Delhi Games boycott call by Dawn Fraser rejected

Dawn Fraser Dawn Fraser has urged Australian athletes to boycott the Games

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A call to boycott the Commonwealth Games in Delhi because of fears of terrorism, made by Australian swimming legend Dawn Fraser, has been rejected.

Ms Fraser told an Australian newspaper her greatest fear was that India was not ready to prevent a repeat of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre.

Australia's Commonwealth Games chief said her remarks were ill-informed.

And after inspecting venues, the head of the Commonwealth Games Federation said security in Delhi was "top class".

"Security has been on top of the agenda ever since we started preparations," Mike Fennell told reporters following a two-day visit to the Indian capital.

"We held a security briefing for the participating nations at the end of July and I am happy to say there was an endorsement of the measures being taken by Indian authorities," he added.

"I don't think Ms Fraser knows what is happening in India."

Mr Fennell said the federation had employed private security consultants to provide it with continuous reports on the security arrangements, and that its staff would be there to assist full-time during the Games.

Sanitation concerns

He also said work at all 17 of the competition venues in Delhi was for all practical purposes complete, but warned that there remained a "long list of details that need to be done".

In particular, Mr Fennell raised concerns over the standard of hygiene and sanitation as well as work that needed to be completed at the athletes' village.

"I feel some buildings in the village could have been done better," he said. "The international zone of the village, like the dining room and kitchen, is behind time.

"The sanitation has to improve and the hygiene has to be of the highest standards. There is need to address the roads around the village, the landscaping and the cleanliness.

"Not enough attention is being paid to cleaning the area in and around the village."

'Not ready'

In an interview with the Courier-Mail newspaper, Ms Fraser urged Australian athletes to seriously consider boycotting the Delhi Games, being held from 3 to 14 October.

Start Quote

I would hate to see another Munich but, with things getting worse and worse, I have grave concerns”

End Quote Dawn Fraser Australian swimming legend

"The Indians are telling us that security will be right," said the swimmer, who won four Olympic gold medals and six Commonwealth Games gold medals in a career that ended in 1964.

"But they've also been telling us for months that their stadiums are ready to go too, and quite obviously they're not.

"I know Australia has never boycotted a Commonwealth or Olympic Games, but we're simply being told too many lies. There are now too many question marks for our officials not to consider it," she was quoted as saying.

"I would hate to see another Munich but, with things getting worse and worse, I have grave concerns," she said.

Eleven Israeli athletes and coaches were killed by Palestinian militants at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

'Not a target'

The chief executive of the Australian Commonwealth Games Association (ACGA), Perry Crosswhite, told reporters in Melbourne: "I don't think Dawn's been to Delhi recently and I don't think she has the information we have.

"If she did I don't think she would have made the comments she did. We believe at this stage, it will be safe and it will be secure."

Mike Fennell in Delhi on 18 August 2010 Mr Fennell said work at all 17 competition venues was for all practical purposes complete

Mr Crosswhite added: "My personal view is that the Commonwealth Games is not going to be a target."

Delhi's police chief has said the Games will pass without a hitch.

Meanwhile, it emerged on Thursday that two Indian state-run firms have withdrawn their sponsorship of the Games because of "negative publicity".

The event has been overshadowed by allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

Earlier on Thursday Sonia Gandhi, the head of India's governing Congress party, said those found guilty of corruption in the Games would be punished.

Mrs Gandhi said the Games were "a matter of national pride" and must be held successfully.

Mr Fennell said reports of corruption were a matter of great concern for the Commonwealth Games Federation.

"This needs to be investigated thoroughly by Indian authorities and whatever needs to be done should be done," he said.

BBC website readers in India have been sending in their reaction to this story. Here is a selection of their comments.

