'Snake in room' at New Delhi games
Two more Australian athletes withdrew and a South African competitor reportedly found a snake in his room as complaints over cleanliness, security and construction continued to dog the troubled Commonwealth Games a week before the sporting event opens in New Delhi.
While international sports officials have said the situation had improved dramatically in the athletes' village over the past couple of days - after inspections last week turned up rooms spattered with chewing tobacco and human excrement - some teams said the situation remained grim.
Tuelo Serufho, head of the Botswana contingent, told Press Trust of India his team's rooms in the village were "unliveable for our athletes", with filthy bedsheets, bathroom fixtures that did not work and construction debris yet to be cleared away.
"Our athletes will be here by Tuesday," he said, warning they would have to check into hotels if the rooms were not ready by then.
The games were meant to be a coming-out party for India to cement its reputation as a growing regional power. Instead, its image has been battered by negative publicity about its frantic last-minute efforts to get ready for an event it knew it was hosting seven years ago. The games open on October 3.
Last week, a pedestrian bridge leading to the main stadium collapsed, and adding to the organisers' woes, two tourists were shot and wounded outside one of New Delhi's top attractions.
That led to talk of postponing or cancelling the games. But those discussions dissipated after the government poured enormous resources into addressing the problems, particularly with the long-overdue athletes' village. The village opened as scheduled on Thursday although some teams delayed their arrival because of concerns that the accommodation was not yet ready.
Among the problems to surface this weekend: a snake found in the room of a South African athlete in the village.
"We have very grave concerns," South African High Commissioner Harris Mbulelo told the Press Trust of India news agency. "If snakes are found we can't ask our teams to stay there."
It was not immediately clear if the snake was poisonous.