining positive, concentrating on their training and looking forward to competing. Their attitude is very much ‘let’s get on with it’,” a Northern Ireland team spokesperson said yesterday.

“Two of our senior team officials, Stewart Tosh and Terry Crothers, have arrived in Delhi. They will speak to other home nations who have been there for the last number of days and will also speak with the Commonwealth Games Federation and the CWG Delhi organising committee.

“We must stress that the health and safety of our athletes is paramount and we will not deny that the next 48 hours are critical. Team NI still plan to depart on Monday, September 27.”

England's Commonwealth team last night provided some welcome relief to the crisis-hit event in New Delhi by announcing the first competitors will fly out as planned today despite serious concerns remaining over safety and conditions.

Sir Andrew Foster, chairman of Commonwealth Games England (CGE), warned however that the “ultimate option” remained pulling out and some other team members could yet have their departures delayed.

But Sir Andrew added: “The residential accommodation is still some way short of what we need and require.

“We need to have an assurance from our people in Delhi that they bring it up to the standards that are required.”

A final decision would have to be made one way or another “in the next few days”.

Such is the level of concern over security, safety and hygiene that at least two competing nations have already delayed their teams' departures for India. The Scottish team had been due to fly to India today but postponed its flight by several days to give organisers a chance to “address the concerns”.

The Canadian team was also reported to have delayed its arrival, while Welsh officials gave organisers a deadline of last night to satisfy its worries and guarantee that “all venues and the Games Village are fit for purpose”.

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