Scots athletes head out to Commonwealth Games in Delhi

Athletes board flight to Delhi. Pic by Frank Smith
Image caption Team Scotland is travelling to Delhi for the Games on 3 October

Hundreds of athletes and staff from Team Scotland have begun their journey to the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

Concerns about security and unfinished facilities had raised doubts about the team's participation in the event, due to begin on 3 October.

But guarantees have since been given that the problems have been solved.

The first of the athletes flew from Glasgow Airport on Saturday afternoon as it emerged that Scots tennis player Elena Baltacha would not be going.

She issued a statement explaining that due to a chronic liver condition - primary sclerosing cholangitis - the health risks of going to the Games was "too high".

Baltacha, 27, added: "I suffer from a liver condition which is linked to my immune system and makes me susceptible to picking up infections.

"I will be cheering on Team Scotland with all my heart, in particular my fellow tennis players Mhairi, Joss, Colin and Jamie. I am very, very sad that I won't get to play alongside them."

Among those who travelled on Saturday were members of the archery, lawn bowls, shooting, tennis and weightlifting teams.

Team Scotland's rugby players, boxers and wrestlers are due to head out on Tuesday.

Scottish team manager Vicky Strange, who is already in Delhi, told BBC Radio Scotland's Sports Weekly: "Our accommodation for Team Scotland is actually very much ready.

"It's been a hard week, I've had easier working weeks as have the rest of the guys out here.

"But, it definitely has paid off and the organising committee have now taken notice of everything that has been said and there's been a lot of progress.

'Review the progress'

Scotland's Sport Minister, Shona Robison, who travelled to the airport to wish the athletes good luck, said she was "very pleased" to see them boarding flights for Delhi.

She said: "We are continuing to review the progress made on the ground and I have once again spoken to the Indian sports minister to stress the importance that the assurances given by the Indian government translate into action in order that the village is ready to receive the athletes due to stay there.

"I would like to take this opportunity to once again commend our team who have dealt extremely well in what has been very challenging circumstances.

"These challenges however should not distract from the efforts of the athletes who have devoted years to training in a bid to pull on the national jersey and represent their country on the international stage."

Weightlifter Peter Kirkbride, 22, from Kilmarnock, said concerns about preparations in Delhi did not phase him.

He said: "I've done a lot of training. I just want to get out there and compete in the Commonwealth Games.

"Problems have not even been going through my mind. I've just been getting ready, anything else is nothing to do with me.

"I'd lift anywhere - they can hold it in my back garden if they want."

Edinburgh-born shooter Caroline Brownlie, 32, who lives in Bishop's Waltham, Hampshire, said: "The guys out there have checked things out and if they say it's fine to go, then I'm happy.

"We can't be too critical, because it's coming to us next."

Safety fears

Her team mate Neil Stirton, 29, from Aberdeen, added: "As far as India is concerned, shooting is one of their top sports, so there's a lot of pressure on their shooters out there, which is fine for us.

"The facility is almost world class. It had a few finishing touches to do in February, so they've have seven or eight months to sort it out."

At least eight nations, including England and Wales, had expressed reservations over the preparations for the Games.

Teams hit out at accommodation for athletes described as "unfit for human habitation".

Individual athletes, including reigning Commonwealth triple jump champion Phillips Idowu, decided not to attend over safety fears.

These were heightened when a footbridge to the main stadium collapsed and the roof of the weightlifting venue fell in.

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