Comm Games chief condemns village preparations

NEW DELHI (AP) - Commonwealth Games Federation chief Michael Fennell thinks the Athletes Village is in a "seriously compromised" condition just days before it opens to athletes arriving for the Oct. 3-14 New Delhi Games.

Fennell issued a statement Tuesday saying the village, which opens to athletes on Thursday, has been a concern since federation officials visited the residential zone on Sept. 15 and he'd written to the Indian government urging immediate action because "many issues remain unresolved."

"The Village is the cornerstone of any Games and the athletes deserve the best possible environment to prepare for their competition," Fennell said.

Fennell said the advance parties from the international Commonwealth Games Associations had been impressed with the international zone and main dining areas, "however, the condition of the residential zone has shocked the majority of CGAs that are in Delhi."

"Despite their attempts to work with the organizing committee in a constructive manner since arriving on Sept. 15, significant operational matters remain unaddressed," Fennell said. "The problems are arising because deadlines for the completion of the village have been consistently pushed out. Now, the high security around the site, while vital, is slowing progress and complicating solutions."

The buildup to the games has been plagued by problems with construction of venues and infrastructure falling way behind schedule, causing concern over the safety and quality of the buildings and speculation of corruption in the awarding of contracts and structural certificates.

The New Zealand Commonwealth Games team has already been allocated new accommodation in the village in after describing its original residence as substandard.

New Zealand chef de mission Dave Currie, who is currently in New Delhi, said work to improve conditions in the village was progressing more slowly than expected and much needed to be done before its official opening.

"While cleanliness had been a concern for us, further inspection has revealed some issues with plumbing, wiring, internet access and mobile phone coverage," Currie said in a statement. "We will now be advising sports that the accommodation is less than expected.

"While our new tower may be close to being ready, there are large sections of the village that are not yet ready for athlete arrival."

The Times of India newspaper reported Tuesday that only 18 of 34 residential towers at the village were complete. The newpaper said New Zealand, Canada, Scotland and Ireland had complained of "unlivable" conditions in their apartment blocks.

The area set aside for New Zealand's team of more than 300 athletes and officials was the worst of any in the village, the newspaper reported.

Currie said delays in finishing the village had had a flow-on effect, delaying a planned security sweep which must be carried out before the opening. Security officials from New Zealand and other competing nations were closely monitoring progress.

"The village is now undergoing a phased lockdown," Currie said. "Our security advisers believe that progress remains acceptable at this stage. The next steps are for the village to be fully screened and handed over to the organizing committee in time for the 23rd. Our security team will then be able to fully assess the process."

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