Bridge collapse threatens Delhi Commonwealth Games as teams cry foul over facilities
THE Delhi Commonwealth Games were thrown into chaos last night after a footbridge near the main stadium collapsed and major teams threatened to pull out over the state of the athletes' village.
Bridge collapse near Delhi stadium
Doubts were also raised about India’s ability to protect athletes and spectators from terrorist attacks after an Australian TV crew exposed shocking security flaws.
Australian discus chamion Dani Samuels last night became the first athlete to pull out over security fears. She said that no gold medal was "worth risking her life".
World triple jump champion Phillips Idowu is also considering pulling out and said early this morning that he had serious concerns about preparations in India.
India won the right to host the event seven years ago and spent an estimated $3.16 billion preparing for the biggest multi-sports event in its history, a showpiece that it hopes will project it as a regional power to rival China.
But with less than two weeks to go until the opening ceremony, many facilities have yet to be completed - including the athletes’ village, which is due to open in just two days’ time.
The collapsed footbridge from the parking lot to the arena was among the building projects.
Police said that at least 23 people were injured in the collapse, five of them seriously.
The 100-metre overhead bridge was to connect a parking lot with the main stadium, which is to host the opening and closing ceremonies of the $3.17 billion Games.
Nitin Gokhale, security editor for Indian channel NDTV, told Sky News that most of the injured are thought to be construction workers, who were working ahead of the opening ceremony on 3 October.
He said the bridge could have been weakened by weeks of heavy rains in the area.
A spokesman for Delhi police told reporters there was no need to panic over the incident. "There is no need to panic and the pictures on TV make it look much worse than it is," he said.
But the accident has stoked fears that New Delhi is seriously underprepared to welcome the 7000 athletes and staff due in the next week for the Games.
The president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Mike Fennell, said earlier yesterday that he had asked for the urgent intervention of the Indian government after severe delays in the completion of the village, where the thousands of participants are to be housed.
Team officials went further, with both England and Scotland issuing veiled threats to withdraw from the Games.
New Zealand, Canada and Ireland also objected strongly to the condition of accommodation given to them in the village, with the New Zealand team taking the unprecedented step of switching its accommodation because of the lodgings, described as "filthy," "uninhabitable" and "not fit for humans" by participants and officials.
The Games organisers called a press conference to allay fears about the village's state. They said the bridge collapse was "unfortunate" but insisted everything was under control.
With reference to cleanliness, the organisers said 60 to 70 percent of the residences were complete and everything else would be ready "in the next 36 hours"
"We are doing our best and we are sure and confident that we will be able to complete the entire cleaning of the residential wing," they said.
Meanwhile, a crew from Australia’s Channel 7 filmed the backstreet trade in ammonium nitrate and a range of other powerful explosives from illegal stores in the Indian capital.
The crew also filmed a salesman in a parking lot illegally offering a “remote detonation kit” built into a rolling suitcase.
The Channel 7 reporter Mike Duffy subsequently wheeled the empty case past armed police guarding the Nehru stadium without once being challenged.
Security fears were already high in the capital after a gun attack outside the Indian capital's main mosque injured two Taiwanese tourists at the weekend.
Both the US and Australia issued warnings to their citizens over the incident, which prompted Australian discus gold medal favourite Samuels to pull out of the Games altogether.
British athletes Christine Ohuruogu and Lisa Dobriskey also withdrew today, but because of injuries.
Delhi police said they increased patrols across the city, particularly in areas frequented by foreigners.http://www.news.com.au/world/b.....555089#ixzz10DCMUhvP