Belfast Telegraph

Commonwealth Games a bridge too far for Idowu

The Commonwealth Games were last night in danger of becoming a farce as a dramatic day in India had ramifications across the globe.

Things had started badly with a number of teams threatening to boycott next month’s event in Delhi due to the state of accommodation in the athletes village, which has been described as “filthy”.

The situation worsened later in the day with the collapse of a bridge leading to the main Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

It left 27 workers injured, five seriously, and comes three months after India's anti-corruption watchdog warned of possible suspect building practices at a number of Games venues.

And late last night one of England’s top stars, European triple jump gold medallist Phillips Idowu, signalled that he was pulling out.

It was in keeping though with the mixed signals and confusion reigning at the moment that Idowu’s withdrawal was similarly complicated.

Although Idowu's agent Ricky Simms said earlier in the evening that no official decision had been made, 31-year-old Idowu later used his Twitter account to say: “Sorry people, but I have children to think about.

“My safety is more important to them than a medal.”

With the likes of Usain Bolt and Sir Chris Hoy already not making the trip, it takes further gloss from an event that is desperate to cling onto its position on the sporting map.

To make matters worse England's Christine Ohuruogu and Lisa Dobriskey also withdrew yesterday, citing injury problems, but with fears over safety and facilities branded unfit for human habitation, they are unlikely to be the last.

Olympic 400 metres champion Ohuruogu (pictured) felt a cramp during a training session last weekend and has decided to pull out of the Games rather than risk irritating the quad injury which saw her miss part of this season.

Dobriskey, who won the 1,500m title in Melbourne four years ago, has been advised to rest and focus on winter training after an injury-hit season.

In an effort to stem the tidal wave of negative publicity plaguing the Games, Sports minister Hugh Robertson came out fighting on its behalf last night, saying would be “an utter tragedy” if they did not go ahead.

Robertson, who will spend several days in Delhi next month, said Games organisers needed support — and not threats by teams that they might withdraw.

The minister said: “It would be an utter tragedy if anything went wrong at the last moment but I have had no indication that this will not go ahead and I expect it to do so. They need support and understanding and for people to back their Games. It is not helpful to just throw your hands in the air.

“We are in a fevered media environment and it's important that one takes a sensible and strategic long-term view.

“There is nothing that I have seen or heard that suggests these are problems that cannot be sorted out. I expect our teams will turn up in Delhi and that the Games will go ahead as planned.”

Games organisers have insisted the levels of hygiene at the athletes' village would be upgraded to meet participants' expectations.

Lalit Bhanot, the secretary general of the organising committee remains convinced the troubles will be resolved ahead of the Games opening on October 3.

Bhanot said: “According to us the room may be clean, but the foreign officials may require a certain standard of cleanliness and hygiene which may differ from our standards.

“So in order to bridge this gap, we have appointed people to ensure the kind of hygiene they are looking for is done.

“Whatever the concerns expressed. We are looking into everything and it will be resolved before the teams arrive.

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