Thursday, February 19, 2009

Australia laughs off New Delhi to Melbourne Commonwealth Games shift rumours

Australian officials have laughed off suggestions Melbourne is on standby to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games amid concerns over India's preparations to stage the event.

Reports suggest Delhi organizers are struggling with numerous issues ahead of the scheduled opening ceremony on October 3, involving venue construction, broadcasting, security and accommodation among other things.

The possibility of Melbourne, host of the 2006 Commonwealth Games, stepping in again next year has been mooted with the event now just over 18 months away.

But it was news to Australian Commonwealth Games Association (ACGA) chief executive Perry Crosswhite. "That's all very interesting because we've never been asked that or even had it indicated to us," Crosswhite told AAP on Wednesday. "I talked to (former Melbourne Commonwealth Games Minister) Justin Madden about it yesterday and he said it would be almost impossible for Melbourne to do it anyway.

"The only time you've had a Games move was the 1976 Winter Olympics when (Denver) couldn't hold them (over a funding issue) and Innsbruck held them again, but in those days the Olympics was probably a thousand athletes.

"It just wouldn't happen unless there was a security issue, when they'd probably just be postponed rather than move them somewhere else. "I just chuckle at those things because it's just not going to happen."

Crosswhite is remaining hopeful India's vast resources and huge population can make the event in Delhi a success.

The global financial crisis and the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November last year have impacted upon confidence in the country to stage a successful Games.

India are also minnows when it comes to hosting international multi-sport events, the last time being when they held the Asian Games in 1982.

But the ACGA is keeping the faith, believing Delhi just needs to ensure experienced heads are pulling the strings.

"Absolutely there's concerns. But more of the concern is just putting people in place to manage and run the Games," Crosswhite said. "The venues and village and all that is just money and people and they've got plenty of people and probably plenty of money.

"It's probably just a body of knowledge of how you manage the Games and those things (that's required). You either get people from overseas or you do a very fast training program or a combination of both.

"That's the area the Commonwealth Games Federation is really encouraging the Indians to do. These events don't just happen."

The ACGA was informed in November last year that venues were behind schedule, but it is hardly a unique issue.

The same problem occurred during preparations for the Athens 2004 and Sydney 2000 Olympics, plus the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

The ACGA's latest information is most venues will be finished by December this year. Crosswhite also feels India is well-placed to deal with the current financial crisis.

"There are concerns, but then again you've got a billion people and a huge economy in India, so if they couldn't absorb it I don't know who could," he said.

Crosswhite will head to Delhi in April for an update on preparations.