Tennis star Baltacha pulls out of Commonwealth Games

By Alix Ramsay and Martin Hannan
SCOTTISH medal hopeful Elena Baltacha pulled out of the Commonwealth Games last night over fears about her health should she make the trip to Delhi.

• Hygiene concerns push tennis star out Picture: Getty

The tennis player made her position known to disappointed Scots officials as the vanguard of her team mates flew out of Glasgow after their departure was delayed by unhygienic conditions in the Athletes' Village.

Just days before she was due to join them in New Delhi, Baltacha revealed she has a chronic liver condition which affects her immune system and said she is concerned about the possible effects of poor hygiene and mosquito-borne diseases such as Dengue Fever.

Baltacha, ranked in 50th position in the women's professional game and seen as a genuine medal contender for Scotland, said: "It was such a difficult decision because I was so looking forward to Delhi, I was so excited about it.

"If I didn't have a liver condition (primary sclerosing cholangitis), of course I'd go. But the problem is that with my liver condition I am much more susceptible to picking things up, and that's why it's more of a risk for me.

"It was really difficult because I am very passionate about representing my country, but at the same time, I have got to consider my health."

Jon Doig, Team Scotland Chef de Mission, said: "Bally has been a huge supporter of Commonwealth Games

ever since her medal-winning experience in the inaugural Commonwealth Youth Games in Edinburgh. She committed to representing Scotland in Delhi from the outset and I know she is absolutely gutted about having to make this decision.

"Whilst we are obviously disappointed that Elena has decided to withdraw from the Games, we fully respect her decision."

The first group from Team Scotland, including 280 athletes and staff, plus equipment, left Glasgow Airport for Delhi yesterday after receiving assurances that problems were resolved. Concerns had been raised early this week that facilities were not ready and a party of 41 athletes and staff delayed their departure on Tuesday after complaints about conditions.

Yesterday, weightlifters, shooters, archers and lawn bowlers left Scotland with good luck messages from well-wishers.

Weightlifter Peter Kirkbride, 22, from Kilmarnock, said concerns about preparations in Delhi did not faze him, and added: "I've done a lot of training. I just want to get out there and compete in the Commonwealth Games."

Edinburgh-born shooter Caroline Brownlie, 32, said: "The guys out there have checked things out and if they say it's fine to go, then I'm happy.

We can't be too critical, because it's (the 2014 Games) coming to us next." Meanwhile, in Delhi yesterday, ambassadors and diplomats from 55 Commonwealth countries were given a tour of the main venues and athletes' village to check on progress, while the city's officials have asked the Indian army to build a temporary bridge to replace the footbridge between the main stadium and athletes village that collapsed on Tuesday. The army bridge should be finished within five days.

As fears over conditions receded, concerns about security deepened. Australian fans were warned by their government not to wear the green and gold or fly their flag at the Games for fear of attracting terrorists.

As the first Australian athletes headed for India, the Federal Government issued an explicit travel warning stating there was a "high risk" of a terrorist attack, including potential seizure of hostages.