South Asia

India PM Manmohan Singh holds Commonwealth crisis talks

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Media captionSanjoy Majumder looks at the frantic preparations taking place in Delhi

Senior Indian ministers have held a crisis meeting aimed at tackling concerns surrounding the Commonwealth Games, due to start on 3 October.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the meeting after several participating nations expressed alarm at the state of athletes' accommodation in Delhi.

New Zealand, Scotland and Canada have all delayed their arrival at the Games.

But most other nations - including England and Wales - have committed themselves to the event.

Indian officials have repeatedly insisted the Games are on track, despite pictures of the athletes' village obtained by the BBC showing flooding, leaking toilets, dirty bathrooms, incomplete apartments and animal paw prints on beds.

Urban development minister Jaipal Reddy told the BBC that the media had exaggerated the problems, and that preparations were running smoothly.

"There are no doubt some grievances in regard to the standards of maintenance of toilets in the Commonwealth Games village - other than this, there are no other problems at all," he said.

The chief executive of the Games, Mike Hooper, also gave an upbeat assessment, saying there had been improvements every day in the state of the facilities.

And some countries appeared to soften their stance late on Thursday, with Scotland saying it was "increasingly optimistic" that it would take part, and Wales saying its concerns had been addressed and its athletes would travel to India as planned.

England's hockey team said they would be arriving on Friday, but would initially stay in a hotel rather than the official Games accommodation.

"There's just a bit of cleaning needs to be done and I think in a few days we'll be in the village as well," said men's team captain Barry Middleton.

Mr Singh summoned Mr Reddy and sports minister MS Gill to his residence after scathing criticism, particularly from Canadian officials who described the "indifference" of Indian officials as "incomprehensible".

According to Indian media reports, Mr Singh told the ministers how important it was that India put on a good show.

Afterwards, the Lt Governor of Delhi, Tejendra Khanna, who was at the meeting, told reporters: "We are confident that we will meet expectations and the Games will be an outstanding Games."

Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) President Michael Fennell has also arrived in Delhi to try to ensure the event goes ahead smoothly.

Preparations for the Games have been beset by difficulties - including particularly heavy monsoon rains and an outbreak of dengue fever in the area.

Security issues were also raised after suspected militants shot and wounded two foreign visitors in the capital last Sunday.

Australia's world discus champion Dani Samuels and English world triple jump champion Phillips Idowu have both pulled out of the Games, saying they were concerned for their safety.

Ticket sales have been low, and the cost of hosting the largest sporting event in the country's history has soared, making it the most expensive Commonwealth Games so far.

Estimates on the cost range from $3bn (£1.9bn) to more than $10bn, as organisers attempt to complete work which began in 2008.

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