Saturday, 2 October 2010

Canada, NZ request for a short stay during opening ceremony

Commonwealth countries, including Canada and New Zealand, have sought assurances about logistics before committing to participation in the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony here tomorrow.

One of the concerns related to the length of time the athletes would have to stay at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium for the opening ceremony, as some countries said they wanted their athletes to take part in the march past but then return immediately to the Games Village, missing the cultural show and the official opening speeches.

Commonwealth Games Canada President Andrew Pipe said that his country is concerned of their athletes' "well-being being compromised" due to heat factor and logistic issues but stopped short of saying that his country would not take part in the opening ceremony.

"We are concerned of how long our athletes will be out of the Games Village, how long they will stand during the ceremony under this (high) temperature, what are the arrangements for food, drinks and public conveniences to be provided on them. These are very fundamental issues.

"We are also concerned that the shelter for so many athletes taking part in the ceremony before and after the march past ceremony is small as far as we gather. We have raised all these questions during the chefs de mission meeting today. Mr Fennell has assured us that the issues will be sorted out," he said.

Organising committee spokesperson and Secretary General Lalit Bhanot, however, said that all the countries will take part in the opening ceremony and the matter has been sorted out.

"They want to ensure that the athletes' hold-up area before their entry into the stadium for the march past be covered. We have agreed to do that. We will do it. All the countries are taking part in the opening ceremony," Bhanot asserted.

Reports from England also said that Scotland and the Isle of Man have also sought assurances about logistics and some security matters before committing to participating in the opening ceremony.

Earlier, Pipe said Commonwealth Games Canada would not have sent the athletes had the cleanliness issue of the Games Village had not been addressed by the Indian authorities.

"We want to play a prominent role in the success of any Commonwealth Games but we could not compromise on the comfort of the athletes who, after all, are the focus of any Games. Till the athletes do not have a place to sleep which were acceptable to us we would not have sent them," Pipe said.

"I think, in hindsight, we have done the right thing and the CGF had brought the pressure also (on the Indian authorities. I think we would not have done differently," he added.

The concerns notwithstanding, the Canadian contingent were all praise of the world-class facilities, including the competition venues and Games Village.

Commonwealth Games Canada director of Sports Scott Stevenson said the Games Village and competition venues were world class.

"The Games Village has been exceptional and the competition venues are all world-class. We have no complaints," he said.

Asked about Canada's target in the medal tally, he said, "I can't predict how may medals we are winning. We have prepared hard for the last two years. We have come with a strong squad and we would at least want to be third and close the gap with England if possible."

Weightlifting coach Piere Bergeron said the weightlifting competition venue was world-class and, for the first time, the Games Village has a training area.

"For the first time in any Games, there is a training arena which is top class inside the Village and we don't need to go anywhere for training," he said.

Canada contingent flag bearer Ken Pereira, an athlete of Indian origin, said his country has come here after a hard preparation and he was looking ahead for a good performance from the athletes.

"I think we are going to perform very well here and I am eager for the Games to start. I have always enjoyed coming to India as my parents were born here," he said.

"I was here in March during the Hockey World Cup and I had gone out to have some fun then. I have relatives in Mumbai and I have to see how many there are in Delhi if I get some time to go out," he quipped.


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