Posted by Editor on 09/21/10
Earlier today, Commonwealth Games Canada held a conference call press session for media accredited to the 2010 Commonwealth Games, which are scheduled to begin on October 3rd in Delhi, India. (See our early posting in Daily News - Concerns Mount Over Commonwealth Games Preparedness).
On the call for CGC were Scott Stevenson, the Director of Sport for CGC; Dr Andrew Pipe, President CGC; Thomas Jones CEO of CGC; and Martha Deacon, Chef de Mission for Canada. Scott Stevenson was calling from Delhi, where he has been leading the Canadian advance team.
Scott Stevenson: The advance team has been on the ground in Delhi since last week, preparing for the [Canadian] team's arrival. When we began our tour, it appeared to be a spectacular Village, very innovative, and beyond our expectations in the international area (where the dining halls, mix areas, etc. are). I have not been to the competition venues, but colleagues say that they are spectacular as well, and almost ready for the athletes, which was very encouraging.
We had high expectations for the residential area but, unfortunately, the completion is not there, and it is not ready for inhabitation. They have fallen behind schedule for a number of reasons, including the monsoon season being longer than usual, we are told.
It is deficit in plumbing (working toilets, hot and cold running water), electrical (no power to many rooms) and after that will need a deep cleaning, like any construction site. So the hurdle is the accommodation.
In the past week, the Canadian advance team and other CG Associations have begun working almost as general contractors with local organizers to try and prioritize and complete the necessary infrastructure for the arrival of athletes. CGC says that Canada's first athletes (shooting and women's field hockey) are scheduled to arrive the evening of the 24th (this Friday).
Dr Pipe expressed frustration with local authorities: "I am disappointed with the Indian government and local authorities, who are seemingly indifferent to the situation. This could have been a shining star for India, but it [now] risks considerable national embarrassment if not addressed."
Dr Pipe also stated that as of now (1:00 pm EDT), plans for Canada to attend have not changed, but it is being monitored on an hour-by-hour basis.
Members of the media then asked a number of questions, and answers are paraphrased below:
Question: Canada is trying to develop closer ties with India, since it is one of fastest growing economies. What role/pressure has this placed on Canada to remain in Games?
Answer from Dr Pipe: The paramount concern is security and safety of the team members. We are constantly being updated by all sources available (including Foreign Affairs Dept.), but at the end of the day it is CGC responsibility to make the decision on sending athletes.
Question: Given the recent terrorist attacks in Delhi (earlier this week), what are concerns about sending athletes, and what are athletes [going to be] told?
Answer (Dr Pipe and Stevenson): CGC has been informed that security procedures in the Village and at venues are of high quality. The direction being provided to athletes that outstanding security in host-managed facilities, but beyond that they don't know. So, advice to athletes going to be to stay in the Village and facilities - ie, don't go out into Delhi itself.
Question: Is there a backup plan if the residences are not available?
Answer: The organizing committee has not provided a backup or contingency plan. At this point, no other options are being entertained, and hesitant to look at any accommodation options outside of the Village and the security bubble.
Question: Is there a deadline?
Answer: More of a rolling deadline, as people on the ground continue to assess progress. Prior to the first team members leaving (Thursday), Scott Stevenson will report on status, and decision will be made with appropriate sports bodies as to whether they will leave Canada. At this point, not looking at 'Go-No Go' scenario; instead, arrival dates will be pushed back if necessary.
Question: Health and hygiene concerns?
Answer: Obvious ones concerning Village already discussed, and Indian authorities have stated that they have addressed issues over breeding grounds for mosquitoes for Dengue fever.
Question: What about concerns over infrastructure, after collapse of pedestrian bridge injured 23 workers earlier this week? Concerns for venues and Village construction safety?
Answer: We can only rely on the [building] standards and [safety] certificates issued issued by Indian authorities, but will be watching the situation carefully.
Question: Have any athletes/sports pulled out?
Answer (Dr Pipe): We are not aware of any athletes at this point who have made the decision to withdraw.
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