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Page last updated at 16:54 GMT, Wednesday, 22 September 2010 17:54 UK

England to stick with Commonwealth Games plans

Collapsed bridge at Commonwealth Games
At least 23 people were injured as a pedestrian bridge collapsed near the event's main stadium on Tuesday

England are set to send their first group of athletes to the Commonwealth Games in India on Thursday despite concerns over safety and facilities.

The build-up to the 3-14 October showpiece has been marred by concerns over conditions in the athletes' village, stadium safety and security.

England are among a number of countries seeking assurances from organisers before fully committing athletes.

But England chairman Sir Andrew Foster said the team were "intent on going".

A statement from the England team read: "Our team in Delhi continues to prepare for the arrival of the first 22 athletes who leave on Thursday.

"Commonwealth Games England (CGE) continues to believe that the situation in Delhi is serious and we are monitoring this constantly with our chef de mission and our team in Delhi.

"The CGE continues to seek assurances from the Commonwealth Games Federation and the Organising Committee (OC) of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi that the village and venues are fit for purpose, are safe and that urgent action will be taken by the OC and the CGF to address the significant operational issues which exist."

Complaints have centred on the athletes' accommodation, with one nations claiming it is "unfit for human habitation", while safety fears were heightened after a section of false ceiling near the weightlifting area of the main stadium fell in on Wednesday.

No injuries were reported and Indian officials said it was "not something to be worried about".

England will not travel to Delhi until 'confident'

The incident followed the collapse of a pedestrian bridge near the main stadium which injured at least 23 people on Tuesday.

Eight of the nations involved in the Games have sent a letter to the Delhi organising committee and the Commonwealth Games Federation making it clear that they could pull out unless they receive reassurances over the competitors' accommodation and the main stadiums.

India's Foreign Minister SM Krishna has attempted to allay fears over hygiene and safety, while Commonwealth Games Federation chief Mike Fennell is due to arrive in New Delhi on Thursday for a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss the problems.

"Let me assure you on behalf of the government of India and the people of India that we will see to it that the Commonwealth Games are conducted according to international standards, and the athletes who come to participate in these games will feel quite happy about their conditions," Krishna told the BBC.

McColgan 'not surprised' by Delhi problems

Team Scotland and Jersey have delayed their departures to India, while Wales gave organisers a Wednesday night deadline to confirm all venues are fit for purpose.

Scotland's first party of 41 athletes and staff in the sports of boxing, rugby sevens and wrestling were set to travel to India on Thursday, but the Scots will now decide on a day-by-day basis when to fly out.

Commonwealth Games Scotland chairman Michael Cavanagh said Scotland remained "hugely committed" to the Games but believed urgent action was required.

He told the BBC: "The village is right now not fit to receive 6,500 athletes, which is due to happen within the next seven days.

"Part of the village is in a very poor condition and a very poor state of maintenance. There have been dogs roaming around the village, the apartments are filthy and there are piles of rubble lying around."

A lead group of athletes and officials from the Team Jersey were set to travel to Delhi on Thursday but the team will instead travel as one group next Tuesday.

TOP ATHLETES MISSING DELHI
Usain Bolt (JAM) - 100m & 200m world record holder
Paula Radcliffe (ENG) - marathon world record holder
Jessica Ennis (ENG) - world heptathlon champion
Chris Hoy (SCO) - multiple Olympic cycling champion
Beth Tweddle (ENG) - World champion gymnast

Welsh officials wanted to hear from the Delhi Organising Committee and the Commonwealth Games Federation by 1700 BST on Wednesday and warned that the nation's team would not travel to India if their concerns were not addressed.

Team Wales said they would make a decision based on the feedback they received from Delhi, adding: "We have to take a step back and examine how safe it is to bring athletes into this environment."

A two-man delegation from Northern Ireland has arrived in Delhi and will report back on the security, safety and living conditions before team chiefs decide on Saturday whether they will take part.

