BRITISH track stars Phillips Idowu and Christine Ohuruogu pulled out of the Commonwealth Games last night amid growing fears the event in Delhi will have to be cancelled.
In a disastrous 24 hours for organisers, already fraught preparations were plunged into crisis when a bridge outside the stadium collapsed, injuring 23, and a row erupted over the state of the athletes’ village.
Now they are braced for a rash of withdrawals, after Olympic 400m champion Ohuruogu led the way, blaming a long-standing injury.
Triple jump world champion Idowu, right, did not give a reason, but is thought to be concerned at preparations, while 1500m runner Lisa Dobriskey also pulled out citing injury.
The trio were among around 7,000 competitors who are due to start arriving this week for the event, which is scheduled to begin on 3 October.
But team chiefs have warned that the situation is so dire that the Games, which have been beset by health, security and construction setbacks, may have to be shelved.
“The reality is that if the village is not ready and athletes can’t come, the implications are that it’s not going to happen,” said New Zealand’s chef de mission Dave Currie.
Commonwealth Games England said in a statement: “There is a lot still to be done in the
village and this needs to be done with some urgency so that it is ready for the arrival of
our first athletes on Friday.”
Five workmen were critically injured, and 23 hurt in total, when a bridge outside the Nehru Stadium, the centrepiece of the Games, collapsed. Officials said the 164-ft long bridge’s steel arch crumpled while concrete was being applied.
The athletes’ village, meanwhile, has been portrayed as unfit for human habitation.
Toilets are blocked and leaking, power erratic or non-existent, and bedrooms and bathrooms piled high with rubble in the bulk of residences.
Commonwealth Games president Michael Fennell: “Many nations made it abundantly clear that, as of [Monday] the Commonwealth Games village is seriously compromised.”
Indian officials have played down the furore, with urban development minister Jaipal Reddy saying: “These are all minor hiccups. The athletes have not arrived yet and by the time that they come in a couple of days, all concerns will be addressed.”