Every country has security issues. Recently only New Delhi played host to so many international sporting events including Hockey World Cup, Asian Badminton Championship, ODI cricket match, Commonwealth Shooting Championship. The security arrangements for all those events were up to the mark. There was no security disruption during these events. Delhi is well prepared for the XIX Commonwealth Games. The security will be top notch. People like Dawn Fraser, who are given so much respect and to whom people look up to and will listen to, should not pass such comments without the full information. They should first see and then talk about such sensitive issues.

Mayank Agarwal, Delhi, India

Ms Fraser's remarks are very unfortunate and ill timed. New Delhi will host one of the best games so far. In the past as well Delhi has hosted very successful games like ASIAD 1982. There are a few delays but we still have time to complete these and I am sure by 15.09.2010 everything will be in place. By that time the monsoon will fade away and Delhi will have a green cover all over. Pollution levels will be lowest at that time of year and the weather will be just fine. At this moment New Delhi needs support and not criticism. Security will be better than expectations.

Dinesh Dhanwal, New Delhi

I think Ms Fraser is being reckless and making comments without reviewing the actual situation. Terrorist attacks can occur anywhere in the world and this does not mean that you boycott all sport. I think Ms Fraser should speak to the Australian cricketers who were in India for the IPL. I am sure all of them will vouch for the security provided to them. I think she should retract her statement and issue an apology for implying that Indians have lied to them.

Kaushal, Pune & India

Unfortunate comments from a well known personality who ought to know better than to shoot off her mouth like this without being in a position to have her facts completely right. Australians are in the danger of forgetting that there is a fine line between concern and prejudice. Fair minded people will not give them the benefit of doubt for too long

Anuraaog, New Delhi, India

With all respect to the former champion, the safety of Indians in Australia is in much more danger than what you can possibly think of for any foreigner in India. We would be ready to give our life if required to save the foreigner in our country unlike your country, which is neither acknowledging nor even feeling ashamed of the atrocities happening to non-whites in Australia on every single day.

Raja K7, Chennai, India

I understand Ms Fraser's anxiety. But the media has gone overboard in condemning the Games as a flop even before they have begun. You will be surprised at the kind of infrastructure that has come up and the facilities therein. As for the security, India is extra cautious. We are doing all we can and more and are not shying away from keeping our western allies abreast and in tune with our needs. Needless to say we are getting unprecedented support. Stop listening to what the Indian electronic media is saying. These are going to be a surprisingly good Games.

Ullas Sharma, Bangalore, India

I'm in India at the moment, passed through Delhi two weeks ago and am heading back there tomorrow. Whilst I have no doubt that security will be tight, unless there's a drastic improvement in infrastructure around the city, there will certainly be challenges to those attending to participate in or watch the games. Nonetheless, there is great pride in India about hosting the Games and now is the time for Commonwealth countries to rally around India to makes these games a success.

Andy Dunne, Agra, India

Her comments regarding terrorism and her comparison to the Munich games don't deserve a reply. However as an Indian citizen I am concerned about the readiness of New Delhi in hosting these games. Infrastructure seems to be in tatters as one rainfall brings this city to a complete halt. While everyone in charge of these games are painting a rosy picture, the realities on the ground seem quite the opposite. Once the traffic lanes demarcated for the games go into effect the already nightmarish situation will get worse. People of Delhi are in for some major inconveniences in the coming few months with the government promising to impose fines for violations but providing no alternatives. I just cannot imagine how they will be able to beautify all the venues in the next few weeks considering the state they are in at present. I wish I could sound more optimistic.

Rakesh, New Delhi

I think Ms Fraser's concerns are not completely bogus but at the same time I'd also say that Delhites would not leave any stone unturned to ensure a safe and successful Commonwealth Games this year. The corruption charges and delays have tainted India's image but

Ankit Khurana, New Delhi India

How can they say India is not safe? India has hosted so many sports events in the past successfully. If we talk about sports like cricket, Australian players are always keen to play in India for Indian clubs because they have realised that conditions are far better than what is portrayed. Yes there are delays in infrastructure preparation, but the government is working closely on it and will surely be completed before the games start.

Abhishek Dahiwale, Pune, India

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