Wednesday, December 30, 2009

England plays down Commonwealth Games pullout fears

S Kalyana Ramanathan / London December 31, 2009

Amidst fear that England may pull out of the Commonwealth Games 2010, to be held in Delhi, the British Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Games England have issued a strong statement stressing that the country is likely to send its team to India in October 2010.

The Daily Telegraph, in a front page report today, said that due to security concerns England might pull out of the Games, scheduled to take place from October 3-14. The report suggested that the overriding fear was that terror groups from Pakistan might target the athletes participating in the game. Ann Hogbin, chief executive of Commonwealth Games England, said: “That is definitely not the case. Our current and strong intention is to field a team for the Games in Delhi next year. 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.”

Suresh Kalmadi, chairman of the Organising Committee, Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi, strongly denied the report and said: “We have not received any official intimation to this effect, and in fact the British Foreign Office as also the statement from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has emphasised that it has not advised any of its teams not to compete in next year’s Commonwealth Games on security grounds.”“The security commanders’ meeting was held at the home ministry recently and all Commonwealth Games Associations were satisfied with the security arrangements outlined for the Games,” he added.

Both Mike Fennell, president, Commonwealth Games Federation, and the Coordination Committee of the Commonwealth Games Federation earlier this month had lauded the preparations of Delhi Police in ensuring the secure conduct of the Games.

The Daily Telegraph today said that Metropolitan Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson, after visiting Delhi earlier this month, had voiced serious concerns about the security arrangements. However, there were no direct statements attributed to Stephenson in the report.

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