The Village that vexed

BOB MACKIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:46 AM ET

DELHI, India - It isn’t the Taj Mahal, but the Commonwealth Games Village has served its purpose.

The Khel Gram complex by the banks of the Yamuna River was unfinished, unsanitary and uninhabitable less than a month ago. Conditions in the 34-building complex put the Oct. 3-14 Games in jeopardy, until the government ordered an emergency cleanup.

Now the home away from home for 6,000 athletes and support staff from 71 nations and territories is beginning to empty as the 19th Games near their Thursday conclusion.

“There were questions about whether we should come or not, but spending so much time here, it was the right choice to come,” said Markham, Ont., badminton player Michelle Li

“Our expectations were low coming into it,” said Toronto teammate Alexandra Bruce. “Having the resident centres and those (free) Delhi blankets on our beds made it all the better.”

The village, next to the massive Akshardham Hindu temple, is a secured fortress with two layers of airport-style security. A soldier in a partially camouflaged hut keeps his rifle constantly pointed at the main entry. The security detail includes leashed monkeys.

Inside the international zone is a mini-shopping mall, where craftspeople offer free temporary mehendi tattoos and demonstrate how the the silk and cotton stoles presented to medal-winning athletes are woven.

The site has a training gymnasium, pool, track and field facilities. Athletes jam a recreation pool, some playing water polo.

The residential zone includes a large, tented cafeteria with a selection of Indian and international food available around the clock. There is even a bar and temporary disco.

Canada’s block is a short walk away from the eating hall, with Canada flags flapping and clothes drying on balconies - there are washers but no driers in the eight-storey block.

Apartments for athletes and staff and offices are spacious.

The wellness clinic where chief medical officer Dr. Navin Prasad of Vancouver presides was active during the Games’ early stages when up to 50 athletes complained of “Delhi belly” and diarrhea. Several others suffered bronchial or sinus congestion because of Delhi’s air pollution.

“There were some that competed a bit ill,” Prasad said. “Everyone was able to make it to competition. Many athletes got gold medals even though they had their stomach illnesses.”

One rugby sevens player will need surgery when he returns to Canada. Otherwise injuries have been minor.

“For me being of Indian origin it's exciting to come and see that India can actually do a Games,” Prasad said. “They had lots of challenges. In the end they did come through with pretty good success in most of the areas they had to deal with. That was nice for me, nice for my heart.”

bob.mackin@sunmedia.ca


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