Games lurch on as athletics takes centre stage

The blue-riband athletics programme is due to start at the Commonwealth Games on Wednesday amid concerns about the state of the track which is undergoing frantic last-minute repairs.

The first two track and field titles will be decided — men’s 5 000m and women’s javelin — among a bumper crop of 28 gold medals on the third full day of competition.

The pool will be the busiest venue in terms of medals with eight titles being contested, climaxing in the two 4x200m freestyle relays. Two synchronised swimming golds will also be awarded.

The powerful Australian swim team have dominated so far with four golds, but England took two golds on Tuesday and Canada are looking to mount a challenge.

Gold is also available in cycling (four), gymnastics (two), shooting (four), weightlifting (two) and wrestling (four).

The athletics will go ahead provided track problems are resolved at the main 60 000-seater Jawaharlal Nehru stadium. The track and field were damaged during Sunday’s spectacular opening ceremony.

As of late Tuesday, tarmac was still being laid on the track, while a photographer saw workers still laying grass on large, bare areas of the in-field.

The Mail Today quoted an organising committee official as saying repairs were running late because contractors had problems getting security clearance.

Britain’s former Olympic triple jump gold medallist Jonathan Edwards, in Delhi for the BBC, said he had never seen anything like it.

“I’ve seen a number of athletes come in and I think they’re in shock,” he told the broadcaster.

“This is a culture where things are got ready at the last minute but there are very real concerns.

“For a top athlete coming into a stadium this is not what you expect. It’s beyond anything I imagined.”

One crisis to another
The Games have lurched from one crisis to another with allegations of widespread corruption, shoddy construction and declining health standards dogging the build-up.

Adding to the problems, venues have been virtually deserted, although organisers insist the ticketing problems have now been fixed.

If the track and field issues are sorted out, Africans are set to dominate the 5 000m in the absence of England’s European champion Mo Farah.

Kenyan former world champion Eliud Kipchoge in the field alongside Mark Kiptoo, who has clocked 12:53.46 this year.

“I want to fight extremely hard for my first-ever Commonwealth Games medal. This is one of the events in which I haven’t got a medal,” said Kipchoge.

“The competition will be tough as some of the best runners will be racing.”

The men’s 100m heats are also held, but with Jamaica’s Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell staying away, the field is wide open.

In the pool, double Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington will be attempting to help England win the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay.

Other highlights see Australia’s Alicia Coutts v Emily Seebohm in the women’s 100m freestyle and Leisel Jones gunning for glory in the 200m breaststoke.

In the absence of triple Olympic champion Stephanie Rice, who is out through injury, Jones is Australia’s leading female swimmer, with three Olympic gold medals and a haul of seven golds in the Commonwealth Games to her name.

Australia currently tops the medals table with nine gold, ahead of India with five. The hosts expect to win more on the shooting ranges on Wednesday.

The Commonwealth Games are held every four years and feature 71 nations and territories which mainly were part of the former British Empire. – AFP

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Martin Parry
Martin Parry
AFP News Editor for Australia/New Zealand/Pacific

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