Games chief says all countries will take part

The Commonwealth Games Federation chief said on Saturday there was still work to be done amid concerns about security before India’s showcase event starts next week, but that it would go ahead with all countries taking part.

Several athletes have pulled out of an event plagued by filthy accommodation, shoddy construction and security fears. The Indian government is rushing against time to ensure all is ready before the opening on October 3.

“There is still a lot of work to be done and it’s not over yet,” Michael Fennell told a news conference a day after he visited the Games Village. “What is of great concern is the safety and security of athletes and officials. There will be full participation in the Games. All 71 countries will be attending.”

The Games, held every four years for mostly former British colonies, are estimated to have cost $6-billion. Asia’s third-largest economy was awarded them in 2003 but did not begin proper preparations until two years ago.

India had hoped to use the Games to display its growing global economic and political influence, rivalling neighbour China which put on a spectacular 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

Instead, they have become a major embarrassment for the world’s largest democracy where infrastructure projects have remained slow paced and a drag on economic growth.

“A lot of damage has been done to India as a country,” Fennell said.

Negative publicity
Moody’s rating agency said investment in India could be damaged as a result.

“The negative publicity could deter foreign investment and give multinational businesses considering expanding in India reason to think twice,” Moody’s Analytics, a unit of the rating agency, said in a research note.

The first batch of athletes arrived in India for the Commonwealth Games on Friday, opting to stay at a hotel instead of unfinished accommodation.

English athletes stayed at a hotel on Friday but planned to move to the athletes village on Saturday. A bridge collapse and a suspected militant attack on two foreign visitors had thrown the Games into crisis.

The Delhi Games may turn out to be the most compromised since a 1986 boycott of the Games in Britain, when 32 nations stayed away because of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s objections to sanctions against apartheid-riven South Africa.

Cyclist Greg Henderson became the first New Zealand athlete to withdraw over concerns about health and security. Olympic cycling champion Geraint Thomas, two English riders and one Isle of Man rider also opted out of the Games.

Reuters reporters have also seen children working at Games construction sites, despite it being illegal to employ minors. – Reuters

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