India's Commonwealth Games

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LISA MULLINS: India's chance to make a big splash on the international sports stage is turning into one big mess. The Commonwealth Games are second only to the Olympics in prestige amateur sporting events. The Commonwealth Games are due to start in New Delhi, India in 12 days. But complaints about cleanliness, safety and security are putting a damper on an event that was supposed to showcase the new India. The World's Laura Lynch reports.

LAURA LYNCH: India promised the Games would rival the Beijing Olympics as a sporting spectacle. Now, with days to go before the opening ceremonies, there is a spectacle, but of an entirely different and very unwelcome sort. Craig Hunter, a spokesman for England's team, is already in New Delhi. He says the athletes' village is filthy.

CRAIG HUNTER: We're donning rubber gloves and cleaning toilets and that's not what we came out here to do. We came out here to set up a professional establishment for our team who are coming to compete in what is supposed to be one of the premiere sporting events in the world calendar.

LYNCH: And Hunter says dirty toilets aren't the only problem.

HUNTER: The air conditioning isn't working. There's flooding. Doors have been hung in an incorrect manner so a shower door that's supposed to open outwards, opens inwards so you can't actually physically get in. The hot and cold water feeds are reversed.

LYNCH: Hunter and members of other delegations have been urging Indian officials to fix things for weeks. Scotland's team says the rooms are still unsafe and unfit for human habitation. The head of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Mike Hooper, says the organizers have simply failed to keep their promises.

MIKE HOOPER: We have emphasized the importance of addressing the issue of the condition and the cleanliness of the games village, which I would have to say in many, many of the towers, I am not going to pull any punches, were filthy.

LYNCH: And that's not all. There's an outbreak of Dengue fever in Delhi. There are continuing worries about the possibility of a terrorist attack. And today, a footbridge to the main stadium collapsed, injuring more than two dozen people. When India won the bid to host the games seven years ago, it was seen as the country's chance to show off. But the construction quickly fell way behind schedule amid concerns about mismanagement, corruption and lax construction standards. The general secretary of Delhi's organizing committee, Lalit Bhanot, blames the controversy about the accommodation on differing standards of cleanliness, but he vows the athletes village will be scrubbed top to bottom.

LALIT BHANOT: We are doing our best, and we are sure and confident that we will be able to complete the entire cleaning of the residential wing.

LYNCH: Given what's at stake for India, national pride, it's little surprise the politicians are starting to weigh in. Urban development minister Jaipal Reddy calls the problems minor hiccups.

JAIPAL REDDY: You must form your judgment after the games are held. If the holding of games is faulty or deficient you should of course raise questions. At the moment we are all in the process of preparing. I would ask everybody to withhold the judgment.

LYNCH: Some aren't ready to wait. Today, an Australian athlete, a world champion discus thrower, says she's pulling out because of concerns for her health and safety. Other countries are considering their options, casting a cloud of uncertainty over India's plans to proudly take center stage. For The World, I'm Laura Lynch in London.