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The Commonwealth Games: Should Athletes Go To New Delhi?

20/12/2010 17:28 | Updated 22 May 2015

When Craig Hunter, Team England's chef de mission, said earlier this week that the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi would all come together at the last minute 'like an Indian wedding', his optimism was a refreshing voice among the numerous detractors. Reports of unwashed bathrooms and flooding had a gaggle of scaremongering officials and precious athletes up in arms.

At first, I stoically sided with Hunter. They still have time to spiff things up, I thought. It's not like news like this is unusual – all major events of this ilk have their little hiccoughs. If you believed the press in 2004, the Olympic torch was never going to be lit in Athens, while earlier this year FIFA was allegedly worried that South Africa wouldn't be ready to stage the World Cup and began thinking about holding it elsewhere.

Of course, this was all before I saw the horrific photos of the athletes' village: stains that would delight your local scatologist; sinks that needed more than a healthy spray of Cillit Bang; and unfinished walkways and facilities that put a new slant on the word 'deathtrap'. These images were followed shortly by stories of collapsing bridges, falling walls and crumbling ceilings. In all honesty, my reserve did suffer a little wobble.

So, I get why Phillips Idowu et al have decided to pull out, but I still don't agree with it. Health and security concerns are the words that have been most often bandied about as reasons for not getting on a plane, but to be honest a trip to India always comes with inherent problems – Delhi belly, a small, but elevated risk of terrorism, in-room TVs that only show back-to-back 1970s Bollywood films – but the athletes knew all this before they signed up.

The Indian organisers have some time to redeem themselves. Sure, the teams will be starting to arrive over the next week or so, but the Games don't actually begin until 3 October. And the pictures that we've seen don't represent all the facilities - a number of team officials have already given the stadiums, playing fields and other arenas the thumbs up. It also sounds like every effort is being made in India's capital city to get things as shipshape as possible.

In addition, security measures against any potential attack are said to be stringent - though this may be difficult to believe given that they can't seem to sort out their recalcitrant plumbing. Personal safety, however, has been the paramount concern of the organising committee since the get-go, and many countries will also be sending their own security details just to make sure.

Thankfully, this hasn't put off the majority: most athletes are still planning to attend. English diver Tom Daley said earlier today that he would be competing, as did cyclists Mark Cavendish and Becky James, while teams from Scotland, Wales and Australia have confirmed that their teams will be there bells on. This is great news for the organisers, the participants – who have all worked so hard to be there, and the spectators. No doubt things won't all run smoothly during the Games, but at least it looks like the problems will be more akin to seating Aunt Geetika next to her cousin wearing the same dress at the bridal table, than the Groom not showing up at all.

What do you think? Should the athletes stay behind or forge ahead? Vote and leave us a comment below.

By: Kate McAuley

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