M A I N   N E W S

As monsoon recedes, sun shines on CWG
* Australia, New Zealand confirm participation
* British contingent checks in
* Fennell says things much better than before
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, September 24
After being subjected to sustained criticism about the shoddy preparations for the Commonwealth Games, its organisers had something to cheer about today. Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) president Mike Fennell gave his thumbs up to the Athletes’ Village after inspecting the place. “The situation has improved vastly”, he remarked, barely two days after he had slammed the “unhygienic and unlivable conditions” at the Village.

Fennell also met Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrashekhar, who has been designated to oversee the preparations for the Games by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to discuss the concern raised by the athletes. Chandrashekhar assured him that India was all set to host the event.

There was also considerable relief when Australia and New Zealand confirmed their participation in the sports extravaganza while a group of 60-plus athletes arrived here from Britain. Initially, they will be staying at a five-star hotel.

This turnaround came a day after the Prime Minister stepped in and issued strict instructions to all concerned that they should pull out all stops to ensure there are no further glitches in the conduct of the Games as the reports about the lack of preparations and the poor living conditions at the Athletes’ Village had sullied the country’s reputation. UPA sources said the PM was both “worried and alarmed” at the media reports about the living conditions provided for the athletes.

The Prime Minister has directed all those involved in the Commonwealth Games preparations that everything should be done to ensure success of the mega sporting event, Minister of State in the PMO Prithviraj Chavan said today. Chavan said there was a concern over pull-out threats and hoped that everything would go well.

Urban Development Minister S Jaipal Reddy, Union Sports Minister MS Gill, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and Lt-Governor Tejinder Khanna were called in for the meeting last night. Significantly, the controversial Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi was kept out of these deliberations.

After being ticked off by the PM, all agencies responsible for the sports event swung into action to ensure there are no further complaints from the visitors. Staff from all local agencies like the Municipal Corporation, NDMC and the Delhi Development Authority have been roped in to help with the maintenance at the village while five-star hotel chains like Maurya Sheraton and Taj Hotels are flying in 100 trained staff who will be entrusted with the responsibility of supervising the housekeeping at the 24 towers at the Athletes Village.

Government sources said the problems at the Games village pertained primarily to “housekeeping details”, which, they admitted, had not been attended to as the work on the Village was continuing till the very last. The Village, explained a senior UPA minister, has 3,000 rooms, which is equivalent of “20 five-star hotels” and the organisers do not have sufficiently trained staff to oversee the maintenance of the place.

PM snubs MS Gill

A day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pulled up all those responsible for the organisation of the Commonwealth Games, he cut short Sports Minister M.S.Gill at the Union Cabinet meeting today. UPA sources disclosed that Gill wanted to apprise the Cabinet about the preparations for the Games but the PM did not allow him to do so. The Sports Minister sought the PM’s permission to make a presentation on the sporting event after all listed items on the agenda had been cleared. PM Singh, however, did not allow him on the plea that this issue had already been discussed threadbare a day before.





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