Chef de Mission Report
With the international press making so much drama over the condition of facilities, the BVI team of athletes and coaches arrived in Delhi in the last days of September with some trepidation. However all rumours of dangers and the precarious nature of Delhi were soon put to rest on the team’s arrival.
The Games Village accommodation was absolutely superb, with athletes sharing two to a room and en-suite bathrooms for everyone. Whilst Melbourne’s Village for Commonwealth 2006 had a homely feel to it, the spaciousness of the athletes’ apartments and the proximity to all administrative, health, dining and sporting facilities was a major plus for Delhi.
The dining centre in particular was spotlessly clean and the food and beverages varied, plentiful, nutritious and tasty. Not one person from the BVI contingent suffered any type of sickness or illness while we were in Delhi, which is a tribute to the efforts that the Indian people made to sanitize everything, as they had promised - they even claimed to wash the salads and fruits with bottled water.
There was absolutely no evidence of flooding in the Games Village for the duration of the games though clearly there was some standing water prior to team arrivals, Within the Games Village none of us saw any dogs or snakes and only the occasional mosquito. Mosquito fogging was done daily and we came across no-one with any mosquito bites from either within or outside the Village.
For the first time in any Games, a world class running track, pool and gym facilities were attached to the Games Village. All these facilities were extensively used by all athletes and Tahesia Harrigan, our 100 meter sprinter trained on the track each day prior to her event – another luxury from Delhi never experienced at the Commonwealth Games before. During our time in Delhi there were no security breaches and security was staggeringly tight at all Games venues.
Off course, whilst the athletes were generally well taken care of, not everything worked the way that it should have. Very sad for India, which promotes itself at the forefront of technology innovation, was the complete failure to get Wi-Fi working throughout the Games Village for the entire period of the games and the disintegration of the Games Information System, which was supposed to deliver real time results around the world. The Wi-Fi problem would not have been so bad had the organizers not continually over-promised that it would be working next day, which it never was. There were connectivity alternatives but the athletes were clearly frustrated – an essential for future Games. By the end of first day of competition all the administrators realized that the Games Information System was unusable and could not be trusted for accurate reporting. Many sports, including squash, where BVI was represented ran parallel results and update services which the athletes could refer to with confidence.
The core of the BVI’s delegation included 100m sprinter, Tahesia Harrigan, squash player Joe Chapman, coaches Sidney Cartwright, Joe Faragher-Kneipp and Karl Scatcliffe, physiotherapist, Mark Latimer and attaché Das Surapaneni, who were all housed on the fifth floor of Tower 28 in the Games Village. Our neighbours included Turks and Caicos and Bermuda. The President of the BVI Olympic Committee, Ephraim Penn and the Secretary General Dean Greenaway were also in attendance and were staying at the nearby Ashok hotel in downtown Delhi.
Arriving at almost midnight on September 30, the BVI athletes had three or four days to acclimatize but first on the agenda was the Team Welcome Ceremony 10 hours after arrival, held at the Ceremonial Plaza in the International Zone of the Games Village at 10.00 a.m. on October 1. This was an arousing ceremony where the BVI delegation was all formally welcomed to Delhi and we were proud to hoist our flag in their city.
The next few days our athletes trained and acclimatized with Tahesia going to the track at the Games Village and Joe Chapman going to Squash venue at Siri Fort. This led up to the Opening Ceremony on Sunday October 3, a busy day with the British High Commission inviting the BVI team to meet Prince Charles and Camilla at the track and for lunch at the dining centre afterwards. 3.30 pm saw our delegation leave the Games Village to attend quite the most opulent of all opening ceremonies. All athletes and coaches looked and felt good as the Games were formally opened at the main athletics stadium called the Jawaharal Nehru Stadium on 3 October 2010 at just after 7:00 p.m.
So far as the stadiums were concerned, all 17 really were truly of the highest international quality and were a tribute to the efforts made by the organizing committee in India to ensure that the athletes were able to perform at their best.
Over the following days our athletes started their competition, with Joe Chapman up first at 10:00 a.m. on October 4 in the Men’s squash singles – round of 64. Six rounds of squash ahead for those likely to progress to the final and the BVI party were apprehensive as Chapman had drawn the world number 16 in the first round. Chapman played the best squash of his life in losing 11-5, 11-9, 11-0 to the Australian number 1 who went on to win two medals, a Gold and a Bronze in the squash doubles.
Chapman settled well in game one but went down by 11-5. In the second game Chapman had Pilley in trouble at every point and led throughout the game to 9-8, only to miss a tricky volley which would have given him game point. Pilley came back to win the second game by 11-9 and then notched it up a gear to take the third game and the opening match by three games to zero. So the end of the Games for Chapman, though he had some consolation matches where he won one and lost one. Head down now for Glasgow 2014 – four years on – who knows what can happen.
Next up was Tahesia Harrigan on Wednesday, 6 October at 6.30 p.m. in the heats of Women’s 100m. There was no set at the start of the heat and Harrigan got away slowly, which was clearly not the game plan. However she came back to finish strongly and qualified easily for the semifinals next day.
Thursday, 7 October 5.50 p.m. saw Harrigan run in the second of three Women’s 100m semi-finals. She had a solid run but did not qualify for the final automatically so the spectators and the BVI team in particular had a nervous 10 minute wait for the third semi. Thankfully Taheisa made in through to the Womens' 100 m final at 7.20 p.m. – an hour or so later. In the final Harrigan had a glorious start in typical fashion – she lead at halfway and all the BVI delegation were cheering out of their seats. As the other athletes closed in over the last twenty meters Harrigan held on for fifth place in a time of 11.56. No medal but Harrigan did us proud once again, representing the BVI at the very highest level.
Over the subsequent days, the BVI delegation enjoyed mixing with international athletes from around the world at athletic events and as they discovered India especially on a day out to the Taj Mahal. Our BVI athletes have now returned to their respective base camps with Tahesia Harrigan taking a well earned rest after a busy summer and Joe Chapman heading back to the University of Rochester to catch up on a week’s missed college work and to prepare for this seasons collage squash.
All in all a successful Commonwealth Games for the British Virgin Islands.