South Asia

Q&A: India's Commonwealth Games crisis

Delhi's preparations for the Commonwealth Games have been plagued by accusations of corruption and poor planning ever since it was chosen as host city in November 2003.

What are the main concerns?

Image caption Officials insist that Delhi will be ready by 3 October

Team delegates have described the accommodation as filthy, unhygienic and unfit for human habitation.

Indian media have reported that only 18 of 34 residential towers at the Commonwealth Games village in Delhi are ready for use.

There have been complaints that toilets in the accommodation are leaking and do not flush, while electricity supplies are either erratic or non-existent.

Some foreign teams have complained that there are piles of building debris in bathrooms. In addition, there have also been concerns that recent flooding around the village has left stagnant pools of water which are ideal breeding grounds for dengue fever-carrying mosquitoes.

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease that causes severe head, muscle and joint pains. On top of all that, there are also concerns about security following the shooting of two tourists outside the Jama Masjid mosque, one of Delhi's top visitor attractions.

What are the Delhi authorities doing about it?

Teams of labourers are working round the clock to ensure that the Commonwealth village is up and running by the start of the Games on 3 October - and organisers insist that facilities will be excellent.

A long list of officials and politicians have repeatedly argued that everything will eventually fall into place.

Image caption Foreign teams are worried about mosquito-borne diseases

Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrasekhar said that Delhi was "absolutely prepared", while Urban Development Minister Jaipal Reddy said that athletes and guests should "not bother about small matters" concerning the quality of accommodation.

Referring to a collapsed pedestrian bridge on 21 September, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit told reporters that the accident was "not as big as it has been made out to be".

All this has led to accusations from critics that the authorities in Delhi are being complacent in the face of a possible national embarrassment.

Can the Games go ahead?

At this stage it's too early to answer that question. What is not in doubt though at the time of writing is that the games are on a "knife-edge" as a succession of Commonwealth countries - including New Zealand, Australia, England, Wales and Scotland - consider their positions.

When did the problems begin?

Arguably from the time of winning the bid, when Delhi was accused of influencing the voting in its favour by offering cash inducements to Commonwealth member countries.

Once building work finally began, it did so behind schedule and under the control of at least 20 - often competing - organising committees. The government - which has spent $2.35bn (£1.5bn) on the Games - admits that 45 workers have died in accidents since work began.

Image caption Construction work has been consistently behind schedule

Critics say much of that work is sub-standard and that the quality of workmanship both in the athletes' accommodation and at Games venues is deficient.

In addition, there have been numerous concerns about alleged corruption of officials connected with the Games project. The most recent case was in August when Games organising committee treasurer Anil Khanna was forced to resign following reports that his son's company had won an award for laying artificial turf at a tennis stadium.

Does the rest of India care?

While it is true to say that other parts of India were never going to be as enthused as the Delhi authorities over staging the games - simply because they are not involved - there is concern that the country's reputation will suffer if the Games end up going spectacularly wrong.

That concern has been reflected in the press, which has described preparations for the games as a "national embarrassment" which has "shamed" the country.

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