Olympics

AP Interview: IOC chief says give India a chance

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LONDON (AP)

India's potential for hosting future Olympics should not be written off before giving embattled New Delhi organizers a chance to pull off the Commonwealth Games with a ''last-ditch'' effort, IOC president Jacques Rogge said in an interview Friday.

Rogge told The Associated Press that he hopes India can come through, just as Greek organizers overcame ''doomsday scenarios'' to stage the successful 2004 Athens Olympics despite severe construction delays and political wrangling.

The International Olympic Committee leader will travel to New Delhi next week to attend the Oct. 3 opening of the Commonwealth Games, which were put at risk this week by filthy conditions at the athletes' village, a pedestrian bridge collapse and health and security concerns.

The chaotic preparations have seemingly doomed India's hopes of bidding for the 2020 Olympics, but Rogge said it was too early to rule the country out.

''I think I can hardly make a judgment before the games have even started,'' Rogge said. ''Let's give them the chance to prove they can stage good games. It would be with a last-ditch effort and it probably would be costly, but let's hope they can fulfill that.

''Hopefully the Indians can pull out a last-ditch effort like the Greeks have done,'' he said.

The Commonwealth Games, an Olympic-style multi-sports event bringing together more than 7,000 athletes from 71 countries and territories, was meant to underline India's emergence as an Asian power on the world stage and serve as a platform for an Olympic bid.

''It's far too premature to discuss this,'' Rogge said. ''This is something that has to be seen by the Indians themselves. There is no doubt they will make an analysis of the games. They will have to see if their original intentions can be kept or not.''

Corruption scandals, delays in getting facilities ready and squalid conditions at the athletes' village have turned the event into an embarrassment for India - even raising the prospect of the games being called off or of teams refusing to attend.

The situation eased Friday, however, as international games officials said conditions had improved and teams started arriving.

''It's difficult to have a view before the games have started,'' Rogge said. ''There is always a difference between the reality and the anticipation and perception. We had doomsday scenarios in Athens, and these were absolutely very good games.

''The Greeks were able to pull out a very good effort. They were very, very good games at the last moment, so this could happen in Delhi.''

Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates told reporters in Sydney on Friday that India should never have been awarded the Commonwealth Games. He said the Commonwealth Games Federation lacked the resources to monitor the progress of games preparations in New Delhi and to ensure construction deadlines were met.

Rogge defended CGF leaders for their oversight of the games.

''They have issued warnings on a regular basis,'' he said. ''(CGF President) Michael Fennell and (CEO) Mike Hooper are very experienced sports leaders. I don't know where the potential issues came from. Is it in the chain of command? You can only have a judgment on that after the games.''

India's troubles have underlined the potential risks of taking major sporting events to developing countries.

The IOC voted last year to award the 2016 Olympics to Rio de Janeiro, taking the games to South America for the first time.

Africa has never hosted the Olympics, but South Africa is now pushing forward with a 2020 bid after successfully staging the World Cup this year. Durban is the likely candidate. Cape Town finished third in the 1997 vote for the 2004 Olympics.

''I think South Africa has already proven to be able to stage major events like the FIFA World Cup and rugby and cricket world championship,'' Rogge said. ''The Olympics would be of another magnitude of course. But I think South Africa proved a very good show in July.''

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