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England calm Delhi Commonwealth Games security fears

Delhi takes over as host nation at the closing ceremony of the 2006 Melbourne Games
Delhi took over as host nation from Melbourne in 2006

England's Commonwealth Games chief has denied they will pull out of the 2010 event in India over security concerns.

A senior Whitehall source is reported to have told the Daily Telegraph there was "virtually no chance" an England team would be sent to Delhi.

But the England team's chief executive Ann Hogbin said: "That is definitely not the case. Our strong intention is to field a team in Delhi next year."

The Foreign Office says it has not told any British teams to miss the event.

Unlike the Olympic Games where Britain competes under the Team GB banner, there are separate teams for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales at the Commonwealths.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office statement said: "We are aware that the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) had some concerns about preparations for the Games.

"We continue to work closely with the Indian authorities who are doing everything they can to ensure a safe and secure Games."

The CGF is the organisation responsible for the direction and control of the Games.

Security for athletes, officials and spectators in Delhi has been a cause for concern following terrorist incidents in the region which have led to several sporting events being moved from the subcontinent.

England's badminton team withdrew from the World Championships in Hyderabad in August citing a "specific terrorist threat", although the event passed without incident.

In March, the Sri Lanka cricket team was ambushed by 12 gunmen while they were being driven to a match in Lahore, Pakistan.

We'll continue to seek advice, but at the moment we are full steam ahead for Delhi

CGE marketing director Duncan Lewis

Eight Pakistanis were killed, while six Sri Lanka players and English match official Chris Broad were injured in the attack.

And in November 2008 more than 170 people were killed in the Mumbai terror attacks.

On-going concerns about security on the subcontinent forced organisers to move the Indian Premier League to South Africa earlier this year.

However, Delhi organising committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi said: "Security is certainly not an issue. A foolproof security was discussed for the Games during the security liaison conference in New Delhi in September."

Experts from 26 of the 71 participating nations, including England, Australia and New Zealand, took part in the conference and were satisfied with the preparations.

Hogbin, who has worked at nine Games and is head of Commonwealth Games England, added: "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."

And CGE marketing director Duncan Lewis told BBC Radio 5 live: "This is not something where you make a one-off snap decision a period of time out from the Games.

"We'll continue to seek advice, but at the moment we are full steam ahead for Delhi.

"We won't force athletes to go. It is down to individuals to make that decision. But we will make sure they have expert advice and facts."

England's chef de mission Craig Hunter was in Delhi for 18 days in October and he added: "At no point during the 18 days did I feel any sense of threat or uncertainty working down the street.

"Terrorism is never very far away, unfortunately, but at this moment in time, we see no reasons why we won't be competing."

Hunter's thoughts were echoed by his Welsh counterpart Chris Jenkins, who has also visited Delhi recently while the Metropolitan Police Service confirmed that it had not issued any advice against athletes competing in Delhi.

Australia's Commonwealth Games chief Perry Crosswhite is also happy with the current security levels and they will be sending a team of more than 400 athletes and officials.

"I'm not a security expert, but India have employed people that are and the reports are good," he said.

"I have not had one athlete, one manager, one coach, contact me with the view that they shouldn't be going."

Several English athletes have already indicated they may not be part of the near 100-strong team for Delhi, which could be the largest sent to compete at a Commonwealth Games.

World gymnast champion Beth Tweddle is not going because the event, which runs from 3-14 October, finishes three days before the world championships start in the Netherlands

British Gymnastics has decided to send its A squad to the world championships and a B squad to the Commonwealth Games. This is in order to try and qualify a British Team for the 2012 Olympics.

Heptathletes Jessica Ennis, who won the world title in August, and Kelly Sotherton - the reigning Commonwealth champion - are likely absentees as the competition follows the European Championships in Barcelona in July and clashes with the start of their winter training when athletes will be working towards the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.

Phillips Idowu, the Commonwealth triple jump champion at Melbourne in 2006, and Paula Radcliffe - who won 5,000m gold at Manchester in 2002 - may also not travel.

More than 8,000 athletes from 71 nations are due to compete in India.

Glasgow is due to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games.



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India admits 2010 Games problems
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