A $10 million Commonwealth Games 'bribe'

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Robert Craddock –September 24, 2010

Australia received a $125,000 kickback after India won the Commonwealth Games in a $10 million palm-greasing exercise that has spectacularly backfired.

Delhi sealed the right to host the Games when their delegates emerged at the final presentation in Jamaica and offered all 72 nations $US100,000 (then about $140,000) each for athlete training schemes if they were the successful bidders.

The money, subsequently paid to all nations, was not significant to Australia because it had already decided to vote for India and the payment was not an exceptionally large one.

But for small nations who have minimal interest in the Games, it clinched their vote and India went on to beat Canadian city Hamilton 46-22 in the final poll. Hamilton had offered the nations about $70,000 each.

The news comes as England have confirmed they will go to the Games.

English sports officials agreed on Thursday to send their team to the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, despite concerns in other countries about the readiness of the facilities in India.

Other nations have delayed their teams' departure as Indian organisers try frantically to complete building projects and bring facilities up to standard in time for the start on October 3.

Though the games were meant to showcase India's emergence as a regional powerhouse, the long delays and a list of scandals have turned them into an embarrassment.

Commonwealth Games England said the decision to go to the games had been taken "unanimously" with the 17 member sports.

In a statement, CGE said its chef de mission in Delhi, Craig Hunter, and his colleagues "are now seeing the improved levels of resourcing which are required to resolve the significant operational issues, but we will continue to monitor the situation daily to ensure the (athletes') Village and stadia are safe and fit for purpose.

"The (CGE) Board continues to press the Organising Committee of the Commonwealth Games Federation for assurances on both the stadia and the accommodation as well as liaising with the British Government. At all times the safety and security of our team is paramount.''

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held an emergency meeting Thursday night with his sports minister and other top officials to assess the state of preparations for the event.

Hamilton's bid organisers, and many of the nations who voted for them, fired off angry protests about India buying votes and the bad blood generated between several feuding nations still exists.

The Commonwealth Games Association has decided to ban 11th-hour inducements as a consequence of the outrage over India's tactics.

The Gold Coast consortium, which is hoping to host the 2018 Games, has been told it must include all details of its bid in a proposal by May, with a decision to be made later in the year over whether the popular tourist strip or the Sri Lankan region of Hambantota hosts the event. But there will be no late cash offers for votes.

"We agree with that decision because you have to be transparent," Australian Commonwealth Games Association president Sam Coffa said from Turkey last night. "It [the payment] didn't make any difference to our decision but it is not a good thing."

Mr Coffa said the money would have been used for general CGA expenses such as airfares. He said he has mixed emotions about Delhi's plight but no regrets about supporting their Games bid.

"We had a situation where Asia has had the Games only once [Malaysia in 1998] and it was worthwhile going again.

"I still think they can pull it off. If I have any regrets it is that the Commonwealth Games Federation did not act sooner. They were behind schedule quite a few months ago and it would have helped if they had gone to India to get things moving."

Had Hamilton won the vote, Australian athletes might well have been spending next week visiting local waterfalls, with a winery tour an appealing option after the Games.

Though Hamilton has an industrial core and is a steel city, it looks like Malibu Beach compared to New Delhi.

Hamilton officials claimed yesterday they would not be facing questions about whether venues would be ready and fears over security.

"I think you can safely say the kinds of issues they are experiencing wouldn't have happened if it were here," Hamilton bid chairman Jagoda Pike said yesterday.

Meanwhile, the disrepair and filth of the Commonwealth Games athletes village, where many of our sports stars are due to stay, was secretly captured on film by The Daily Telegraph yesterday.

Reporter Jessica Halloran was detained in Delhi after police were alerted to our secret video footage shown here about the state of the complex ten days out from the opening ceremony.

Secretly entering the complex in a bid to discover the state of the facilities just 10 days out from the Opening Ceremony, it was soon evident the conditions inside reflected the chaos outside.

Dirty apartments with broken windows, torn curtains, grubby showers and dirty toilets make up the village - and the landscape surrounding many of the units is only marginally better.

Original article on The Daily Telegraph (Australia) website