Home Sports With the clouds gone, CWG competitions set to begin Monday

With the clouds gone, CWG competitions set to begin Monday

By Anand Philar, IANS,

New Delhi : The dark clouds over New Delhi have blown away in more ways than one as the 19th Commonwealth Games, enveloped in a massive security blanket, get underway Monday following Sunday’s opening ceremony.

With the arrival of some 6,700 athletes from 71 countries and territories for the 12-day, 17-event extravaganza and their thumbs-up to the facilities and the security arrangements, the focus has shifted from off-field shenanigans to the competition venues, most of which have been hailed as world class.

The Delhi event is claimed to be the biggest in the history of the Games that were launched in 1930 in Hamilton, Canada, where only 400 athletes from 11 nations took part.

“After completion of the delegation registration meetings, we can say that more than 6,700 athletes and team officials will be participating in these Games,” said Organising Committee secretary general Lalit Bhanot. “We are pleased that Delhi 2010 will be the biggest ever Commonwealth Games.”

One of the main reasons for the unprecedented response from the Commonwealth community has been the grant of $100,000 from the Indian Olympic Association, besides airfare and accommodation.

As such, smaller countries, with a comparatively little sporting background have sent in their entries. For nations like Swaziland, Maldives and Caymen Islands, the gala represents a chance to measure themselves against top athletes.

However, some of the gloss has been taken off with the pullout of several high-profile athletes for reasons ranging from security and health concerns to injuries.

Notable absentees include sprinters Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell, swimmer Stephanie Rice and cyclist Chris Hoy, besides top tennis players Andy Murray, Lleyton Hewitt and Samantha Stosur.

Conversely, the Games will see the likes of Olympic swimming champions Rebecca Adlington and Leisel Jones, as also teenage sensation Tom Daley, the World diving champion and the Australian men’s hockey team that is ranked No.1, to ensure quality competition.

World pole vault champion Steve Hooker (Australia) and shot put ace Valeri Vili (New Zealand), besides Kenyan steeplechasers Brimin Kipruto and Ezellei Kemboi and long-distance runners Vivian Cheruiyot (5,000m) and Nancy Jebet Lagat (1,500m) will feature in the athletics competition.

On their part, India have emerged as a force to reckon with in disciplines such as boxing and badminton, while the shooters are likely to claim a record haul of medals.

That apart, India will be eyeing a bunch of medals in weighlifting and wrestling while some success in racquet sports such as squash, tennis and table tennis should not be a surprise.

The Indians will be parading a few world-class sportspersons like boxers Vijender Singh and Akhil Kumar, World No.3 Saina Nehwal in badminton, Sania Mirza, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi in tennis, sharpshooters Abhinav Bindra, Samresh Jung, Gagan Narang and Asher Noria, wrestler Sushil Kumar and promising young athlete Tintu Luka.

The hosts would be hoping to reap bigger rewards than in the previous Games, but they will be up against traditional powerhouses Australia and England who are again expected to dominate although the hot weather conditions could influence the level of performance.

The two countries have excelled in disciplines that put a demand on power and speed, and it is unlikely to be any different this time around.

The intensity of competition might not match that of the Olympics, but in its own right, the Commonwealth Games enjoy a special place in the community of nations that were once British colonies.

Meanwhile, the facilities have come in for much praise from visiting contingents, thus putting to rest the heated debates in the weeks leading up to the Games over the readiness of various venues.

“I was not in the least bothered about what the media were shouting about the Games nor did I ever think about pulling out. The Village is pretty much the same we had in Melbourne (2006 Games) and there has been no problem,” said James Wilstrop, a top squash player from England who is the main contender for the men’s gold medal.

The presence of the Pakistani hockey team has certainly injected added interest and their star player Rehan Butt hoped that his side would be able to return home with a medal while asserting that he and his mates were having a pleasant stay in Delhi.

“We are having a good time here and there are no problems. Whatever has happened earlier happens at every Games. I am sure that India will host a great Games,” the wily winger told IANS.

Also giving the Games a thumbs-up was world 800 metres freestyle swimming champion Rebecca Adlington, who said she was not perturbed by the security or the facilities.

“I was not worried about security before coming here. The entire team is very happy with the facilities at the Games Village, especially the food,” Adlington told IANS.

For the fans, there is plenty to look forward to in terms of top drawer competition that in some disciplines would match World and Olympic standards.

(Anand Philar can be contacted at [email protected])