New Delhi: The increasing number of star pullouts may be taking the sheen off the Commonwealth Games but Organising Committee Chairman Suresh Kalmadi is not too worried, saying there will be plenty of world champions in action and those who have withdrawn have done so because of injury.
Kalmadi said that a clear picture of the list of athletes would emerge only on September 3 when the countries would have to submit the entries by name.
The OC chairman is unfazed by the pullouts of crowd-pullers such as sprint stars Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell, swimming sensation Stephanie Rice and tennis players Lleyton Hewitt and Samantha Stosur.
Asked whether the pullouts were a worrying factor, Kalmadi said, "No, not at all. Because many top world class stars are coming. A few are not coming because of injury."
"Bolt has not gone in the last four five events because he was not well. Whether anybody will come or not will be known only on September 3 when the countries will give their entries by name. Entry by general category has been going on," Kalmadi said in an interview.
The Indian Olympic Association chief said in the absence of big names, new stars would be made at the Games.
"Lots of world champions are coming. Few have backed out not because of any other reason but injury. Stephanie Rice has backed out because she was injured. Shelly Ann-Fraser was caught in a dope case. Chris Hoy`s taking part in Olympics depends on that event (European Championships)," he pointed out.
"Anyway if somebody is not coming a new champion, a new star will come up. Bolt is not coming but other athletes who are just 0.02 or 0.03 different (in timing) will come. So new champions will happen, I am happy with that. The 71 Chefs de Mission who have come here were happy with the Games so they have told us that most of their athletes are coming," he asserted.
Asked whether he was upset about the corruption allegations that have come about in the last month or so, Kalmadi said he had all along maintained that nothing wrong was done and all the proposals were cleared through the executive board of the OC.
"You must remember we had taken a big team for the bid. A third world country has got the Games after 60 years. Most of the times the Games were held in England, Australia, Canada or New Zealand. So it was a challenge to show that a third world country can do it. There have been a lot of challenges," he said.
"The last few years, the preparations had gone off peacefully. It was just in the last 15 days that there have been a lot (of controversies) in India. I don`t know the reasons. I have said from day one that we have not done any wrong," Kalmadi said.
"We had cleared every proposal through the executive board which has government nominees, from IOA and OC. Everything was a combined decision," he said.
Regarding the controversy surrounding the original bid documents in which he was shown to be the vice-chairman of the Organising Committee, Kalmadi explained, "Every bid keeps getting updated. The revalidated bid we submitted at Montego Bay at the time of voting had me as the chairman."
"When we made the final presentation we consulted the CGF how we can win the bid. So there was some changes. About chairmanship and the USD 100,000 to other Commonwealth Associations were not there in the original bid. So, it was the updated bid (that had me as chairman OC)," he said.
Kalmadi said the controversy was a non-issue for him as he had been appointed OC Chairman by the IOA.
"The main thing is that who would be chairman of OC is decided by IOA and IOA in its general body meeting had decided that I would be the chairman. And the GoM ratified it. So there is no issue.”
"Now a former sports minister raised the issue after keeping quiet for eight years. Why did he keep quiet for eight years? He should have said earlier that there was something wrong. Now with the Games just one month away, if somebody raises this issue, it is unfortunate," he said.