Wednesday, September 22, 2010

New Delhi not ready for Commonwealth Games

NEW DELHI In another embarrassment—a day after a suspension pedestrian overbridge crashed, and three days after two Taiwanese men were injured after gunmen opened fire on a busload of tourists outside the historic Jama Masjid mosque—a false ceiling collapsed at the Weightlifting arena of the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium, which is the main event venue of the Commonwealth Games. 

Reports say the false ceiling fell directly over the field of play. 

Meanwhile, Commonwealth Games CEO Mike Hooper said that he was not responsible for the day-to-day affairs of the Delhi Games. 

Earlier on Tuesday, a gleaming new steel-and-concrete suspension pedestrian overbridge came crashing down at the main event venue, Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium. The disaster left at least 27 workers injured and heightened concerns about the safety of structures being readied in a mad rush for the October 3 opening. Among the injured, five of them seriously, was a site engineer. Authorities refused to pin blame on any agency and Delhi government's Public Works Department, which has been entrusted with several CWG projects, said it had tendered two foot overbridges, including the one destroyed, to a Chandigarh-based company P&R Infraprojects Ltd for Rs 10.34 crore. Work on both the arch-shaped foot overbridges started in March and was scheduled to end this month.

Sarvagya Srivastava, the PWD project manager at the disaster site, didn't say who was responsible for the bridge collapse. When reporters asked for an explanation, he merely said that two of the clamps holding up the causeway snapped and as the load increased progressively on the other cables, all of these snapped and the edifice came crashing down. Public works minister Raj Kumar Chauhan told reporters the bridge, linking the stadium's parking lot to the venue, was meant exclusively for athletes and officials, underlying the lack of attention to facilities tom-tommed as world-class. But later in the day, as fears over safety grew, Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, while visiting the injured at AIIMS, tried to play it down insensitively by saying the overbridge was meant for ordinary spectators.

Eyewitness said the bridge came crashing down with a thunderous thud at 3.05pm as workers were giving it finishing touches and laying concrete layers on the walkway. "Suddenly, one portion of the FOB on the stadium side collapsed. We saw labourers jumping from the bridge. The entire bridge came down in less than a minute," said Mohammad Ayub, a worker. He said no medical help was immediately available and the injured had to be rushed to hospital in private cars. 

PWD officials, present at the site when the structure came down, said first two pairs of clamps of structures called the Macalloy bar suspenders, imported from Britain, broke and there was a progressive failure of the remaining 11 pairs resulting in the collapse. "The arch is still intact. A proper investigation would reveal what went wrong in this project," said a senior Delhi government official.

Meanwhile, England's world champion triple jumper Phillips Idowu became the second high-profile athlete in less than 24 hours to pull out of next month's Commonwealth Games due to safety and health concerns even as two more compatriots also decided to skip the October 3-14 mega event because of injury.Australian world champion discus thrower Dani Samuels yesterday pulled out of the controversy-marred Games citing health and security concerns following Sunday's gun attack on two foreign tourists and the recent outbreak of dengue fever in the Indian capital.

Two other high-profile English athletes
Olympic 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu and 2006 Melbourne Games gold medallist 1500m runner Lisa Dobriskey had also withdrawn from the Games though their pull out was not related to security but due to injuries.

31-year-old Idowu, who won gold in 2006 Melbourne Games, said in his Twitter page that he is withdrawing from the event after hearing news of unhygienic conditions (at the Games Village) and collapse of a footbridge near the main venue of the Games.
"All the press today about bridges collapsing and 23+ people being hurt, floods and uninhabitable living conditions, getting my daughter ready for school this morning and seeing all of that put me off. "I can't afford to risk my safety in the slightest. Sorry people, but I have children to think about. My safety is more important to them than a medal," he tweeted. "I understand people will be disappointed that I will not be competing. I am disappointed. These games mean a lot to me. It's the champs in which I won my 1st medal. And four years ago won my 1st gold, which kicked off the success I have in my career to date," said Idowu.

Ohuruogu suffered a cramp during a training session last weekend and she does not want to take risk as she has not fully recovered from her quad injury she suffered in June. "I am disappointed to miss the Commonwealth Games after working so hard to get fit since my quad injury in June. However, with the 2012 Olympic Games on the horizon the last thing an athlete wants to do is risk re-injury to the same muscle," the 26-year-old said. "It was very important for me to be cautious in dealing with my previous injury, and although training was progressing well, intense competition over three days may prove to be more harmful than good and may compromise the long-term functioning of the muscle.

"With three rounds in the 400m in Delhi I would need to be close to my best to win the gold. I had already picked up my team kit and was getting ready to go to the preparation camp in Doha. Instead I will have a short break now and resume winter training in October to get ready for the 2011 season.

Dobriskey, who claimed the Commonwealth 1,500m title in Melbourne, has been advised to rest and focus on training for next year after an injury-hit season. "I was really looking forward to competing and I'd worked so hard to get back into shape. I'm really disappointed but I just ran out of time. I want to wish all the best to the athletes out in Delhi," Dobriskey said.

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