Panic struck the Commonwealth Games on Thursday as reports of leading swimmers from Australia and England being taken ill due to the poor quality of water at the Dr. S.P. Mukherjee pool did the rounds.

However, towards evening it was confirmed that the illness was not due to the reason suspected, saving both the Commonwealth Games Federation and the Organising Committee from acute embarrassment.

Stars down

The panic button was pressed as England's Rebecca Adlington and Fran Halsall was reported to be ill, especially after Halsall finished a poor third in the women's 100m freestyle final on Wednesday and continued to remain sick this morning. Adlington, the double Olympic champion, too was said to be unwell as rumours spread of her possible pull-out from the 800m freestyle final.

In the Australian camp, concerns were raised after Robert Hurley, the freestyle expert, was forced to return home, Andrew Lauterstein's mysterious last-minute withdrawal from Wednesday's 50m butterfly final and the failure of Hayden Stoekel to take part in this morning heats.

Reports also suggested that at least 10 other Australians were down with a milder version of gastroenteritis.

Asked to comment on the situation during his routine press briefing, CGF President Mike Fennell was quick to order an inquiry. “It is a matter we will deal with the greatest of urgency. We must sort this out immediately. If there is something unsafe, you cannot swim in that water. We are concerned of the athletes being not well and unable to perform at their best. We have not had specific reports of swimming being different from the rest.”

While earlier reports had suggested that over 40 swimmers had taken ill, Team England in a statement, later, said only 8 per cent of its 541-team have had some kind of mild stomach conditions after their arrival in New Delhi.

Swimming Federation of India Secretary Virendra Nanavathi, when contacted by The Hindu said the pool water was constantly tested on a day-to-day basis as is required during major international competitions. “The readings from these tests are quite normal. There is nothing to worry,” he said.

Later, the England and Australia press attaches too played down the incident saying illnesses of this nature were quite regular during tours abroad.

However, what still proved to be a headache to officials was the lack of water in the rest rooms at the pool almost all through the day, due to a motor failure and the delay in getting police clearance to bring in a new motor.

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