British media slam preparations for Delhi CWG


London: From raising issues of child labour to pointing to the “agonisingly inefficient infrastructure”, the British media Thursday launched a scathing attack on the poor preparedness for the Commonwealth Games (CWG) that will begin in New Delhi Oct 3.

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The upcoming Games was given prominent display in all the major newspapers here, with some using photographs to illustrate their point.

The run up to the event has been dogged by construction delays, allegations of corruption, terror threats, monsoons and an outbreak of dengue fever.

Daily Telegraph’s story “Commonwealth Games 2010: England team’s trip on a knife edge” not only reflected the gripping tension on whether the England team could withdraw from the Games over the state of the athletes’ village and sporting arenas, it also criticised the use of child labour to finish the pending work at the venues.

It said safety fears intensified when a section of the ceiling on a weightlifting arena fell to the ground. On Tuesday, a pedestrian footbridge collapsed, injuring 27 workers.

Child labourers were photographed putting up seats in the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the main Games venue.

“The use of child labour has been a steady concern throughout the project. Many work alongside their labourer parents who are paid as little as 3 pounds per day. The photographer who captured children at work had his accreditation rescinded yesterday (Wednesday) and a camera wiped by officials,” the report said.

The Independent questioned “Why India is a bit player in the world of sport”.

The report pointed out that the Delhi Commonwealth Games “have seen the deaths of numerous construction workers, a massive uprooting of the capital’s poor and, following allegations of corruption, the Indian Prime Minister stepping in to appoint officials to supervise the project”.

It said that though $6 billion was being spent, delegates have condemned the athletes’ village as “filthy, unhygienic and unfit for human habitation”.

The problems the Games have revealed are more than the usual Indian contradictions. “One of the favourite Indian expressions is ‘Juldi, juldi’ (hurry, hurry). The only problem is the stifling bureaucracy and the agonisingly inefficient infrastructure. The result is that cries of ‘Juldi, juldi’ rise like a cloud of vapour while the actual pace of the journey matches the legendary Indian bullock cart.”

The Independent article ended by saying: “The most galling thing for the Indians is the contrast this provides with China, which used the 2008 Beijing Olympics as a giant coming-out party, proving that it could beat the West at its own sports. The tragedy for India is that, whatever happens in Delhi over the next few weeks, the world will conclude that this is another area where India cannot match its Asian rival.”

The Daily Mail declared: “24 hours to save the Commonwealth Games: Clegg warns time is running out after Delhi stadium ceiling falls in”.

It quoted Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as saying: “Time is running short. It’s for athletes to decide themselves whether they want to attend or not, but I do hope we give the organisers the chance to sort themselves out so we give the games the chance to be the success they always wanted it to be.”

A photograph accompanying the article showed a sound barrier being put up just outside the Commonwealth Games village. Its caption stated: “The methods used would probably not get past UK health and safety officers”.

The Guardian reported that with the Games “at risk of descending into farce, thousands of athletes from the major competing nations remained in the dark about whether or not they would be boarding a plane to compete”.

Some 7,000 participants and officials from 71 countries and territories are expected to attend the Oct 3-14 Commonwealth Games, India’s biggest sporting event after the 1982 Asian Games it hosted in New Delhi.