26 Sep 2010

NZ Games officials seek assurance before athletes go

9:57 pm on 26 September 2010

The head of the New Zealand Olympic Committee, Barry Maister, says officials are still waiting for assurances that athletes' accommodation in Delhi will be ready for the Commonwealth Games.

The arrival of the New Zealand team has been delayed due to the incomplete state of the accommodation, but the first athletes are due to arrive in the Indian capital on Tuesday.

India is rushing to get the facilities ready for the start of the Games on 3 October, with preparations dogged by construction problems, complaints of filthy accommodation and security fears.

The New Zealand committee's secretary-general, Barry Maister, says progress is being made, but it's painfully slow.

While security systems are in order, the New Zealand officials want confirmation that water under the village has been cleaned up, the power supply is solid and all the systems are working.

Mr Maister said on Sunday that the next 24 hours would be critical in deciding whether New Zealand athletes go to the games.

He says it's great the Indian authorities and the Commonwealth Games Federation are finally taking responsibility.

But Mr Maister says New Zealand and other nations are more interested in actions than words.

The New Zealand team's chef de mission, Dave Currie, who arrived at the village on Sunday, says an army of cleaners and labourers has been brought in to finish the job.

He says he hopes some support team members can move in on Sunday, but more work needs to be done.

Committee head accepts responsibility

The head of the Delhi Commonwealth Games organising committee, Suresh Kamaldi, has accepted responsibility for the problems facing the event.

Mr Kamaldi blamed construction companies for the delays in opening the athletes' accommodation but said he nevertheless accepts full responsibility.

He has also revealed that team buses will be given armed police escorts as they transport athletes across the city.

'More work needed'

Commonwealth Games Federation president Mike Fennell says extensive work still needs to be done to improve conditions at the athletes village in Delhi.

After inspecting the Games Village on Saturday, Mr Fennell said the massive work that was being done should have been carried out earlier. "What is of great concern is the safety and security of athletes and officials," he added.

Work was still required on the clean-up of the athletes' village, on matters relating to transport, security arrangements and fire safety arrangements, Mr Fennell said.

Mr Fennell confirmed all 71 countries were expected to attend the event. Athletes from 11 countries had arrived by Friday evening.

Mr Fennell rejected suggestions that the federation should not have awarded the Games to Delhi, saying a country the size and importance of India should not be excluded from hosting such an event.

Athletes cope with delays

The first New Zealand athletes are due to get to Delhi on Tuesday, having had their arrival date pushed back.

New Zealand archer Mandy McGregor says she's had to allow more time to mentally prepare for the Games because of the added concerns, but is focussed on competing.

"I've just been kind of riding the excitement really and getting into the fact that I'm actually going to my first Commonwealth Games, and not really stressing too much about the other stuff."

Former New Zealand swimmer, chef de mission and team doctor, David Gerrard, says it's unfortunate the athletes have to deal with the added uncertainty and stresses.

While the delay in athletes' arrival will affect affect preparation schedules, he says, New Zealand athletes are used to extra challenges at that level, and most will be able to cope.