Friday, October 16, 2009

Commonwealth Games Fed rejects Indian demand

The Commonwealth Games Federation has rejected calls for the removal of its leading official in New Delhi and urged Indian organizers of next year's event instead to focus on the issues highlighted in a full review of the troubled preparations.

Suresh Kalmadi, who heads the New Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games organizing committee, had demanded that the CGF remove its chief executive officer, Michael Hooper, from his operational role in the Indian capital and accused him of being an "impediment to functioning."

But CGF president Michael Fennell said Hooper had the full support of the event's governing body and had a vital role to play in the Delhi Games.

"We are naturally very surprised and disappointed in receiving this request to remove Mr. Hooper from Delhi given his unquestionable commitment to the successful celebration of the 2010 Commonwealth Games," Fennell wrote in a statement released on Friday. "He is totally dedicated to the Commonwealth Games movement and we consider that such a personal attack on him is unwarranted. "Instead of attacking Mr. Hooper, I urge the Organizing Committee to focus on the issues raised by us in Delhi following our General Assembly on Monday, and to commit to working collaboratively with all stakeholders on addressing these matters with urgency." Kalmadi, who is a federal lawmaker and president of the Indian Olympic Association, also complained about the independent technical review panel that the CGF plans to set up to oversee the preparations. He said that the "multiplicity" of committees would hamper efforts to deliver the games.

Fennell, who returned to Jamaica this week following high-level CGF meetings in New Delhi which coincided with the one-year countdown to the games, confirmed that the review panel would be implemented and the hiring of experienced international staff must go ahead.

"I made it clear when I was in Delhi that time is short, that no day can be wasted," Fennell said. "We will implement the Technical Review Panel as detailed, and urge the organizing committee to embrace the use of Games experts to fast track systems required for the Games operation.

"The hiring and use of foreign expertise is ... now considered best-practice with organizing committees of major international multi-sport events.

"The goal is to conduct a Commonwealth Games that India can be proud of, setting itself up for other Games in the future, so as to take advantage of its new sporting infrastructure." India had hoped the event - from October 3-14 next year and featuring 71 nations and territories of the old British empire - would enhance its credentials to bid on even bigger events, maybe even the Olympics.

But the slow pace of preparations and several lapsed deadlines have sparked fears that the event will descend into chaos and embarrass India, with the CGF voicing serious concerns. Hooper responded to Kalmadi's comments by saying they were "very, very disappointing."

"It seems to be a position of ... instead of addressing the real issues, launching a personal attack which to be quite honest is most unfortunate and totally inappropriate." - AP

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