1 step forward, often 2 back at Commonwealth Games

By Dennis Passa, AP
Friday, October 8, 2010

1 step forward, often 2 back at Commonwealth Games

NEW DELHI — The pool water is clean, but the toilets in the aquatic venue are blocked. Ticket sales are on the increase but the stadiums still seem mostly empty. There was a “major communications blunder” at the track that nearly resulted in athletes being presented with their medals despite the race being under protest.

It’s day five of competition at the Commonwealth Games. But somehow, based on all the problems, they all seem to have a common theme.

Commonwealth Games Federation President Mike Fennell on Friday said officials at the athletics stadium erred the previous night by not telling the medalists in the women’s 100 that the event was under protest. The original winner, Sally Pearson of Australia, was later disqualified.

“There was a problem … there was a major communication blunder,” Fennell said.

On a day when 43 gold medals were to be presented, the sports often seemed to be an afterthought, not helped by a results system that has not worked properly since the games opened.

Fennell is part of what is called the “games-time management committee.” It meets every morning, and on Friday they had several new and continuing issues to handle: a Pakistan official reporting that $550 had been stolen from his room at the athletes’ village; the reports of blocked toilets at the swimming venue; poor quality of food to volunteers; and trying to get approval for helicopters to encroach on restricted airspace over the city for television coverage of the marathon and road cycling events.

But the biggest question mark of all: if 900,000 tickets have been sold, why do many of the stadiums appear nearly empty?

Previous problems in the leadup to the games included construction delays, corruption allegations, concerns about security, outbreaks of dengue fever and, perhaps the most damaging, complaints about unfinished and filthy accommodations in the athletes’ village just days before teams were due to arrive.

One mystery out of the way Friday was the quality of the pool water, which was suspected of being responsible for a dozen or more cases of “Delhi belly” affecting mostly Australian and English swimmers.

Fennell said three pools were tested — including the main pool and warmup pool at the aquatics venue — “and the tests results of all those pools is that the water is in keeping with the standards that are required. There are no problems with the water in those pools.”

He said the Commonwealth Games Federation doctor had spoken to several team doctors and “they all agreed that the problems they are having with some of the athletes and officials in the village is not from the water, but could be caused by a number of other things.”

Fennell also said that the spiked security barrier which malfunctioned and slammed into a Ugandan team car, injuring three of its officials, would be “demobilized so there could be no fear of a recurrence.”

Among the eight track gold medals on Friday’s program, European champion Andy Turner led an England sweep of the medals in the 110-meter hurdles, winning in 13.38 from William Sharman and Lawrence Clarke.

Sharman picked up a stomach bug on the eve of the race and spent time in a hospital with an intravenous drip Friday between his qualifying heat and the final.

“I was close to tears this morning,” he said. “The only reason why I ran the final was because my mum flew over here to watch me.”

Olympic champion Nancy Jebet Kiplagat pulled away on the final lap to win the women’s 1,500 in 4:05.26, a Commonwealth Games record, while Amantle Montsho of Botswana set a games mark in winning the women’s 400.

Canadian Jamie Adjetey-Nelson led from start to finish to win the decathlon with 8,070 points.

Australia was dominant at the velodrome and the pool, rounding off track cycling with 12 gold medals from 14 events.

Cameron Meyer collected his third gold with victory in the 20-kilometer scratch race, while the Australians also beat New Zealand to win the men’s team sprint.

World champion Alison Shanks won the women’s individual pursuit, holding off Olympic silver medalist Wendy Houvenaghel of Northern Ireland.

Led by comeback king Geoff Huegill and veteran Leisel Jones, Australia won four more gold medals in the pool to lift its meet-leading total to 18.

Huegill, completing his return from a four-year retirement and the loss of 50 kilograms (110 pounds) that he packed on while not swimming, won the 100-meter butterfly.

“Words can’t describe how I feel. … The last time I swam that quickly was 10 years ago,” Huegill said.

Liam Tancock, Rebecca Adlington and James Goddard gave England three gold medals for the night to partially break the Australian dominance. Tancock won the 100 backstroke in 53.59 and Goddard won the 200 individual medley.

Adlington, the Olympic champion in the 400 and 800, added the 400 to her earlier win in the longer distance, leading from start to finish in the eight-lap race.

South Africa’s Cameron van der Burgh completed the men’s 50-100 breaststroke double, while Yolane Kukla of Australia won the women’s 50-meter freestyle from England’s Francesca Halsall.

India’s Sania Mirza lived up to local expectations by reaching the women’s final of the first tennis tournament ever held at the Commonwealth Games, but former top-ranked pair Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi crashed out in the semifinals.

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