NZ top official refuses to commit to CWG participation

Last Updated: Tuesday, August 17, 2010 - 17:24

Wellington: In a development which 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 Kiwi athletes till their safety
concerns are addressed next month.

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

"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
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.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, August 17, 2010 - 17:24
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