Thursday, May 27, 2010

Now New Zealand express security concerns during Games

Despite innumerable assurances by the sports minister as well as the Organizing Committee of the Commonwealth Games 2010, security continues to remain the primary concern for several participating countries. The latest country to voice their apprehension is New Zealand, where the Delhi Games 2010 Queen’s Baton relay visited earlier last week.

Sources say security concerns were on the agenda even as the local Indian and Kiwi community came out to welcome the Baton. Said an official who was part of the team which visited the country, ‘‘Security concerns were definitely the primary issue on the agenda. We had an in depth discussion with local officials as well as the sports and political brass about the security arrangements that India is making for the Games.’’ According to sources, the ‘‘discussion’’ was the focus at even the cultural events that were organized to welcome the Baton. Added the source, ‘‘Both officials and the local media had apprehensions about the security climate and how safe it was to bring athletes to India. We had to detail some of the plans to make them aware of the elaborate arrangements that India is making for the Games.’ The officials said that the local media was especially interested in the security plans.

Incidentally, the New Zealand Olympic Association had raised the issue once before in April this year, right after the bomb scare in Bangalore during the IPL. At that time, NZOA officials had said participation would be possible only after they were satisfied with the arrangements made for the CWG.

Till date, participating countries like Australia and the United Kingdom have risen concerns about security with even some sportspersons like Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice expressing apprehensions about arrangements. Sources say the security issue has been at the forefront in many countries on the Baton route despite the fact that the previous security liaison conference saw the Delhi plans get a thumbs-up. The Commonwealth Games Federation has also shown approval of the security plans of the government for the Games, though it has admitted that there was a need to keep a close look. The next security liaison conference is expected to take place late next month or early-July.

The security issue has been dodging the organizing committee (OC) since the bid for the Delhi Games was won in 2003. The OC as well as the government has often spoken about the arrangements, drawn up by the home ministry and the Delhi police. OC officials say the CGF’s international security consultant has already given approval to India’s security preparedness. ‘‘We have had a number of security briefings for the heads of missions of the Commonwealth countries. At each such forum, our security plans and arrangements have been welcomed,’’ added OC officials.