NEW DELHI, (Reuters) – The 2010 Commonwealth Games will adopt security methods similar to those used at the Beijing Olympics, its chief said yesterday, allaying fears the attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team could scupper the event.
Speculation about the fate of the Games, due to be held in New Delhi, has intensified since last year’s attacks in Mumbai and Tuesday’s bloody ambush in Lahore which left six players and a coach wounded and eight people dead.
A number of Australian athletes — the top team in the Games — have expressed reservations about competing in India, with former swimming champion Dawn Fraser calling for the event to be moved.
“We don’t want another Munich,” Fraser said, referring to the deadly attacks on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics. “With an attack like that you wouldn’t be sending any team over to that region at all.”
More than 4,000 athletes from over 50 countries are expected to compete in 17 sports at the New Delhi Games, making it the biggest sporting event held in India.
The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) chiefs held a meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday, where security was elaborately discussed, organising committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi said.
“We’re working on security, it has always been an issue with us from the beginning,” he told Reuters yesterday.
“We’re tying up things, with a lot of CCTV’s etc. We’re using very modern methods which were also used in Beijing (at the Olympics) last year.”
“A lot of things are moving ahead as this is our number one concern,” he said. “We’re monitoring it on a day-to-day basis.”
The CGF security chief had also visited India and discussed security details with the Delhi police and interior ministry officials, he added.
CGF chief executive Michael Hooper said the security planning for the games was on track and Australian experts, Intelligent Risk, constantly reviewed security. “The CGF is enormously aware of the need to ensure that a safe and secure environment is provided for the Commonwealth’s athletes at the Games,” he said in a statement.
“Security plans at all major events are subject to continual review and are amended as appropriate to reflect the threat assessment at a particular time.
“Everyone is committed to creating a safe and secure environment for the Commonwealth’s athletes.”
The Commonwealth Games Council for England (CGCE) and a top Australian sports official gave their backing to keeping the Games in India despite growing concerns over security.
“We are tracking the situation very closely as the safety and security of Team England’s athletes is paramount,” said a CGCE spokeswoman, adding that a report to the Commonwealth Games Associations by the CGF in June was the next milestone.
“We’re still looking forward to a great celebration of Commonwealth sport in Delhi next year.”
Perry Crosswhite, president of the Australian Commonwealth Games Association, said the CGF had called a teleconference to discuss the latest incident but there were no plans to relocate the Games. “At this stage, the Games are on at Delhi 2010 and we have no reason to believe that they won’t take place,” Crosswhite told reporters yesterday.
“Like everyone else I am shocked that they attacked a sporting team, and Pakistan cricket is so popular, for terrorists to do this is almost unheard of.”
Among the athletes likely to compete at New Delhi are Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice and British cyclist Chris Hoy, who each won three gold medals at the Beijing Olympics.
Crosswhite said he could understand why some athletes may still be hesitant to go, despite massive security arrangements.
“I don’t think anyone can guarantee anybody’s safety anymore,” he said. “If we did feel that those security issues were beyond an acceptable level we would have no hesitation in making our views known to the athletes.”
Organising committee chairman Kalmadi said security had become an even more important issue after the Mumbai attacks in November which killed about 170 people.
“After Mumbai we’ve taken all steps on security. We’ll have our next meeting in May by when the full plan will be ready.”
“I’d like to assure participating countries that security will be our concern. We’ll definitely look after all aspects.”