Commonwealth Games 2010: Arrival of electronic-timing equipment delayed

• System arrives late because of Youth Olympics
• IOC president Jacques Rogge to visit Delhi sites today

The crisis-hit Commonwealth Games faced new trouble yesterday even as the Queen's baton ended its 11‑month journey from Buckingham Palace and arrived in Delhi.

According to news reports in Indian newspapers, crucial timing equipment has yet to be installed in venues. The Times of India reported that international technicians who are to fit the systems in time to be tested before competition starts in earnest on Monday were being denied access to venues because of problems with accreditation.

The full system and installation teams only arrived in India recently, officials said, because much of the equipment needed had been in use at the Youth Olympics in Singapore. Cutting down rental costs was also a factor, the newspaper said. Caroline Searle, a spokeswoman for the England team, said she was unaware of the problem but "the important thing was it was all working when it was needed".

"We are all really looking forward to the sports starting," Searle said. Almost 350 English athletes and officials have now arrived in India, with 200 more on the way. Last-minute efforts are still under way to finish preparations at the £150m athletes' village in Delhi. Problems with flats destined for participants in the Games – described as "unfit for human habitation" by international officials – caused many teams to threaten to boycott the event.

Searle, however, said the England team had "no complaints" about the accommodation. "The food is really good. We are getting out to training. There are no major headaches at all," she said.

Most venues now appear fully ready but for last‑minute work to clear rubbish or finish painting.

In India, the Commonwealth Games remain controversial. Protesters took to the streets of the capital yesterday for a second straight day of demonstrations, demanding a boycott of the entire event. A coalition of more than 20 groups calling itself the "Anti-Commonwealth Games Front" marched holding placards reading "boycott the poverty games" and "we want schools, not stadiums".

Earlier in the week Indian activists, upset with what they claimed were racist remarks by the Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive, Mike Hooper, had burned an effigy of the New Zealander and shouted slogans. Carrying placards that said "Racist Hooper Go Back", they claimed that Hooper had reportedly made remarks blaming the Indian population for poor preparation that included incomplete venues and unlivable conditions at the athletes' village when some delegations began arriving last week. Hooper has denied making any offensive remarks.

Heartened by apparent recent progress and despite the ongoing problems, dramatic cost overruns, allegations of corruption and the long delays in building venues, the organising committee chairman, Suresh Kalmadi, said he had not lost hope of bringing the Olympics to India. "The biggest legacy [of the Commonwealth Games] is [the] Olympics," said Kalmadi, who heads the Indian Olympic Association. "Cricket is the most popular sport in our country but it is played by just 10 countries. Olympics has all sports. We have to ensure that Olympics come up. This is our opportunity and CWG will help."

The International Olympic Committee president, Jacques Rogge, is due to visit some Games sites today and will remain in Delhi for Sunday's opening ceremonies, when Prince Charles will represent the Queen and officially open the event, which runs until 14 October. A dispute over protocol with Indian officials who wanted the Indian president, Pratibha Patil, to take precedence has now been resolved.

Meanwhile, Australia has lost two more members of its squad, with the reigning discus gold medallist Scott Martin forced to pull out due to a chest injury. The 26-year-old 100m hurdler Hayley Butler also withdrew to recover from stress fractures in both feet.

The women's discus world champion Dani Samuels was among three Australians who withdrew last week citing concerns over security and health. She joined a long list of competitors who will not be present at the Games. Neither Usain Bolt, the world and Olympic 100m and 200m champion, nor Asafa Powell will be in Delhi. Other notable absentees include the South African 800m world champion Caster Semenya and the English world heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis.


Jason Burke in Delhi

The GuardianTramp

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