OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will delay sending athletes to New Delhi for the Commonwealth Games because of concerns about health and safety conditions within the athletes village, Commonwealth Games Canada (CGC) said on Wednesday.
The women’s field hockey team and two shooting athletes, who were scheduled to leave Canada Thursday evening, will remain home for at least two more days.
The CGC also said that Canadian archers Kevin Tataryn and Dietmar Trillus, who was considered a medal threat in the men’s compound bow, had withdrawn from the Games.
“The bottom line is that the accommodations in the athletes village simply aren’t ready,” Scott Stevenson, CGC’s director of sport who is on the ground in Delhi, said in a statement.
”We’re working extremely hard with local authorities to get the finishing work and the clean-up done but it’s going to take more time.
“More importantly, we have not received the official clearance from the host Organizing Committee and the Commonwealth Games Federation that the village is ready for its official opening.”
Canadian team support staff, including medical professionals, operations experts and communications personnel, who were scheduled to leave on Wednesday, have also been told to stand down for at least 48 hours.
Security and an athletes’ village described as unlivable top a growing list of concerns for the CGC as Games organizers scramble to keep the event from descending into chaos and full-scale boycott.
The CGC’s primary focus remains making sure staff and athletes will be provided with acceptable accommodation.
With parts of the village still without power or plumbing, the CGC joined a chorus of criticism that has contributed to athletes from several countries pulling out of the Games.
The two archers are the first members of the Canadian team to withdraw from the Games, Trillus saying he pulled out after discussing security and health issues with his wife.
“I’ve got from several sources that the athletes village is far from finished and extremely unsanitary and the food is iffy at best,” Trillus told the CBC.
”But what really concerns me the absolute most is the diseases that are running very rampant right now due to the monsoons, as well as the terrorism threats, which are apparently very, very real things.
“I‘m not a young man, I‘m 52 years old. ”If I get sick from something like this, will I ever recover properly? We’re not talking about the common flu here.
“I wouldn’t let my children go there. What the heck am I doing getting on a plane to go there?,” added Trillus.
Some four or five accommodation towers at the Games village remain unfinished with rubble, unused masonry and discarded bricks littering the unfinished gardens.
“Obviously, it is a fluid situation and we are getting constant updates from our people on the ground in Delhi,” CGC spokesperson Jackie DeSouza said.
”We’ve been told that the last couple of days there has been a tremendous amount of work done and we are optimistic that if progress continues we will get the green light to send our athletes.
Canada is sending one of the largest contingents to Delhi, including 230 athletes for the two-week competition scheduled to start on October 3.
“The decision to delay departures is part of our contingency planning,” added Stevenson. “And we remain cautiously optimistic that if the pace of work in the village continues at its current rate, we’ll be in a position to start welcoming athletes and coaches within the next 72 hours.”
Writing by Steve Keating in Detroit; editing by Ed Osmond