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Page last updated at 16:39 GMT, Monday, 27 September 2010 17:39 UK

Commonwealth Games 2010: England team arrive at village

England members arrive in Delhi
England members arrive in Delhi amid tight security on Monday

England's first batch of athletes moved into the much-criticised Commonwealth Games village on Monday after receiving the all-clear by team chiefs in Delhi.

The 48 competitors from the hockey, lawn bowls and shooting squads had been staying in hotels over the weekend.

With 36 other members arriving on Tuesday, England chef de mission Craig Hunter said: "It's not perfect but the accommodation is acceptable."

Meanwhile, injury has ruled out England tennis star Richard Bloomfield.

Britain's number five failed to recover from a long-term back problem in time after aggravating it during a tournament in France in early September.

About 80 Scottish and 50 Welsh athletes arrived on Sunday, although tennis player Elena Baltacha had to pull out of the Team Scotland squad with health concerns.

The Games build-up has been plagued by organisational difficulties, including complaints about filthy conditions, infrastructure problems and even a snake being found in a competitor's room and at the tennis stadium.

There was better news in Delhi later on Monday with the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee chairman insisting the majority of the village flats were ready for athletes.

Athletes approve Delhi accommodation

Suresh Kalmadi said: "80% of the flats are fine. The sun is out and everything will be fine. All the athletes are happy.

"Whatever problems were there earlier have been sorted out. I don't think they have seen a Games village like this anywhere else. There is no more scope for improvement."

Following a weekend of intensive diplomacy and improvement work in the Indian city, Pakistan became the latest team to express their discontent over accommodation.

With organisers given a 24-hour deadline to improve conditions, Pakistan's Olympic Association chief Arif Hasan told Associated Press it was "not fit enough to live in", adding that contingency plans were having to be set in place should another hotel be needed.

As new images of dirty bedrooms appeared in the Indian press on Sunday, there were two further withdrawals from the Australian team.

Cyclist Travis Meyer and table tennis player Stephanie Sang pulled out of the Games, which are due to take place from 3-14 October.

Meyer said he was concerned about health issues, including dengue fever, while Sang is worried about security.

606: DEBATE

The athletes' village was in the spotlight again on Sunday when Indian boxer Akhil Kumar's bed reportedly collapsed when he sat on it.

"I checked the bed and part of it had no plywood on it. It was disappointing after enduring a long journey," said Kumar, who will compete in the 56kg category, told the Times of India.

"The athletes are at least entitled to a decent place to rest. Even the toilets are not very clean."

Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive Mike Hooper said his organisation should not be left to shoulder the blame for problems, which have included a bridge collapsing near the main stadium and part of the ceiling at the weightlifting arena falling.

He claimed repeated requests from the federation's co-ordination commission earlier in the year were not acted upon.

It has been a challenging experience but one which will make us stronger as we strive to be successful now on the field of play

England chef de mission Craig Hunter

"All the warning signs were there. We were pushing very hard, we kept pushing," Hooper told BBC Radio 5 live's Sportsweek programme.

"You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. These people just did not understand, or seem to accept the magnitude of the problem.

"There were consistently missed deadlines. The government agencies have let everybody down over here as regards meeting those deadlines. But that said we have to make it the best it can be and that's what we're all hoping to do now."

After their first athletes touched down in India on Friday, England warned "more and swift" action was needed.

And although Hunter declared that the village had "the potential to be five star" but was currently "at about three star", the support staff team provided the green light for athletes to move in.

"We are now getting back on track with the planned and phased arrival of athletes and we will begin to reach a peak of team numbers [more than 500] on 5 October," added Hunter.

"There is still a lot more to do to be ready for that peak but, meanwhile, I'd like to pay tribute to our support-team staff who have worked sometimes literally around the clock to get everything in place and safe for the first athletes' arrival.

"It has been a challenging experience but one which will make us stronger as we strive to be successful now on the field of play".

Wales flags adorn balconies in the Commonwealth Games village
Members of the Welsh team have already moved into their accommodation

England will announce their flag bearer on Friday, with their first competition coming three days later when swimming's double Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington and world champion Liam Tancock will feature.

Photos taken last week exposed the poor conditions of the accommodation in the village.

The images, obtained by BBC Sport, showed dirty bathrooms, animal footprints on beds, exposed wiring and flooding outside the buildings.

However, organisers pledged to tackle the problems and conditions have improved.

Scotland's athletes flew out on Saturday, although Britain's number one Baltacha was not among their number.

The 27-year-old suffers from a chronic liver condition and said attending the Games would be too risky.

Among those who did travel were members of the archery, lawn bowls, shooting, tennis and weightlifting teams.

Team Northern Ireland are also happy that their accommodation is suitable for the team to travel to India on Monday.



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see also
Games' village 'ready by midweek'
26 Sep 10 |  South Asia
Games athletes 'being let down'
27 Sep 10 |  Scotland
Baltacha pulls out of Delhi Games
25 Sep 10 |  Commonwealth Games
'All nations' to compete in Delhi
25 Sep 10 |  Commonwealth Games
NI team will attend Delhi games
24 Sep 10 |  Northern Ireland
Wales green light for Games trip
23 Sep 10 |  Commonwealth Games
Athletes' village photos
23 Sep 10 |  Commonwealth Games


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