The South African team will leave as scheduled for the crisis-hit Commonwealth Games in New Delhi on Sunday, but they will do so with the utmost caution and extra security, and will return home at the first sign of any danger to the athletes, team chiefs said yesterday.
This comes after a false ceiling collapsed in the weightlifting arena yesterday, the latest in a series of infrastructural woes that, together with security concerns around the Games after a terrorist threats, have seen many teams consider not attending and a number of athletes have already announced their withdrawal.
Tubby Reddy, CEO of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), said the organisation had been briefed yesterday by a team, led by chef de mission Patience Shikwambana and which included a team doctor and a representative of the intelligence services.
“We are still on track to go to Delhi,” said Reddy. “The advance team leaves today and we will continue to monitor on a daily basis.
“If we get to Delhi and things are untenable, we will bring our team back.”There is a major concern with the athletes village, whose construction is behind schedule, with team officials from England, Scotland, Wales, New Zealand, Australia and Canada saying the village was “sub-standard and one claiming it was “unsafe and unfit for human habitation”.
The Wales team gave the New Delhi officials a deadline of last night to confirm that the athletes’ village and the venues would be complete.
On Tuesday a pedestrian bridge to the main stadium collapsed, injuring 23 construction workers and the recent monsoon rains leading to Dengue fever.
The Commonwealth Games chief rushed to New Delhi seeking emergency talks with the prime minister over India’s chaotic preparations.
Indian officials insisted that facilities would be ready for the October 3 games opening.
The city has had seven years to prepare, though very little work was done until 2008.
New Delhi has been a frenzy of activity in recent weeks, as it struggles to meet the deadline – only adding to concern that haste could lead to shortcuts.