The Commonwealth Games Federation on Friday strongly resisted a move by the hosts of Delhi 2010 to oust its chief executive as tensions rise over the city’s preparedness to host a major sporting event.
Mike Fennell, the CGF’s president, said Mike Hooper had his organisation’s full confidence, facing down Indian criticism that the New Zealander had contributed little to the preparations for the games during his two year residence in the Indian capital.
"We are naturally very surprised and disappointed in receiving this request to remove Mr Hooper from Delhi given his unquestionable commitment to the successful celebration of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi,” Mr Fennell said from his home in Jamaica.
The Indian organisers of the games had requested that Mr Hooper leave the country in an angry response to what it has interpreted as humiliating international criticism of preparations for the prestigious event.
Suresh Kalmadi, the chairman of the organising committee and a veteran Congress party politician, called for the urgent removal of Mr Hooper, saying he should be repatriated immediately.
Mr Kalmadi had also rejected the establishment of an independent Technical Review Panel to monitor preparations in the months ahead, and make public its monthly reports.
But Mr Fennell on Friday insisted that the Technical Review Panel would be set up in spite of India’s protests. He also urged the host country not to resist the hiring of international experts to help speed up preparations, and bring professional standards to key operations.
“The hiring and use of foreign expertise is standard practice for major games, such as occurred in Beijing and as is occurring in Vancouver for the Winter Olympic Games,” Mr Fennell said.
“This is now considered best-practice with organising committees of major international multi-sport events.”
Earlier this week, the CGF had called for a rapid injection of international expertise. It has also highlighted “deficiencies” of the body that Mr Kalmadi chairs. Mr Fennell identified ticketing, accommodation, technology, logistics and transport as just some of the areas where urgent progress was needed.
Considerable pride rests on New Delhi hosting a big international event. The games serve as a deadline to upgrade decrepit and overburdened infrastructure. Alongside the construction of sporting venues, the metro is being extended to the city's airport and roads are being built to alleviate chronic congestion.
Following Beijing’s hosting of the Olympics last year, Delhi 2010 is intended as a showcase for India’s modernising image, homegrown expertise and international stature.
Some organisers of Delhi 2010, however, are worried that slipshod preparations could deter top athletes from competing, at a time when security concerns around possible terror strikes on the capital are also having to be addressed.
Mr Hooper said on Friday he was happy to have the backing of his organisation, and had no intention of changing what he called his “abrasive” approach to getting things done.
“We should be focusing on issues and not personalities,” he said.