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Kiwis refuse to commit to CWG participation

August 17, 2010 16:42 IST

Delhi Commonwealth GamesIn a development that has the potential to land a body blow to the controversy-marred Delhi Commonwealth Games, a top New Zealand official has refused to commit participation of the country's Kiwi athletes till their safety concerns are addressed.

New Zealand Federation of Athletes chief Rob Nichol said that "hand on heart" he could not say whether his country would send a team to the Commonwealth Games.

"The biggest mistake we can make right now is forcing ourselves into a position where we have to make a decision," Nichol said.

"There will come a point in the future where hard decisions will have to be made about whether it is go or no go. But at this stage it is premature to be focusing on those decisions," he was quoted as saying by New Zealand Herald newspaper.

"All our plans are around that (the Games will happen). Naturally, we have contingencies because that's just part of that plan. One of those contingencies could be that at any time we decide not to go because of changes we can't foresee at the moment," he said.

New Zealand Olympic Committee president Mike Stanley indicated his country could follow suit if Canada, Australia and British representatives decide to withdraw from the Games on security issues.

"It would be a significant red flag. We would want to talk with them very carefully as to their reasoning. We'd want to understand that and we would reflect on our position," said Stanley.

According to the newspaper, the next milestone in terms of security assessment is around September 12, when a large group of officials head to Delhi for an advanced look at the Games' facilities, including the venues and the village.

"We've (NZFA) not been furnished with a copy of the Delhi police plan for the Games so I cannot put my hand on heart and say I know what's going to be completed yet. The best thing we can do is to plan as if they are going to go ahead," Nichol said.

The newspaper quoted an unnamed spokesperson of NZOC as saying that security officials had seen "broad police security plans around the Games, and they are in accordance with best international practice".     "Now we're looking forward to September to test the systems and their operational capability," the spokesperson said.

The main concerns of the NZFA as has transpired in its recent meeting with NZOC and government officials were lack of dedicated New Zealand security personnel embedded in the team, potential corruption of the accreditation process and potential for attacks on athletes and officials in transit on Delhi's roads.

The athletes' body has pressed the NZOC for more of its own security people on the ground and further assurances around key security aspects like accreditation and transport.

"The resources embedded within the team on the ground and the resources we have in terms of a presence in Delhi are two of the things we continue to ask questions about," Nichol said.

"Based on what we've seen at the moment we would like to see more (New Zealand security staff), without doubt. We don't want to be alarmist, but we've got to be thorough. We believe we need more people embedded with the team," he said.

Asked about the delay in completion of Games' facilities, Nichol said, "It's no secret the Games have struggled in terms of preparation around facilities.

"How that manifests itself around security is that everything else off the back of it ends up getting delayed," he said.

Stanley, however, said the accreditation process was "consistent with what happens at other Games" and New Zealand will engage more security personnel for its team. He said NZOC has been monitoring the security scenario on daily basis.

"We are looking at things very carefully, both on the risk basis and has the environment changed. We get advised on that by the Government and their security personnel. The other side is can Delhi meet that risk?" he said.

NZOC have employed Barry Taylor as their police liaison. Other police will be deployed out of the High Commission in Delhi.

The athletes' federation was formed out of the existing players' associations of rugby, cricket, netball, hockey and soccer.

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