Commonwealth Games in doubt over safety and health concerns
The Commonwealth Games suffered a huge setback as teams delayed their departure to New Delhi amid security and health concerns.
Fears escalated that the Indian city was not ready to host the major sporting event after a stadium bridge collapsed on Tuesday.
The Botswana delegation of 49 athletes and officials were expected to arrive in Delhi this coming week, with the first batch of athletes leaving from Mauritius on Sunday due in India on Monday.
The 100m long footbridge leading to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium was still under construction when it collapsed, leaving 27 building workers injured, five of them critically.
There were already major concerns over the poor state of the complex housing the athletes. Just 11 days before the opening ceremony some officials are questioning whether the Games will start at all. World champion athletes from England and Australia have already pulled out of the event, with fears of more withdrawals to come.
The Chief Executive Officer of Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) and the Chef De Mission for the games Tuelo Serufho, said they are still consulting before they could make a final decision on the way forward.
“Unlike other countries we do not have people on the ground to
give us first hand information. It has been resolved that I should
leave early before the first team arrives to make a thorough
assessment of the situation and report back to the committee,” Serufho said.
He further said they are in contact with the Botswana embassy in India
to provide more information on the ground.
“We are aware that our embassy does not have full access to venues
that would be used during the games, which is why it is important that
we make our own assessment.
“We are relying on the information from the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), and we believe they will give a fair assessment of the situation and advise us accordingly,” he said.
He said he would leave for India today, immediately after the athletes sending off ceremony. The BNOC CEO however remained optimistic that the games would go on as scheduled. “We are getting a lot of reports from the European media, which has become notorious for building mountains out of anthills.
They can distort the truth, like they did with the World Cup in South Africa” he said.
Serufho added: “We are praying that the games go on, because it they don’t it would disrupt our plans. Some of our athletes intended to use the games to qualify for World Championships.”