Olympics

Issues mount at Commonwealth Games

Indian men sleep on the traffic median next to Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium
Indian men sleep on the traffic median next to the main venue for the Commonwealth Games.
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NEW DELHI (AP)

The empty stadiums that have marred the first two days of competition at the crisis-hit Commonwealth Games may be filled by children and the underprivileged given free tickets if attendance doesn't improve.

After weeks of problems and delays in a wide range of areas in the buildup to the games, the sporting events are starting to grab some focus in New Delhi with host India winning five gold medals on Tuesday and England winning its first two in the pool.

Indian police commandos stand guard near the practice field at the Commonwealth Games village in New Delhi, India

Indian police commandos stand guard near the practice field at the Commonwealth Games village in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Mustafa Quraishi

But the problems persisted outside of competition. Workers were rushing to relay turf on the infield and try to clean up Sunday's opening ceremony at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium so it's ready in time for the athletics program to start Wednesday.

Police scoured the athletes village after an anonymous bomb threat, but it was later confirmed as a hoax. Authorities said a 16-year-old local boy had been cautioned after calling the police from a mobile telephone and claiming that a bomb had been placed in the village.

Against the background of bungling, many of the venues across the city remained nearly empty, prompting local organizers to admit that they are considering giving away free tickets.

"We are working on the children from schools. Already steps are being taken in that direction," local organizing committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi said Tuesday at a news conference that was sometimes farcical. "And also from the low level of society."

While Indian shooters were busy winning the country's first gold medal of the games, the leaders of the local organizing committee were sitting alongside the heads of the Commonwealth Games Federation and faced the media for the first time since the event opened.

Kalmadi was confident that the glitches from the first day of competition on Monday had been solved overnight, saying that the transportation issues were dealt with and the addition of ticket booths at all venues would lead to bigger crowds.

"As of today, things are all right," said Kalmadi, who also mistakenly noted that "Prince Diana" had attended the opening ceremony before correcting himself and identifying Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall as the attendees.

Lady Diana was the ex-wife of Prince Charles, who is the heir to the British throne and the person who officially declared the games open. Diana died in a car crash in 1997.

Indian laborers walk on the roof of the weightlifting venue near Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium

Indian laborers work to repair the roof of the weightlifting venue near Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the main venue for the Commonwealth Games, following an incident with the interior ceiling in September.

Kevin Frayer

Despite the optimism shown by Kalmadi, Commonwealth Games Federation President Michael Fennell said his organization still had a number of concerns.

"There are some issues that we had to deal with and we have assigned those issues to various people to correct," Fennell said. "And we're expecting that those will be corrected during the course of the day."

New scales were used for the belated weigh-in before boxing competition started Tuesday. Athletes and coaches were upset when the scales used Monday were found to be giving incorrect readings, forcing some boxers to take desperate, unnecessary attempts to shed weight.

Organizing committee secretary-general Lalit Bhanot said it had been "rectified" and "There's no problem at all."

Mike Hooper, the CEO of the Commonwealth Games Federation, also responded to claims that he has been living a lavish lifestyle in India instead of ensuring that deadlines for the games were met.

"It's just simply not true," said Hooper, who has also been burned in effigy by locals for reportedly criticizing India in the run-up to the games.

"Obviously it was upsetting personally. I'm not going to delve into it," Hooper said. "The basis of what led to that, it's clear, is not correct."

The 19th edition of the Commonwealth Games have been plagued by construction delays, allegations of corruption and security worries, but with 18 gold medals awarded Tuesday and now 26 overall, much of the focus has now turned to sports.

India picked up two in shooting and three in Greco-Roman wrestling on Tuesday, with Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang starting the rush with victory in the men's 10-meter air rifle pairs event.

"It was always important for us to do well on home ground," Bindra said. "It gives us a good start and hopefully, we will have many more medals in the coming days."

Ravindere Singh won the 64-kilogram class in Greco-Roman wrestling, Sanjay claimed the 74-kg gold and Anil Kumar won the 96-kg event.

Australian wrestler Hassene Fkiri was disqualified for making a rude gesture after losing to Kumar, giving Kakoma Hugues Bella-Lufu of South Africa the silver and Eric Fuenekes of Canada the bronze. Bella-Lufu beat Fuenekes in what was supposed to be the bronze-medal match.

Singapore claimed two shooting gold medals when Swee Hon Lim and Bin Gai won the men's 50-meter pistol pairs event and Xiang Wei Jasmine and Aqilah Sudhir won the 50-meter rifle pairs.

In track cycling, Australia won the men's and women's time trial races and the men's pursuit. Olympic champion Anna Meares won the women's 500-meter time trial in 33.758 seconds, Scott Sunderland took the men's 1-kilometer time trial in 1:01.411.

Jack Bobridge won the 4,000 meters individual pursuit.

England won its first two gold medals of the games in the swimming pool. Francesca Halsall beat world champion Marieke Guehrer of Australia in the women's 50-meter butterfly, and world champion Liam Tancock won the men's 50 backstroke.

Also, Leiston Pickett gave Australia its fourth gold of the six-day swimming meet by winning the women's 50-meter breaststroke and Robert Renwick won Scotland's first gold with a victory in the 200 freestyle.

Australia won the women's team gymnastics gold for the fourth time in a row and led the medal standings after two days with nine gold medals and 23 overall. India was in second place with 11 overall.

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