- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 21, 2010

India’s efforts to outshine the Beijing Summer Olympics with next month’s Commonwealth Games are foundering under unsanitary quarters, construction delays, a record monsoon and an outbreak of dengue fever.

On Tuesday, those efforts suffered another setback when a pedestrian bridge collapsed near New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, where the games’ opening ceremony is scheduled. Police said 23 workers were injured.

Indian officials and organizers had intended the competition among former British colonies to showcase the nation’s growing influence as Asia’s third-largest economy. Instead, it has exposed weaknesses in the subcontinent’s infrastructure and planning.

Prompted by unhygienic housing conditions in the Athletes Village, the president of the Commonwealth Games Foundation (CGF) has issued a sharply worded message to organizers telling them to clean up their act.

In a letter to India’s Cabinet secretary this week, CGF President Michael Fennell expressed great concern over the conditions, saying that most of the Commonwealth Games Associations visiting New Delhi were “shocked” by state of the residential area.

The Commonwealth Games are scheduled to be held in New Delhi from Oct. 3 to Oct. 14. The Athletes Village is to open officially on Thursday, but only 18 of its 34 residential towers are ready for occupancy.

“If the village is not ready and athletes can’t come, obviously the implications of that are that it’s not going to happen,” New Zealand chef de mission Dave Currie told New Zealand radio station Newstalk ZB on Tuesday.

“It’s pretty grim really and certainly disappointing when you consider the amount of time they had to prepare,” he added.

Team Scotland said their officials last week found the accommodations “far from finished and in their view, unsafe and unfit for human habitation.”

New Zealand, Scotland, Canada and Northern Ireland have demanded their teams be put up in hotels if their apartments are not up to the mark.

Lalit K. Bhanot, secretary general of the Organizing Committee Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi, said at a news conference in New Delhi on Tuesday he was aware of the concerns.

Acknowledging that “deep cleaning” needs to be done in the apartments, Mr. Bhanot added: “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.”

Meanwhile, security concerns were heightened over the weekend after two Taiwanese tourists were wounded in a shooting outside the Jama Masjid, a historic mosque in Old Delhi.

The Indian Mujahedeen, a terrorist group, took responsibility for the attack and threatened to disrupt the Commonwealth Games.

Security has been increased around games facilities, but Mr. Fennell said it is “slowing progress and complicating solutions.”

New Delhi’s worst monsoon in decades also has left major roads with gaping potholes that have resulted in daily traffic jams.

Pools of stagnant rainwater have turned into a breeding ground for mosquitoes, and an outbreak of dengue fever has killed nearly 100 people in the past month.

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