The president of the Commonwealth Games Federation on Monday warned organisers of next year’s event in New Delhi that they could not afford any more delays if the city is to be ready on time.
Michael Fennell spoke after delegates from competing countries ended an inspection of Delhi’s preparations and as concerns grow over the Indian capital’s ability to host the Games in 12 months’ time.
“With two years to go to the Delhi Games I said to the organising committee that time was not their friend,” he told reporters. “With one year to go, I now say that time is your enemy, but together we can defeat it.”
Review panel set up
Fennell highlighted problem areas ranging from ticketing to accommodation, transport, accreditation and logistics, and said the federation would set up an special independent review panel to oversee Delhi’s progress.
“The organising committee knows of its own deficiencies and Mr Kalmadi (its head) is committed to achieving a great Games for India,” Fennell said. “I have no doubt these Games can still be great. But now every day is pivotal and every hour vital.”
Fennell said that Delhi “faces an enormous challenge” before the opening ceremony on October 3 kicks off 11 days of sport involving 6,000 athletes.
He said that setting up the technology and recruiting personnel necessary for a successful Games was equally as important as finishing the venues, but that he felt the government was now fully committed to the task.
A leaked letter from Fennell last month warned organisers of Delhi 2010 that a lack of local co-ordination and poor planning posed a “serious risk” to the event.
Fennell said in the letter he must be given the chance to brief Indian Prime Minister personally on situation, but on Monday he admitted Manmohan Singh had been unable to meet him over the last week due to a full schedule.
Organising committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi vowed that Delhi would now “move forward at a very fast pace” and would not let the federation down.
“There are many challenges but I can assure you that we will live up to them,” he told delegates, joking that “for a good Indian wedding, there is work till the last minute”.
The Commonwealth Games, the biggest multi-sport event to be staged in India since the Asian Games in 1982, will feature 71 nations and territories mainly from the former British empire.
India, which has enjoyed a decade of rapid economic growth, hopes the event will promote a modern image of the country, though about one in four of its 1.2 billion people still live below the poverty line.
The Games federation also announced on Monday that Fijian athletes would not be allowed to compete in Delhi after Fiji was suspended from the Commonwealth in September over the government’s refusal to hold democratic elections.
However, Fennell said he would attempt to intervene on behalf of the athletes by lobbying Kamalesh Sharma, the Commonwealth Secretary General, to drop sport from the sanctions package imposed on the country.