Virus might be caused by pool water

Updated: October 7, 2010, 7:46 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW DELHI -- The already-troubled Commonwealth Games is facing a new crisis -- reports that up to 15 swimmers on the England and Australia 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 percent of the team's swimmers -- about eight to 10 competitors -- are ill with a stomach virus. Australia has reported that at least six swimmers are 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."

There was no immediate indication of any testing being undertaken at the aquatic center early Thursday afternoon. The synchronized swimming event was underway in the dive pool, while the main pool was idle ahead of the early evening's finals session.

During the meet, photos taken by an underwater camera in the main pool were mostly murky.

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 percent 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.

"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 a hospital under observation before being released on Wednesday.

The officials were injured when a spiked security barrier malfunctioned and slammed into their car as they drove into the village, a Ugandan diplomat said Thursday.

The spiked barrier, which normally recedes into the ground to allow authorized vehicles to safely pass, instead rose up and slammed into their car as they drove by Tuesday night, New Delhi Police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said.

The officials, including the Ugandan chef de mission William Tumwine, were tossed around inside the car as it braked sharply and sustained injuries ranging from cuts on the head to abrasions around their eyes, said Ugandan diplomat Dora Kutesan.

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 percent of tennis and 90 percent of the boxing semifinals and finals.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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