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Athletes delay arrival for Games

Indian officials have been scrambling to salvage the rapidly-approaching Commonwealth Games as a growing number of competitors delayed their arrival to allow organisers time to finish their frantic preparations.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held an emergency meeting on Thursday night with his sports minister and other top officials to assess the state of preparations for the event, which is to start in little more than a week.

Delhi's Lieutenant Governor Tejinder Khanna said Mr Singh "was informed that every effort is being made to prepare the games facilities and the village to the expected standards."

Commonwealth Games Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi, whose organizing team has been mired in graft allegations, was not asked to attend the meeting.

The games were meant to showcase India's emergence as a regional powerhouse. But long delays in getting facilities ready and a list of scandals have turned them into an embarrassment.

A poll in the Hindustan Times newspaper Thursday showed 68% of surveyed New Delhi residents were ashamed of the games, which bring together athletes from the 71 countries and territories of the former British empire and are held every four years. The poll of 523 people had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Organizers have struggled with an outbreak of dengue fever, the collapse of a footbridge leading to the main stadium and security fears after the Sunday shooting of two tourists outside one of the city's top attractions. A Muslim militant group took responsibility for the shooting.

Since concerns over the athletes' village - including excrement in rooms and problems with plumbing, wiring and furnishings - were raised earlier this week, India has committed major resources to cleaning it up, with Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit taking charge of the operation, the games' chief executive, Mike Hooper, told The Associated Press.

"There has been improvement each day," he said. "There's more to do."

The village, which is meant to house more than 7,000 athletes and officials, opened Thursday with 138 Indian athletes and sports officials moving in, organisers said.


From Belfast Telegraph