By Duncan Mackay
British Sports Internet Writer of the Year
July 28 - New Delhi's preparations for the Commonwealth Games have received a massive vote of confidence from Sebastian Coe, the chairman of London 2012, and Dame Kelly Holmes, the double Olympic champion, who were today briefed on the progress being made.
The delegation, which also included five-time Olympic champion Sir Steve Redgrave and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, are part of the large party from Britain led by Prime Minister David Cameron on a visit to India designed to strengthen ties between the two countries.
Dame Kelly, the President of Commonwealth Games England (CGE), has consistently backed Delhi to be ready for the Games, which are due to open on October 3, and used this visit as another opportunity to encourage them, praising the progress the Indian capital has made.
She was particularly impressed with the Athletes Village, which Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi claimed will be better than the one at the Olympics in Beijing two years ago.
"It is really beautiful," said Dame Kelly.
"I think, the accommodation will be of top class.
"The infrastructures will certainly encourage the coming generation to take up sports.
"This is no doubt a good thing.
"But for that the facilities should be maintained properly.
"I very am encouraged by the plans I’ve heard from Mr Kalmadi and believe the Commonwealth Games in India will be a fantastic event.
"Hosting the Games in Delhi provides an opportunity to promote sport, and the benefits that it can bring, to millions of children in the country."
Coe (pictured right with Hunt and Sir Steve), meanwhile, who flew overnight to Delhi having yesterday led the celebrations for the two-year to go anniversary of London 2012, sympathised with the frustrations the Indian organisers are currently facing.
"Yes, this is a challenge every city organising a big event faces," he said.
"Hosting such a multi-discipline event is a very critical task.
"The problems never get solved quickly.
"I wish the Delhi Commonwealth Games Organising Committee all the best and hope to see a dazzling show."
Hunt was also impressed with what he saw and left reassured by Kalmadi that the athletes would be safe during the Games.
"We're impressed by the attention being paid to detail," he said.
"Sixty-four days is not a long time [until the Games start], which makes this attention to detail more impressive.
"I’m sure that India will deliver a successful, safe and secure Commonwealth Games in October.
"Mr Kalmadi has assured us that the country is ready to welcome athletes from around the Commonwealth and host a great festival of elite sport.
"I’ve reiterated our commitment to work closely with the Indian Government and the Organising Committee to help in any way that we can.”
But Hunt warned that he was powerless to make the top athletes attend the event, even after Kalmadi urged him "to send the top athletes to the event".
"We don't really have control over what the athletes feel to do," the Minister said.
"But we are going back with a strong message and we will encourage British athletes to come to the Commonwealth Games."
Earlier this week, England's triple Olympic gold medalist Bradley Wiggins added his name the growing list of competitors who have announced that they will not be attending the Games.
He joined fellow cyclists Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton, world heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis and, most damaging of all, Jamaica's treble Olympic and world champion Usain Bolt.
Dame Kelly claimed the event was strong enough to withstand the loss of the top names.
"The Commonwealth has helped a number of sports persons to come to the limelight,," said Dame Kelly, who won the 1500m at the 1994 and 2002 Commonwealth Games.
"If you win even a bronze medal in a Commonwealth Games, people come to know your name which helps you. "So the Games is important in its own way and two-three pull-outs don't matter.
"Its a massive platform for the young ones."
Commonwealth Games not a side show: Coe
Press Trust of India - New Delhi: Commonwealth Games have never been a "side-show" and the people of the capital would get a chance to watch the stars of tomorrow in action during the October 3-14 mega event here, feels legendary British athlete Sebastian Coe.
"Commonwealth Games is certainly not a side-show but the world's third largest event. It's a high-quality sporting competition with so much honour associated with it. I am sure that the Games will leave a long-lasting legacy that people would remember throughout their life," Coe said.
"In a number of ways, winning a medal in CWG is quite tougher than winning medal in many events. To win a medal in sprint, 800m, 1500m or 5000m is not a child's play.
"Many of the household names in sporting world today had make their first image in this tournament only. I am sure that the people of Delhi would be watching the stars of tomorrow," said Coe, who had won 1500m gold at the Olympic Games in 1980 (Moscow) and 1984 (Los Angeles).
The Englishman said Indians should now get ready to watch some spectacular performance by the athletes like Asafa Powell during the Delhi event.
"Many stars are coming to the Delhi Games such as Asafa Powell who had made his debut in this event only. So this event has its own importance and no one can deny this," Coe said.
Coe, who is part of the delegation of the visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron, said that it was nice to find the organisers in a relaxed mood with the event round the corner.
"It's good to see them so calm and relaxing with just 63 days left. I can say the Organising Committee is ready," he said.
The 53-year-old middle distance runner also feels that it is the time the media as well as the people of the country back the OC so that the Games becomes a success.
"It's time for India, it's media and people to get really excited and feel proud about the Games. World's third largest event is coming to your shores and you all should be happy.
"This is a great opportunity not only for sports but also the culture and tradition. An extraordinary story would going to be written about the Indian economy also," Coe said.
Coe, whose mother was born in India, added that hosting a mega-event like the CWG or Olympic Games was always a big challenge.
"We have a very good team working hard day and night to make the London Olympic Games a success. We still have a lot of works to do in these two years. Venues are structurally complete but interior works have to be done to turn them into the Olympic venues," said Coe, chief of the 2012 Olympic Games Organising Committee.
"I want to see greater participation by young people in Olympics and para-Olympic sports. I want to showcase cultural and traditional legacy that we have nurtured," said Coe.
Coe, who visited a city school today as part of London 2012 International Inspirational Programme, said the initiative has involved six million young people worldwide and is a huge success in India also.
"This programme is hugely successful for us. Our aim is to get 12 million young people involved into sports and the physical education activities in the run-up to London 2012.
"This is our first visit to India and response is good. Practice of sport in the communities can break social barriers and provide greater cohesion," he added.