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Abi Walker column

Leaks
The leaky balcony was caused by an overfilled washing machine

Abi Walker
By Abi Walker
Scottish hockey player at the Commonwealth Games

In a series of columns, Scottish hockey champion and medical surgeon Abigail Walker will be offering a look from inside Team Scotland's camp, reporting on her preparations, progression through the competition in Delhi and reaction after the Games.

The vultures are circling over the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Literally, I mean, not metaphorically.

This afternoon at the hockey stadium we trained in the shadow of a circling colony of vultures, who seemed to take enormous glee in swooping down to skim the surface of the pitch only yards away from us.

We've seen quite an array of wildlife: the vultures, monkeys and stray dogs - but thankfully, so far, none in the athletes' village.

That hasn't stopped me from doing a daily cobra check inside my goalie kit as it offers many crevices that a snake might like to curl up in, and it is not about performing with a four-foot cobra next to your "personal best".

Training this afternoon was the last of the firsts.

I should probably add a confession here - the pictures that appeared on the BBC Sport website showing the leak of water down the Team Scotland balconies was actually from our overloaded washing machine

Scotland hockey goalkeeper
Abi Walker

We've now been through everything of importance at least once: eating, the transport system, a look at all the village facilities, and now the competition venue.

There has been no shortage of coverage regarding the state of the village, and I could sense a collective holding of breath from our wave of Team Scotland as we took our first cautious steps in the accommodation.

What would it really be like? Were we going to arrive to apartments with no running water?

Would we be fighting off rabid dogs for the scraps of breakfast? Would the rabid dogs actually be breakfast?

Well, I can report back first hand: it is very very good. Not quite achieving the excellence that the underlying vision aimed for, but not too far away and getting better every day.

Of course, there have been symptoms of the hasty finishing such as occasional electrical blackouts or plumbing malfunctions, but generally it's hard to find fault.

I should probably add a confession here - the pictures that appeared on the BBC Sport website showing the leak of water down the Team Scotland balconies was actually from our overloaded washing machine.

Wherever there's a trail of filth, it's probable that dirty hockey kit is not too far away.

The apartments are clean, spacious and air conditioned.

Security is strict with airport-style scanners to enter the Village, soldiers manning sandbagged machine gun positions around the perimeter, and armed commandos accompanying us on every journey.

All of which highlights two things: firstly, the power of work that our general team management and organising committee put in to get us to this position.

And secondly, that the idea of additional health and safety risks that forced last minute withdrawals of some athletes is a total mockery.

For sure, there are risks which come with competing in India but these are well known and surely should have been considered months ago.

Personally, I can't understand the decision to pull out at the last minute and deprive another player of the opportunity (and funding) to attend, but I suppose we can never fully understand all the factors that go into these decisions.

It's also interesting when we compare our opinions with those of the athletes from other countries.

Chatting to one of the South African hockey players, I asked what she thought of the facilities.

"Well," she laughed. "When your continental championships take place in venues where the accommodation is literally in mud huts, then this is five-star luxury."

And that's very true - it's all a matter of what you're used to, and glimpses of the shocking poverty on the streets is a constant reminder of just how lucky we are.

You also get a sense of the importance of these Games when you talk to athletes from other countries, particularly those from the smaller and developing nations who are getting a rare opportunity to represent their country on a platform broadcast to the world.

There is a definite feeling that the excitement for these Games is growing like a crackle of electricity in the air.

The opening ceremony on Sunday promises to begin proceedings with the grand majesty of a thunder and lightning storm - something very special is happening in Delhi, miss it at your peril.



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see also
Commonwealth Games 2010: Form guide - hockey
29 Sep 10 |  Commonwealth Games


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