Australian athletes asked not to move around before CWG


New Delhi : With only five days left for the Commonwealth Games to kick off, the Australian delegation Tuesday heaped praise on the sprawling Games Village it had trashed earlier.

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Eighty athletes and officials from Australia have checked into the facilities and 48 more are expected soon, taking the Village population to around 2,000 athletes and officials.

Having earlier led the attack on India over shoddy work and poor hygiene at the Village, the Australians sang a different tune after seeing for themselves what was on offer.

“I am pleasantly surprised at the facilities… The only worry is the movement of our athletes has been restricted (due to security reasons),” Australian chef de mission Steve Moneghetti told IANS.

Almost all the 7,000 officials and athletes from 71 countries and territories will take up residence at the Village during the Oct 3-14 Games.

With the clock ticking away for India’s biggest sporting meet after the 1982 Asian Games, the Village is full of life — with many busy practising and preparing for the contest.

Preparations are in full swing at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in the heart of the city for the grand opening ceremony where composer and Oscar winner A.R. Rahman will perform Oct 3.

But India’s famed Bollywood quotient will take a back seat, giving primacy to the country’s cultural heritage.

Security concerns remain — evident from the very visible khaki uniforms and automatic weapons in and around the Village and all the venues across the capital.

Some foreign delegates complain that the security is choking. Indian officials say they cannot help it.

Australia’s Moneghetti said his athletes will not be allowed to move around freely till the sporting extravaganza gets over.

The Australians have been advised not to wear their team jerseys outside the Games venues. Athletes from England, Canada and New Zealand have also giving similar advice.

Moneghetti, who was mayor of the Village at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006, said the much-criticised Village in Delhi was actually very nice.

“We are happy with everything at the Village… We are happy with the traffic. I haven’t received a single complaint from the athletes about the Village. Accommodation is perfect, the dining area excellent,” he said.

Training is also going on in several of the venues, including the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium where both the men’s and women’s hockey teams will fight it out.

Former Indian hockey veteran V. Baskaran, who led India to gold in the 1980 boycott-ridden Moscow Olympics, is expecting a great contest in hockey.

“I expect the hockey competition to be at a much higher level than any other sport, with the possible exception of athletics,” Baskaran told IANS.

The reason? The world’s top-ranked teams are taking part, he said. But this will not be true for women’s hockey where the top four teams will not be present.