The showdown between the Commonwealth Games organisers and their international bosses took a more acrimonious turn today with the CGF rejecting calls for the event CEO’s ouster and bluntly telling the Organising Committee to focus on the work at hand.
The Commonwealth Games Federation president Michael Fennell also ruled out scrapping its proposed independent monitoring panel to oversee the preparations, setting the stage for what now appears to be a protracted and bitter tussle between the organisers and the Games parent body.
A day after Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi had sought event’s CEO Mike Hooper’s sacking describing him as “useless”, the CGF threw its weight behind its high-ranked official and made it clear that there was no question of any change at this stage.
Kalmadi, however, insisted that he will push for Hooper’s transfer out of Delhi and will take up the matter with Fennell when they meet in London on October 28 and 29.
Fennell said Kalmadi’s demands were surprising and the OC should focus on Games’ preparations instead of seeking removal of officials.
“We are naturally very surprised and disappointed in receiving this request to remove Mr Hooper from Delhi given his unquestionable commitment to successful celebration of 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi,” Fennell said from Jamaica.
“I have responded to Mr. Kalmadi’s letter and public statements in writing, recording that Mr. Hooper enjoys the full support of the CGF’s Executive Board, and that he is an outstanding Chief Executive and leader of the CGF management team,” Fennell said in a statement.
“He is totally dedicated to Commonwealth Games movement and we consider such a personal attack on him is unwarranted,” the miffed CGF president said.
“Instead of attacking Mr Hooper, I urge the Organising Committee to focus on the issues raised by us in Delhi following our General Assembly on Monday and to commit to working collaboratively with all stakeholders on addressing these matters with urgency,” Fennell said.
Fennell went on to thank Hooper for remaining “committed” to the Games’ cause.
“Mr Hooper is charged with working in partnership with the Organising Committee and other stakeholders towards achieving this. I note Mr Hooper has reaffirmed this position and I thank him for his commitment to the success of the Games,” he said.
Fennell also snubbed OC’s other demand of not having a monitoring committee, asserting that the panel was a must if Delhi had to fast-track its preparations.
“We will implement the Technical Review Panel as detailed, and urge the Organising Committee to embrace the use of Games experts to fast track systems required for the Games operation,” he said.
Fennell articulated why it was necessary to have foreign consultants, saying, “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 Winter Olympic Games. This is now considered best-practice with Organising Committees of major international multi-sport events.
Kalmadi claimed that Fennell has not outrightly rejected his demands.
“He (Fennell) has not rejected our demand outright. He has said that we will talk in London on October 28 and 29 in full detail. He has mentioned that he is not agreeable but he has also said that on October 28 and 29 when we will meet in London we shall discuss this fully,” said Kalmadi.
Kalmadi made it clear that the CGF was free to keep Hooper as its chief executive but the Games Organising Committee does not want him in India.
“I have never asked for his (Hooper’s) sacking. I have only asked for his transfer. He is the chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation. They (CGF) are free to keep him. I am only saying don’t keep him in India because we can’t concentrate on our work when he is around,” Kalmadi said.
Hooper, having got the CGF’s wholehearted backing, took a pot shot at OC and said it was an understatement that Delhi was behind schedule in its preparations for the Games.
“I think it’s the understatement of the year. I mean it very clearly that we have concerns regarding the preparations.
“I have no desire to give in to a public spat with Mr Kalmadi. I express disappointment at his comments,” he said.