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English athletes set to travel to Delhi

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James Pearce | 16:10 UK time, Tuesday, 27 April 2010

My report today that Commonwealth Games England, the organisation responsible for the English team, are giving the go-ahead for English athletes to travel to Delhi for the Games in October will come as a massive relief to those running the event.

It goes without saying that an English boycott of the Commonwealth Games would severely weaken what is due to be India's biggest multi-sport event since 1982.

England are one of only six teams to have attended every Commonwealth Games and rank second, behind Australia, in the overall medal tally.

It was reported in December that the England team was on the brink of pulling out of the Games because of security concerns. A senior Whitehall source was quoted then as saying that there was "virtually no chance" that the team would travel to India.

Commonwealth Games England have always insisted that they'll attend the Games if at all possible, and the decision to inform their sports governing bodies that the go-ahead has been given reflects confidence in the latest security advice.

That doesn't mean, though, that the security situation is not complex. Fourteen people were injured in bomb blasts in Bangalore before an Indian Premier League cricket match as recently as 17 April. If you look at the latest advice on the Foreign Office website then you might well think twice before travelling to Delhi.

The Foreign Office says that "there is a high threat of terrorism throughout India. Recent attacks have targeted public places including those frequented by foreigners. There are increased indications that terrorists are planning attacks in New Delhi.

"You should be particularly conscious of security considerations in the vicinity of key government installations and tourist sites, when attending public events (including religious events); and in public places, including hotels, airports, shopping malls and markets."

Indian construction workers watch the work of a crane at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium in Delhi
Work is continuing on venues in and around Delhi

Any athlete reading that could be forgiven for wondering if it really is worth the journey to India, even if a gold medal is at stake. So why is the English team going?

Well first it's important to make clear that security advice is being received all the time. At the moment the advice is that athletes will be safe in India. If that were to change then of course the England team would still have the opportunity to withdraw from the Games.

But the reality is that the advice given to an elite competitor at the Games is always going to be different from advice given to a general tourist.

All the athletes will be given special protection in Delhi. The theory is that after they touch down in India they'll be taken safely to the athletes' village. Both the village and all competition venues will be guarded by a so-called ring of steel. Organisers are adamant that they can keep these areas secure - one even recently called the plans "foolproof".

It goes without saying that those running the Delhi Commonwealth Games simply have to get this right. The consequences of something going wrong don't even bear thinking about. A successful Games could set Delhi on the way to a future Olympic bid.

The challenge, though, is so much bigger than just a security one. The construction project has hardly gone according to plan, a number of venues fell far behind schedule, and there are still major issues involved in getting everything ready in time. For example one recent visitor to the swimming pool described it as a "mud bath".

That might be a story for another day. The good news today for the Delhi organisers is that at least the England team is coming. There's no point in working hard for a party only to find that the guests don't turn up.

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  • 1. At 10:34am on 28 Apr 2010, Norman S wrote:

    Interesting that the BRITISH Broadcasting Corporation only seems to want to report the decision of the England team to confirm that they intend to compete in Delhi. Don't the views of Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland matter?

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  • 2. At 10:45am on 28 Apr 2010, SR819 wrote:

    As a British Indian, I hope whatever decision is taken is taken objectively and sensitively. Of course, if there is a serious threat that becomes amplified, then obviously a lot of the competitors will have second thoughts on travelling. I don't think anyone will criticise anyone if they don't wish to travel if the foreign office receives new information about a new threat, but I think everyone would like the teams to travel, subject to receiving the necessary clearance and reassurance that security is tight.
    I just hope the debate is carried out calmly and sensitively. In cricket, there's so much politics and unnecessary jingoism and nationalism at times in the debate (from all sides) that it detracts from the actual issues at stake. This is one of the reasons I've gone off cricket, there's too much hate and poor relations between the west and the east in cricket.

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  • 3. At 11:07am on 28 Apr 2010, Simon Harris wrote:

    Norrie... oh Norrie...

    Why does there always have to be one? And why are you letting yourself be the one on this occasion?

    There is no news story about Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland here. There never was. All three confirmed they would be travelling to Delhi long ago. This article is about a current event, the England team making its decision known. It can hardly include a story about the other three nations having made no announcement today and bring us the "news" that nothing has changed for any of them.

