Bridge collapse in India raises concerns; could F1 get swept into debate?

While the Korean Grand Prix is the one with all the questions hovering over it, don’t forget next year’s Indian Grand Prix. (As we noted, Bernie sure isn’t.)

You think there might be questions leading up to it? I’m afraid I have to say, “Yes,” after this:

New questions were raised about India’s preparedness for the Commonwealth Games on Tuesday after a footbridge collapsed outside a Games venue, injuring dozens. The accident occurred the same day that visiting officials called athletes’ accommodations “uninhabitable.”

Representatives of the dozens of countries participating in the Commonwealth Games, a quadrennial competition among members of the Commonwealth of Nations, started arriving in Delhi in recent days to look at facilities and conduct security checks. The athletes’ village, built for the Games, is not ready, they say, and questions linger about security after an attack on tourists in Delhi on Sunday.

On Tuesday afternoon, a bridge next to Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the main Games venue, fell apart. The footbridge collapsed into three pieces, taking several workers with it and uprooting one side of the arch that supported it.

A police officer at the scene said that 27 people had been injured, four of them seriously, in the collapse.


Games officials had lodged formal complaints about the preparations with India’s government even before the accident. “The condition of the residential zone has shocked the majority,” the Commonwealth Games Federation president, Michael Fennel, said in a statement Monday evening. Fennel said he had sent a letter to India’s union cabinet secretary. The Games village is “seriously compromised,” he said.

“The problems are arising because deadlines for the completion of the Village have been consistently pushed out,” Fennell said.

The Games village is “uninhabitable,” the Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive, Mike Hooper, told the local television channel CNN-IBN on Tuesday. “There is dust everywhere,” he said. “The flats are dirty and filthy. Toilets are unclean,” he said.


Security at the Games has also become a major concern after two tourists were shot outside the Jama Masjid, a mosque that is one of Delhi’s major attractions, on Sunday. Neither tourist was fatally injured, and the mosque is far from the Games venues or athletes’ village, but the incident prompted new fears about Delhi’s ability to keep athletes and visitors safe during the Games.

I was pleasantly surprised not to see a connection made to next year’s race. That would have been an easy add: “The country has other major sports events coming in the next years, notably a new Formula 1 race in the fall of 2011. Construction there has just begun.” Something along those lines.

But these incidents — and thankfully no one was killed, although four were seriously hurt sadly — tend to build one on the other. If there are any serious concerns about the F1 site, you can expect fingers to point back to this incident, and everything surrounding the Games, as evidence or support for arguments. And maybe for good reason.

Any of our readers have closer insight to the construction of the Games facilities? And does it give anyone pause in considering both the F1 race coming off smoothly or attending the race?

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