By Steven Downes
Senior figures at the Commonwealth Games and from Glasgowâ€™s winning bid team have reacted with anger over claims from a Nigerian journalist writing on the AIPS website, that the voting to decide the venue for the 2014 Games was subject to ballot-rigging and manipulation.
With each member nation of the Commonwealth having one vote, Glasgowâ€™s Â£288 million plan to stage the Games won 47 votes to 24 for the Nigerian capital, Abuja, when the ballot was staged in Colombo, Sri Lanka, earlier this month.
Abujaâ€™s failure to become the first African city to stage the â€œFriendly Gamesâ€ has seen recriminations follow, with the losers blaming racism and British imperialism lying behind Scotlandâ€™s success. The head of the Abuja bid has also suggested that delegates were encouraged to vote for Glasgow â€œwith the taste of whiskyâ€.
But Mike Hooper, the chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation, rejected allegations of ballot-rigging, calling it â€œabsolutely ludicrousâ€.
Privately, sources at the Commonwealth Games Federation were expressing their exasperation, since Glasgow had won the ballot by such a convincing margin.
The Abuja bid was heavily criticised by the assessment panel and ultimately struggled to win many votes from outside Africaâ€˜s 18-nation voting bloc.
But these factors have been overlooked by some close to the Abuja bid.
Nigeriaâ€™s vice-president, Goodluck Jonathan, who attended the final presentations in Colombo, said, â€œThe Commonwealth Games Federation is not kind to Africa. They were unfair to the Nigerian and African bid. There was no reason to lose.â€
But the complaints of unfair treatment escalated last week with an article published on the AIPS website, written by the Abuja bidâ€™s head of media, Mitchell Obi. In the article, without any supporting quotes or evidence, Obi was able to suggest that irregularities over the voting may have influenced the outcome, saying that there was an â€œapparent lack of transparency that marked the voting and announcement of the bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Gamesâ€.
He went on: â€œMany have questioned the hurried, panicky decision of the leadership of the Commonwealth Games Federations to destroy the votes immediately the result was announced.
â€œSome have even ridiculed the counting of the votes in a separate room far from the Assembly Hall where the voting took place, adding with a tinge of suspicion of a vote count without observers of the two-bidding cities.â€
These claims were firmly rejected by the CGF. â€œEverything was conducted very openly, all on camera,â€ Hooper, a New Zealander, said of the voting procedures.
â€œObi is entitled to his point of view, but thatâ€™s the way we have always conducted our votes, and we have no plans to change.â€
Hooper pointed out that he was one of three independent scrutineers, the others being Prince Tunku Imran, of Malaysia, and Austin Sealy, a high commissioner from Barbados, who supervised the vote count in a private room. â€œIf they are going to try to impugn the reputation of the scrutineers, then they had better get their facts absolutely right.â€
Hooper also said that Obi’s claim that the voting forms were â€œhurriedlyâ€ destroyed was entirely wrong. â€œIn fact, I had them in my case for several days after the vote,â€ he said.
The CGF must be used to being attacked, even by those, like Abuja, who so recently had wanted to be at the centre of the Games. “What is especially disappointing, though,” one source said, “is that this piece of work appeared on the website of an international sports journalism organisation, without being checked or edited in any manner.”
Other attacks have come from Moses Tanui, of Kenya, the former world half-marathon champion, who has said that the 2014 vote for Glasgow was tainted by racism. â€œIt is obvious the white members of the Commonwealth do not like Africans,â€ he said, while Nigeriaâ€™s sports minister Abdulrahman Gimba has publicly attacked the decision as being â€œpredeterminedâ€.
The fact was that 37 of Glasgow’s votes must have been polled from outside the Commonwealth’s European states, including from the Caribbean, Asian and Oceania, as well as perhaps from Africa.
The negative reactions have saddened Glasowâ€™s bid team. Rob Shorthouse, spokesman for Glasgow 2014, described the remarks from Abuja as â€œvery disappointingâ€.
â€œTo suggest that there was anything wrong with the way in which the vote was conducted is well wide of the mark,â€ he said.
This is an edited version of an article first published in the Sunday Herald.
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