    This BBC bashing for the sake of it really has to stop. Of course there is more about England on the BBC. It makes up by far the largest section of the UK. But if you really analyse the BBC's output you'll find that if anything the ratio of news articles about Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland actually exceeds by far the ratio of people in those countries to the number of English. Could you even imagine the outcry if, for instance, the BBC started a program called UK Today in which lasted for an hour and it dedicated 50 minutes to England, 3 minutes to Wales, 2 minutes to N.Ireland and 5 minutes to Scotland? That would be the fair ratio though, based on number of people in the UK. In fact according to population estimates as time went on the share for the other nations would shrink and shrink. By 2050 Northern Ireland would be lucky to get a full minute. The BBC actually over-represents the nations - and that's not a bad thing. So please stop bashing them without taking the time to do the math.

    Please think before you write those comments Norrie, and next time try not to be "that guy".

    A-T

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  • 4. At 11:14am on 28 Apr 2010, refill wrote:

    And interesting that the first comment to appear is the most predictable. As far as I am aware, only the England team has stood any chance of not appearing at the games as, whether the other home nations like it or not, they will be by far the most high-profile visiting nation competing at the games and therefore a prime target for possible attack.

    Are you really trying to suggest that, if it were Scotland/Wales/N.Ireland who were threatening a non-appearance and then announced their intention to go ahead, that the BBC wouldn't report it in the same way. Funny, all the Scotsmen and Welshmen I've ever come across haven't been so paranoid as to look for prejudice where there exists none.

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  • 5. At 11:39am on 28 Apr 2010, hainba wrote:

    We should wish India and everyone participating well for this important multi-national event.

    BUT the idea that this should springboard an Olympic bid that is a whole new ball game surely. The Olmpics is far more high-profile and political preparation and security are at another level.

    Terrorism should never triumph but risk must be more keenly assessed.

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  • 6. At 5:27pm on 28 Apr 2010, gobowing wrote:

    This is great news. It is hugely important for both the Games and even the Commonwealth (the one that countries like Cameroon and Mozambique have been so eager to join, even with no imperial link) that the Delhi games are a success.

    As for events at the IPL, there was a bomb during the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 but no-one suggested that America could no longer stage international sporting events.

    More important now is that Commonwealth Games England tries to persuade some of the highly-paid English athletes, cyclists etc who have scrubbed Delhi from their schedule to make the trip for England. Now that security fears have been quelled they should be made to really declare why they won't go to Delhi and admit it's because there's no money involved.

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  • 7. At 10:27pm on 28 Apr 2010, IlCucchiaio wrote:

    The athletes may well be protected, but there's a whole other question about the security of the thousands of visiting tourists who will descend on Delhi both in the run-up and through the duration of the Games. Surely the terrorists will be equally satisfied with an attack against these visitors. Equally, an attack in the run-up to the Games will do just as much damage as an attack during the games and may be even harder to prevent.

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  • 8. At 12:00pm on 29 Apr 2010, Tiger Rose wrote:

    Gobowing - the high profile athletes who are not going to Delhi all have valid reasons which have nothing to do with money.

    Jessica Ennis does not want to miss training with the games being held very late in October (vital for multi eventers)and with a world title to defend in 2011 & 2012. She will be competing for Britain at the European Champs in August where she will by the way not win any prize money if she wins Gold.

    Some of our cyclists are not going as it clashes with the World Road Champs. There is also a clash with the Gymnastics world champs which is why all our best gymnasts will be competing there with development team being sent to Delhi. No disrespect to the Commonwealth Games but they will all have for more meaningful competition at a world champs and this will be better preparation for the Olympics.

    Nobody will be carping at the likes of Jess & Beth that they didn't go to Delhi if they win in London.

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  • 9. At 2:54pm on 29 Apr 2010, Irene wrote:

    What about the humanatarian aspect? Already the event has had a hugely detrimental impact on the poorest people of the city. Slums have been bulldozed and no alternative accommodation provided. Street vendors have been banned, thus depriving many poor families of their only source of income. Construction workers are being ruthlessly exploited.

    As if that were not enough, everything now costs more because VAT has been increased from 12 to 20%. This means that everyone, rich and poor, is footing the bill for the Games. The lasting legacy of the event has already become a legacy of misery for millions, months before the competition begins.

