LONDON: England’s Commonwealth Games officials insisted late on Tuesday they have received no security warnings to indicate the team must withdraw from the New Delhi event next year because its athletes could be targeted by terrorists.
England team general manager Ann Hogbin issued a strong denial of a front page report in Wednesday’s edition of the Daily Telegraph that claimed there was “virtually no chance” a team would be sent. An online version of the report quoted unnamed political sources as saying that the formal pullout would be announced in the new year because safety there could not be guaranteed.
“That is definitely not the case. Our current and strong intention is to field a team for the games in Delhi next year,” Hogbin said in a statement to the Associated Press. “Of course, we have a duty of care to the athletes and other team members which we take very seriously.
“Despite having been given extensive briefings from relevant authorities, we have not received any indication that we should not participate in the Games and we will continue to work hard to put in place the best possible arrangements for our team.”
Britain’s Foreign Office told AP it had “not advised any of the British teams not to participate in the Commonwealth Games.”
“We are aware that the Commonwealth Games Federation had some concerns about preparations for the Games,” the statement added. “We continue to work closely with the Indian authorities who are doing everything they can to ensure a safe and secure Games.”
The Telegraph claimed that Paul Stephenson, Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, voiced “serious concerns” about security arrangements in New Delhi following a visit this month.
Safety concerns and lax security were cited this year when England’s badminton team pulled out of the World championships in Hyderabad, and Australia refused to play a Davis Cup match in Chennai.
The Commonwealth Games is set to be the biggest multiple-sport event staged in India since the 1982 Asian Games.
Organisers are expecting nearly 8,000 athletes and officials from 71 nations and territories, along with nearly 30 heads of States.
This year, India’s Home Secretary Gopal Krishna Pillai said he was not aware of security threats to the Games, and added that no special security measures would be undertaken for athletes from specific countries.
Australia will compete
Meanwhile, Australia will compete at next year’s Commonwealth Games in India even if England withdraws over security concerns, Australian’s Commonwealth Games chief Perry Crosswhite said on Wednesday.
Crosswhite said he had no reason to question security arrangements for the New Delhi games.
American-born Crosswhite, a member of the commission overseeing games preparations, said Australia was still on course to field one of its largest-ever squads in New Delhi, featuring more than 400 athletes and officials. — Agencies