Rest uneasy over Commonwealth Games

23 09 2010

The lead up to this year’s Commonwealth Games, due to commence in ten days’ time, has drawn headlines for so many of the wrong reasons.  The event aimed at bringing people together, appears to be doing nothing more than keeping them apart as participant countries concerned over safety and poor facilities.  Even if the bridges can be mended, the ceilings cease to fall, and terrorists keep their distance, the glamour of the Games has been dealt a serious blow with many of the world’s top athletes withdrawing from competition.

As an avid sports fan, and one who particularly hangs out for our ‘four year’ events (the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games), it was with much disappointment that I listened to Dani Samuels’s announcement that she was withdrawing from this year’s Commonwealth Games.  My disappointment was as much for Australia’s loss at not having the discus world champion in the team as it was for Dani herself, who had sacrificed so much in preparation for the big event. 

An athlete who has risen to the top of her sport in record time, I highly doubt Samuels is easily rattled.  However, she was quick to announce that the agonising decision to withdraw from the Commonwealth Games was based squarely on concerns for her safety.  Can anyone blame her really?  On the day of her withdrawal, a piece of ceiling at the main venue fell in.  This followed the collapse of a footbridge linking a car park to the main entrance of the Games venue, injuring 23 people, and the shooting of two Taiwanese tourists in front of a mosque in the city.  Yet Indian officials in charge of the Games are downplaying any concerns for the health and safety of athletes.  What?!

The Commonwealth Games is a sporting contest bringing together members of the British Empire.  But even I am questioning the validity of this claim with the number of sports stars not attending.  The names read like a classroom roll call, but the biggest loss was that of the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt.

I’ll admit I was dubious about the decision for India to host the Games, but they are entitled to showcase their country to the rest of the world.  However, they are now under enormous pressure to ensure that this year’s Commonwealth Games are not a bad event and unfortunately, the current press is doing them no favours.  Athletes (and their families) should not be worried about the cleanliness of their accommodation or the security that will be responsible for keeping them safe at this stage.  It can only serve to disrupt their final preparations, which will ultimately affect their performances (if they attend at all).

I just hope that the Australian delegates who are giving the village and Commonwealth Games venues the ‘thumbs up’, are doing so honestly and with the best interests of our athletes in mind.

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