South Asia

Delhi Games boycott call by Dawn Fraser rejected

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

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.

"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."

Image caption 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.

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