"At this point in time it's our intention to participate in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi," said Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games chairman Robert McVeigh.

The controversy is just the latest in a long line of setbacks for a Games, which were supposed to showcase India as an emerging power in the international community.

However, there are those in India who now fear that the opposite has happened.

DAVID BOND'S BLOG

Ticket sales have been disappointing and the cost of hosting the largest sporting event in the country's history has soared, making it the most expensive Games in history, with estimates ranging from $3bn to more than $10bn, as organisers attempt to complete work which only began in 2008.

The Government has insisted that everything would come together at the last minute and believed that were it not for the heavy rains and floods which caused widespread damage in the northern part of the country this summer, the project would be 10 to 15 days ahead of schedule.

Cabinet secretary KM Chandrasekhar said that the organising committee had been told to increase the manpower being used and promised that additional financial support would be put in place.

Organising committee secretary-general Lalit Bhanot insisted the situation was under control.

"We have started work in the 32 [residential] towers and will complete it before the arrival of the athletes. In fact, we have cleaned apartments in more than 60% of the towers," Bhanot said.

Robertson expects Games to run smoothly

A host of the world's leading athletes have pulled out of the event, with English athletes Phillips Idowu, Christine Ohuruogu and Lisa Dobriskey the most recent withdrawals.

World triple jump champion Idowu said he had concerns over security preparations for the Games, whereas Ohuruogu and Dobriskey both had injury worries.

English hurdler Natasha Danvers, who will not be competing because of injury, admitted a number of athletes were worried about competing in Delhi.

"I think a lot of the athletes already out in the holding camp are afraid, and it's a legitimate feeling," Danvers told BBC Breakfast.

"At this point you want to just be thinking about your performance, you don't want to be worrying if you're going to get sick or injured.

"I spoke to some colleagues this morning and they are worried about bombs, they are worried about being shot - it's just so bizarre to have to think about this at this point."

European 110m hurdles champion Andy Turner gave the event a boost by saying he was committed to going to Delhi.

"I'm looking forward to it," Turner told BBC Radio 5 live.

"Obviously I've had my concerns - the things in the press about the village and the bridge collapsing - but for me it's a chance to further my athletics career so I'm going to take every opportunity I get.

"I've literally just heard what everybody else has heard. I'm confident that by the time I get out there - I don't even get to Delhi until 4 October - I'm confident by that time everything's going to be absolutely fine."

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt is the most high profile withdrawal, while Kenya's David Rudisha, who broke the 800m world record twice in August, is also not competing.

Australia's discus world champion Dani Samuels said on Monday she would not be travelling to Delhi, citing security and health concerns, and Australia sports minister Mark Arbib warned more athletes could follow Samuels's lead.

And New Zealand's prime minister said he would support any of his country's athletes who did not attend.



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see also
NZ adds to India's Games pressure
23 Sep 10 |  South Asia
Turner confident Delhi 2010 will happen
22 Sep 10 |  Commonwealth Games
India Games 'will meet standard'
23 Sep 10 |  South Asia
NI stick to Delhi departure plan
22 Sep 10 |  Commonwealth Games
English trio out of Commonwealths
22 Sep 10 |  Commonwealth Games
British teams raise Delhi doubts
21 Sep 10 |  Commonwealth Games
Team Jersey delay Delhi departure
22 Sep 10 |  Commonwealth Games
Aussie Samuels out of Delhi Games
21 Sep 10 |  Commonwealth Games
Delhi Games bridge collapse
21 Sep 10 |  South Asia
Delhi Games village 'will be ready'
21 Sep 10 |  South Asia
Wales green light for Games trip
23 Sep 10 |  Commonwealth Games
Bowls legend voices Delhi doubts
22 Sep 10 |  Edinburgh, East & Fife
Gymnast Cox withdraws from Games
22 Sep 10 |  Commonwealth Games
Selby happy to be guided on Delhi
22 Sep 10 |  Commonwealth Games


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