Commonwealth Games

Racial slurs hit Delhi Games

2010-10-09 18:51
Roland Schoeman (File)

New Delhi - Racial jibes and slurs have overshadowed the Delhi Commonwealth Games as India's biggest-ever sporting event reached its halfway point amid organisational glitches and bad publicity.

A day after a New Zealand television presenter was slammed by India for mocking the surname of Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, South African swimmer Roland Schoeman likened crowd behaviour to monkeys, which was criticised by games chiefs.

"It's unacceptable to be at a professional event like this and have people going on like monkeys. Someone like that doesn't deserve to be here," Schoeman said after his semi-final on Friday night.

"It's an absolute disgrace. There's a guy in the stands just shouting, shouting, shouting. Somebody like that needs to be ejected," he fumed.

"It is very unfortunate," Lalit Bhanot, secretary general of the organising committee condemning the remarks while Commonwealth Games Federation president Michael Fennell said any racist jibes were unacceptable.

But Bhanot said no protest would be lodged with South African authorities as these were "friendly games".

"As far as the CGF is concerned we do not tolerate improper behaviour and racial slurs and it has to be stopped," Fennell said.

Citing the reported crowd trouble at the swimming and archery events Fennell added organisers would ensure that the crowds keep quiet during sensitive moments of play.

On Thursday, the racist jibe made by Kiwi presenter Paul Henry reached the highest-level between governments of participating nations, with New Delhi complaining and demanding "immediate demonstrative action" against Henry.

"It is shocking that such bigoted views have been aired by a representative of a mainstream media organisation of a multi-ethnic democracy like New Zealand," India's foreign ministry said in a statement.

"These remarks are totally unacceptable to India and should be condemned by all right-thinking people and nations," it said.

Amid the unsavoury rows, instances of "graceless" behaviour by participating teams have also been reported.

India's archery coach Limba Ram claimed he was abused by a British official after the women's team won gold by beating Britain on Friday. Ram said he was also pushed when he went to shake hands with the rival team after the match.

Earlier on during the games, Australian wrestler Hassene Fkiri was stripped of his silver medal for making an obscene gesture at a judge and refusing to shake hands with his Indian contender.

The run-up to the October 3-14 games was marred by construction delays, corruption allegations and filthy conditions in the athletes' village. But the organisers won praise from the international press for a spectacular inaugural last Sunday.

Authorities have continued to deal with organisational glitches - such as last-minute repairs of the athletics track damaged during the games' inaugural - and poor ticket sales.

But the Indian media criticised sections of the foreign press saying they had gone "overboard with criticism", describing the games to be in a shambles.

Earlier media reports of faulty boxing scales and contaminated pools were disproved by findings of technical panels.

Later, the Australian team doctor Peter Harcourt told reporters that some members of the squad had picked up the stomach virus from a Malaysian camp.

National news channels reported that barring the glitches, the events were largely well-organised and began on time.

"I was a great critic pre-opening, but once the games began, I think things have gone pretty well," Vinod Mehta, editor of the Outlook magazine said in a discussion on the NDTV.

Notwithstanding cynicism associated with the build-up of the Commonwealth Games, the local media also said Delhi was in a position to host the Olympics, as it had developed world-class stadia and sports infrastructure.

"Yes, I think so. Yes, we can. We are confident (of hosting the Olympics)," chief minister Dikshit told reporters recently.

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