ADELAIDE, Australia // Sports planners in Australia are more concerned about security than corruption allegations or venue construction delays which have mired preparations for the New Delhi Commonwealth Games, Kate Ellis, the Australia's sports minister, said yesterday.
In the past week, the local organising committee has suspended high-ranking officials at the behest of the Indian government following allegations of financial irregularities in the planning of an event to launch the Queen's Baton Relay in London. There has also been wide reporting of corruption related to the building of infrastructure and venues for the event between October 3 and 14. "It's not the first time that we have seen troubles in the lead up to a major event," Ellis said. "And of course there is a lot of speculation about these things."
She said the government was working with Indian organisers and Australian sports authorities "so that hopefully we can see a successful Games go ahead". Australia's Commonwealth Games officials have previously said they are satisfied with India's security plans. The Australian delegation will comprise about 425 athletes and 175 staff or officials for the Commonwealth Games, which involve the countries and territories of the former British Empire.
"Our No 1 concern is on the security and safety of our athletes and of Australian officials," Ellis said. "So what we are concentrating on doing is working very hard to make sure that we're gathering the best information about what is happening on the ground. That is quite rightly where the [government's] focus is at the moment." Australia has hosted the Commonwealth Games four times, including the last one in Melbourne in 2006, and won more medals than any other country at the event.
India is the second Asian country to host the event, following Malaysia in 1998. The Commonwealth Games is the biggest multi-sports event for India since the 1982 Asian Games. The New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) also is prioritising security, and has likened New Delhi's state of general readiness for the Commonwealth Games to the 2004 Athens Olympics. "The venues were very behind the month before the [Athens) Games opened, and we had concerns around competition management," Mike Stanley, the NZOC president, said. "However, in the end they were delivered and Greece hosted a successful Games."
New Zealand had sought assurances from the Commonwealth Games Federation that issues around the readiness of venues was being addressed. "Athlete safety and security continues to be our highest priority," Stanley said. * Associated Press