By Duncan Mackay
British Sports Internet Writer of the Year

September 20 - New Delhi's preparations for the Commonwealth Games, which are due to open next month, hit new problems tonight when the Government were warned that the success of the event was being threatened by the poor quality of the Athletes Village.

Mike Fennell, the President of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), has written to India's Cabinet Secretary, K.M Chandrashekar, to complain.

"Many issues remain unresolved," he said. 

"[I have written] expressing my great concern with the preparedness of the Athletes Village to welcome the teams of the Commonwealth for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

"The Village is the cornerstone of any Games and the athletes deserve the best possible environment to prepare for their competition."

Fennell's decision to publicly intervene came after New Zealand officials described their team's accommodation as "substandard" and demanded to be moved.

Canada, Northern Ireland and Scotland also complained.

Between them the four countries are due to be represented by nearly 1,200 athletes at the Games, which open on October 3.

Scotland's team management were forced to clean their seven story tower block from top to bottom themselves with assistance from Delhi Games volunteers after demanding to be moved from their original accommodation.

It has been reported that in some flats labourers had defecated.

"Whilst we are a considerable way down the track to resolving our own specific accommodation issues, moving those arriving first has simply pushed the problems further down the line," said Jon Doig, Scotland's Chef de Mission.

"The other countries will be arriving soon and the organisers will simply be overwhelmed by the volume of the problems they face unless they take action now.

"Those countries already here have articulated this at the highest level."

Dave Currie, New Zealand's Chef de Mission, also gave a damming assessment of the facilities at the Village.

"While cleanliness had been a concern for us, further inspection has revealed some issues with plumbing, wiring, internet access and mobile phone coverage," he said.

"We will now be advising sports that the accommodation is less than expected.

"While our new tower may be close to being ready, there are large sections of the Village that are not yet ready for athlete arrival."

The situation is another embarrassing development for the Indian organisers who have been criticised for the slow pace of construction, caught-up in corruption scandals and had to continually reassure visiting teams that they would be safe during the Games despite the threat of a terrorist attack.

"Many nations that have already sent their advanced parties to set up within the Village have made it abundantly clear that, as of the afternoon of September 20, the Commonwealth Games Village is seriously compromised," said Fennell.

Craig Hunter, England's Chef de Mission, had last week described the Village as "spectacular" and claimed that India "should be proud".

Australia had also said that they were impressed with the facilities, which Delhi claimed would be better than the Athletes Village at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

But Fennell revealed that, while superficially, the Village was of a high standard much still remained to be done.

"Since the nations have been arriving at the Village they have been all commented favorably on the appearance of the International Zone and the main dining area," he said.

"However, the condition of the residential zone has shocked the majority of  Commonwealth Games Associations (CGAs) that are in Delhi and, despite their attempts to work with the Organising Committee in a constructive manner since arriving on September 15, significant operational matters remain unaddressed."

The situation is what Fennell feared when Delhi organisers kept failing to meet deadlines to complete the construction of the Village.

"The problems are arising because deadlines for the completion of the Village have been consistently pushed out," he said. 

"Now, the high security around the site, while vital, is slowing progress and complicating solutions.

"Security remains of the utmost importance to the CGF and our advisors continue to monitor the situation.

"Currently, this matter remains on track.

"However, with the Village to be officially opened on September 23, timely acceptable solutions to prepare for the arrival of athletes are of paramount importance.

"The CGF has asked the Cabinet Secretary to immediately deploy the necessary resources to fix all the outstanding issues to an acceptable level."

John Key, New Zealand's Prime Minister, has warned that unless the situation is resolved quickly he will back calls for the country's athletes not to take part in the Games.

"Clearly there are some concerns and they are really around health and sanitation issues for our athletes," he said.

"We had a meeting at the Village yesterday and we have made it quite clear our expectations of the standard we expect for our athletes.

"We need to make sure they are fit and healthy and can compete well."

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