Commonwealth Games chief Mike Fennell has criticised Delhi’s organisers for failing to heed warnings over preparations for the 2010 event. The Games, which open on Sunday, have been hit by athlete withdrawals and criticism of the athletes’ village. "People are working hard and want to do well but sometimes the co-ordination and intention to follow through is not always good," Fennell told BBC Sport.
But he rejected claims the Commonwealth Games Federation could have done more. "You can only do so much, you have to rely on them to follow your advice," said Fennell, who is reported to have warned that India’s preparations were behind schedule in a letter to the local organising committee last month.
However, Fennell was adamant the CFG had to allow local officials freedom to deliver the event in their own way. "You entrust the organisation to an organising committee and that organising committee has to get on with the job," he told BBC sports editor David Bond. "You cannot sit on top of them every day. You have to applaud their efforts but the management and systematic follow through was just not there. I have to say that in many countries, not just India, they do resist outsiders telling them what to do and what pace to do it at. People here have been very cooperative but they have their own style."
He also insisted that taking the Games to India was the right decision. "We have to take these journeys or you will confine these events to just a few countries," he said. "You can’t have the largest Commonwealth country make an acceptable offer and then not accept it."
In the build up to the event, several teams had suggested the standard of accommodation provided might cause the Games to be cancelled or postponed. The collapse of a footbridge close to the main stadium and of the weightlifting venue roof increased concerns over construction standards.
This has not been helped by the withdrawal of several high-profile athletes. Jamaican 100m world record holder Usain Bolt, along with sprint rival and countryman Asafa Powell, had already been ruled out through injury. But English triple-jumper Phillips Idowu and Scottish tennis player Elena Baltacha withdrew through fears for their safety and health respectively. South African 800m world champion Caster Semenya and Kenya’s 800m world record holder David Rudisha will also be absent. "I would dearly love them to be here," said Fennell. "But I have seen here before that when the big stars don’t come new ones are created."
This edition is only the third time in 19 Games that the event has been held outside of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand or Canada. It will be held in Glasgow in 2014 after the Scottish city defeated Abuja in Nigeria in the CGF’s selection process.
Fennell described the work done by Glasgow as "very, very good.” "After this huge learning experience we will move on," added Fennell. "We will go to Glasgow and we will work with their organising committee to iron out problems we have experienced here. We have Games here where a country is learning and we accept that. We are not on a perfect curve. My big hope is the athletes will enjoy it and leave with good memories."