    How is this consistent with the Commonwealth Games Federation’s core values of HUMANITY – EQUALITY – DESTINY?

    How does it reflect the spirit of the Commonwealth which describes itself in the following words?

    ‘The Commonwealth is part of the world that it serves, sharing the same interests as those of its citizens: democratic freedom and economic and social development’.

    A sporting event is making desperate lives even more wretched, and this cannot be tolerated. There is too much injustice in the world already and this is just one more example of the oppression of the voiceless poor.

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  • 10. At 4:14pm on 29 Apr 2010, Norman S wrote:

    Simon ...... oh Simon .....

    You state quite confidently that "All three confirmed they would be travelling to Delhi long ago", when referring to the other home nations.

    As you're so sure of that, perhaps you could link me to any online story which actually confirms that clear statement. No rush. In your own time. ;-)

    In your desperation to play the wounded, patronising Englishman, you've missed the point entirely. My remarks were not about the necessity to have separate stories on the BBC website about all of the home nations' intentions re Delhi, but that an obvious opportunity was missed in this story to actually ask Wales, Scotland and NI for their current position.

    After all, as they are all constituent parts of the UK, we can safely assume that they will all be receiving the same travel advice from the FCO and other government agencies.

    So ...... lazy journalism or an assumption that only the England team matters? I'll let you decide for yourself.

    In the meantime, Simon, please try to read comments more carefully before blundering in as you did earlier. There's a good chap!

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  • 11. At 6:58pm on 02 May 2010, OléBlade wrote:

    Norrie, I can't understand people like you. It was never in doubt Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland's Commonwealth teams would compete in the Delhi games, hence no story to write a blog about. The BBC treats all four constituent parts of the UK fairly and I don't understand why people such as yourself go out of your way to try and create animosity between the home nations. There are plenty of other parts of this website devoted to Scottish, Welsh and Irish events, this story just happened to concern England.

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  • 12. At 2:44pm on 03 May 2010, Norman S wrote:

    steel-city-blade , there are probably lots of things you don't understand, and your response to my comments confirms that you either don't understand written English too well, or you've been so blinded by your desperation to join Simon in the 'wounded and patronising Englishman' club that you've made statements that you can't possibly prove or know for sure to be true.
    Can I suggest that you look again at what I actually posted and not what you think you've been reading? Now if you still believe that I have written anything thing designed to "create animosity between the home nations", please let me know precisely what you are referring to and why it may create animosity, in your opinion.
    My point is not about the relationship amongst the home nations but about the BBC, as the UK's publicly funded national broadcaster, running a story about the England team's intentions re the Games in Delhi later this year, and not thinking it may be a good idea to ask the other home nations where they stand at the same time. It's lazy journalism, at least.
    Finally, you seem as confident as Simon was about it never being in doubt about the other home nations going to Delhi for the Games. He has yet to respond, but I'll challenge you to do the same as I challenged him. Post a link to any online story where any of the other home nations have confirmed that their participation was 'never in doubt' as you claim. I won't be holding my breath! :-)
    Surely, even you and Simon must recognise that, as all nations of the UK receive support and advice on foreign travel from the same UK government agencies, then the likelihood is that they are all in the same position when it comes to making a decision on going to Delhi for the Games.
    This BBC story does not reflect that and is diminished in terms of its accuracy and fairness because of that. I think that we're entitled to expect better from the BBC.

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  • 13. At 3:47pm on 09 May 2010, WannabeWarriner wrote:

    Norrie, there is unlikely to be an article written stating that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are doing exactly what is expected, that they will show up. If so it would be a very dull one.

    Your statement does create animosity (although, I realise this was not your intention) because you basically state the English are treated with superiority to the Scottish, which is a statement likely to upset both sides.

    The fact is that the Scottish get programs made specifically for them and not just news. The scetch show Burnistoun which I quite liked was avaialble only in Scotland and on the iplayer. Wales even has its own channel S4C which costs significantly more to run then the radio stations that have been threatened with closure the Asian Network and 6 music, and in my eyes has very little of quality on it.

    F.Y.I I have lived in all 4 of our nations and some point in my life and regard myself as British

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