Swimmers sick at Commonwealth Games, warmup pool suspected

The Commonwealth Games is facing a new crisis – reports that up to 15 swimmers on the England and Australian teams have a stomach virus potentially caused by the suspect quality of water at the aquatics center in New Delhi.

England’s swim team doctor was quoted as saying Thursday that about 20 per cent of the swimmers – about eight to 10 competitors – are ill with a stomach virus. Australia has reported at least six swimmers were sick, including Andrew Lauterstein, who was a late scratch from the 50-meter butterfly Wednesday.

Commonwealth Games Federation president Mike Fennell told a scheduled news conference that officials will investigate the matter urgently and conduct tests on both the main pool and the warmup pool at the Dr. S.P. Makherjee Aquatic Complex.

Fennell was asked if the swim competition, which began its fourth of six days Thursday, might be canceled or moved if tests showed the pools were unsafe.

“I would not like to speculate about this immediately,” Fennell said. “If there is something unsafe, you cannot swim in that water.

It is a matter we have to deal with a great deal of urgency.”

Australian swim team spokesman Lachlan Searle said “about a half-dozen” swimmers had been affected by stomach problems. He said Lauterstein could not take part in training on Thursday morning and that Hayden Stoeckel, who won a silver medal in the men’s 50-meter backstroke on Tuesday, also could not train.

“Our doctors are looking into it ,” he said.

England team spokesman Caroline Searle said between seven and 10 per cent of England’s 541-strong delegation had been affected by a “mild 24-hour stomach condition.”

“That’s lower than we anticipated,” she said. “Separately we have asked for reassurances as to the water quality at the aquatics venue. We’re not complacent and continue to reinforce the need to be vigilant in areas like hand hygiene.”

Concerning the swimmers, Searle said “we will look at that, but it’s really a matter for the organizing committee.”

England swim team spokesman Dave Richards said reports of the sickness had been wildly exaggerated and that the team’s seven to 10 per cent with stomach complaints also held true for the 45 members of the swim team.

“No swimmer has missed a competition at all,” he said.

The Commonwealth Games – an Olympic-style competition held every four years – bring together more than 6,000 athletes and officials from 71 countries and territories. But construction delays, corruption allegations, concerns about security and heavy monsoons put preparations for the games way behind schedule, with complaints about unfinished and filthy accommodations in the athletes’ village embarrassing the hosts.

To make matters worse, three Ugandan team officials were injured in an auto accident at the entry to the athletes’ village and spent 24 hours in hospital under observation before being released on Wednesday.

Uganda won its first gold medal of the games later Wednesday in the men’s 5,000 on an athletics track that was still being repaired just hours before the first events started.

On the positive side, organizing committee chief Suresh Kalmadi said 125,000 tickets had been sold Wednesday for future events. Next week’s rugby sevens tournament was sold out, as was the remainder of the swimming, 80 per cent of tennis and 90 per cent of the boxing semifinals and finals.

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