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Sports News

Indian gold rush in Commonwealth Games, but problems persist

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India flexed its sporting muscles to shoot up the medals table with five golds at the Commonwealth Games on Tuesday but organizational niggles continued to bedevil the event on the second day of competition.

A bomb scare in the athletes’ village, which turned out to be hoax, was a reminder of the security concerns that caused several athletes to skip the event and other teams to hire security consultants.

Day two of competition started well for the hosts with crackshot Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra teaming up with Gagan Narang to claim India’s first gold medal of the Games in the 10m air rifle pairs.

“This is my best moment since winning the gold in Beijing,” Bindra said. “It is always special to win a medal for the country. And this is the first time I am competing in such a big event on home soil.”

A second gold on the shooting range was supplemented by three on the wrestling mat to move India into second place on the medal table behind the Australians, who also won five titles to take their tally to nine.

Chief organizer Suresh Kalmadi earlier brushed aside a string of concerns about transport, a lack of spectators and food, saying everything would be resolved within 24 hours.

“Yesterday was the first day of the Games,” Kalmadi said. “Today we are sorting everything out and from tomorrow we will have a free flow of everything.”

His confident boast was made to look hollow when the automated system to check credentials at the entrance to venues crashed in the early afternoon, and the Games’ media information system stopped functioning.

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A string of hitches in the run-up to the Games including filthy conditions at the athletes’ village, allegations of corruption, a collapsed footbridge and health issues caused acute embarrassment to a country hoping to showcase its growing economic might through the $6 billion Games.

Residents of the city have become used to the sight of tens of thousands of armed police and military personnel lining the streets, deployed to prevent a repeat of the attack by militants that took more than 160 lives in Mumbai in 2008.

The bomb threat at the athletes’ village was quickly identified as a hoax, officials said.

“It was a hoax call made by a juvenile. We have identified the caller and have detained for interrogation,” said Rajan Bhagat, Delhi Police spokesman. “We have also carried out a thorough search and we did not find anything.”

AUSTRALIAN SWEEP

Anna Meares retained her 500m time trial title to lead an Australian sweep of all three medals on the first day of cycling competition and keep the title in the family for the third successive Games after her sister Kerrie won it in 2002.

“It’s the spirit of the competition that brings me here, and I think that it’s important that the big names should support their sport,” said Meares.

“We have fielded a lot of questions about security, accommodation issues and Delhi belly, but it’s been fine and you just have to get on with it anyway.”

English swimmer Fran Halsall ignored a dose of the city’s trademark stomach complaint to win a shock women’s 50 meter butterfly gold and win her country’s first gold.

Her success proved a spark for England’s Liam Tancock to follow up her with a second title in the very next race, the men’s 50m backstroke.

Robbie Renwick won Scotland’s first gold of the Games when he triumphed by a finger tip in the men’s 200m freestyle, the final race of the day.

Australia’s sole gold came from Leiston Pickett in the women’s 50m breaststroke to take her country’s tally in the pool to four.

“It was really nice to see the England flag at the top and two Aussies underneath,” Halsall joked after her being awarded her medal.

An athletics competition denuded of its biggest names by withdrawals begins on Wednesday when 27 gold medals are up for grabs in Delhi. The Games for 71 mostly former British colonies closes on October 14.

Editing by Justin Palmer

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