Crisis-plagued Commonwealth Games take another hit when Indian team official gets dengue fever

By Chris Lehourites, AP
Sunday, October 3, 2010

Crisis-plagued Commonwealth Games get hit again

NEW DELHI — The crisis-plagued Commonwealth Games took another hit Sunday only hours before they were declared open when an Indian team official who had been living at the athletes’ village was diagnosed with dengue fever.

Ruptu Gogoi, a 30-year-old official with the lawn bowls team, was admitted to the GB Pant hospital in New Delhi on Saturday night and was said to have the disease Sunday. He is the first person affiliated with the games to contract the illness.

“I can confirm he has dengue fever, but his condition is now stable,” hospital spokesman Dr. Rajiv Saigol told The Associated Press, adding that Gogoi could be discharged Monday evening.

Dengue fever, a painful illness that can be life-threatening, is a viral disease that spreads through mosquito bites. It has become an issue in the Indian capital this year because of the extended monsoon season, which increased the amount of stagnant water around the city.

The athletes’ village, which some described as uninhabitable late last month, was said to have pools of water nearby as workers struggled to get things finished on time. The unhygienic conditions at the village even prompted several teams to delay their departures to India until things improved.

It was not immediately clear if Gogoi contracted the disease at the village or before moving in.

About 3,500 cases of dengue fever have been reported in New Delhi this year, and seven of the afflicted have died, the Press Trust of India reported.

Despite the latest setback, the opening ceremony at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium went ahead without trouble as thousands of dancers and musicians entertained the crowd and the teams paraded in.

Prince Charles spoke on behalf of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, who did not make the trip to India for the games. He read a message from the British monarch and declared the games open.

Indian President Pratibha Patil then spoke and finished by saying, “Let the games begin.”

Outside the stadium, the usually packed streets of the city were mostly deserted after the government ordered businesses and markets to close down for the day — all part the organizing committee’s security plan.

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, speaking to India’s Times Now news channel, said the tight security in New Delhi was tough but fair. About 100,000 police and military personnel have been deployed in the Indian capital for the games.

“What I saw is definitely a good security with a lot of discipline very well applied, but also a kind one,” said Rogge, who attended the opening ceremony. “It’s not oppressive, it’s not intrusive, and you know that these people are working for your own security.”

Rogge even gave embattled local organizers some hope, saying a successful games would be a “very good foundation stone to think about the possible candidature” for the Olympics.

The Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, only the second to be staged in Asia, have also been plagued by other problems, including corruption allegations and construction delays. A footbridge near the main stadium collapsed late last month, injuring dozens of construction workers.

The problems have led to the withdrawal of some athletes, while for other reasons some high-profile names have also pulled out, including Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt and Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice.

But despite the notable absentees, the athletes who did make the trip to India are eager to get going.

“The Commonwealth Games for me are the highlight of my career and what I want to achieve,” England swimmer Ross Davenport said. “It’s the second major games to the Olympics, it’s the second major championships we’ll ever do. It’s great to be a part of it.”

Swimming starts Monday, and there will be five gold medal races in the evening. Gymnastics and weightlifting also have medal events on the opening day of competition.

Also, the Gandhi Peace Foundation reportedly wrote a letter to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to complain that Commonwealth Games organizing committee officials desecrated a memorial to spiritual and independence leader Mohandas K. Gandhi by wearing shoes where they weren’t supposed to during the baton relay. Saturday was a holiday in India to celebrate the birth of Gandhi.

The Indian Express reported that the foundation is demanding an inquiry. The organizing committee would not comment on the story.

This year’s games brings together more than 6,000 athletes and officials from 71 countries and territories in the commonwealth of the former British empire.

“It’s exciting and there is a great buzz around the village,” Australia chef de mission Steve Moneghetti said. “This is a spectacular moment in Indian sport.”

AP Sports Writer Rizwan Ali contributed to this report.

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