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Delhi Games hit by bridge collapse

One of the world's biggest sports events is in jeopardy as organisers struggle to cope with unfinished buildings, an athletes' village described as "unfit for human habitation", a bridge collapse, concerns over security and corruption, and an outbreak of dengue fever.

The October 3-14 Commonwealth Games, which bring together more than 7,000 athletes from the 71 countries and territories every four years, was supposed to showcase the emerging power of India - just as the 2008 Beijing Olympics did for China.

Instead, the New Delhi Games are highlighting the problems in the developing nation of more than 1 billion people that is still plagued by vast areas of poverty.

The frenzied, last-minute preparations are in such disarray less than two weeks before the opener that some officials are speculating that a few teams could withdraw or the event could be called off.

The latest blow came on Tuesday with the collapse of a footbridge being built to connect the main stadium to a parking lot. Police said 23 construction workers were injured, five seriously.

Hours earlier, the Commonwealth Games Federation urged the Indian government to finish work on the athletes' village, which is due to open on Thursday. In addition to shoddy conditions inside and outside the buildings, there also are problems with plumbing, wiring, furnishings, internet access and mobile phone coverage.

The Games have historically been dominated by England, Australia and Canada, and all three have voiced concerns about the conditions in India.

"It's hard to cancel an event of this magnitude, but we are close to the wire, and teams may start to take things into their own hands," England chef de mission Craig Hunter told Britain's Press Association. "Athletes will start getting on planes soon and decisions will have to be made. We need new levels of reassurance."

Scotland said its team's living area was "unsafe and unfit for human habitation". Australia's chef de mission, retired marathon runner Steve Moneghetti, said Indian organisers "have got two days to do what's probably going to take about two weeks".

Organising committee secretary general Lalit Bhanot said the situation at the village was normal, adding: "All Games face such problems and they will be resolved before the athletes come in. These are not going to affect the Games in any way as all venues are ready to host the Games."

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