The Commonwealth Games is still up in the air after participating countries seek assurances over health and safety issues and Australia’s Games boss flew to Delhi for emergency talks with the PM Manmohan Singh.
Australian Sport Minister Mark Arbib has conceded it is possible the Australian team could still pull out of the Commonwealth Games if the situation in India deteriorates further.
Some Commonwealth nations were considering pulling out, with England saying the Games were on a “knife’s edge” due to problems with the athletes village.
Commonwealth Games Federation president Mike Fennell flew to Delhi on Wednesday seeking a crisis meeting with India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Meanwhile, team officials in England said they wanted assurances about the village facilities as the teams prepared to leave for Delhi.
The threat came as the ceiling at the weightlifting venue collapsed on Wednesday, a day after a pedestrian bridge under construction outside the main stadium collapsed, injuring 23 labourers.
“There have been reports about deficiencies in construction in some Games projects, and Australians should be aware that building standards in India may not be comparable to those in Australia,” the Department of Foreign affairs and Trade warned travellers on its website.
There are also increasing concerns about the possibility of terrorist attacks with the government on Wednesday evening upgrading the threat alert on its SmartTraveller website.
“We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in India at this time because of the high risk of terrorist activity by militant groups,” the website says.
And there has also been an outbreak of dengue fever in the Indian capital.
But while Senator Arbib said the decision about whether to go to the games remained with individual athletes, he has also warned that the situation could change.
“At the moment … the decision whether to go or not to go is a decision for athletes themselves. That is the way it is now, that’s the way it has been for any large event,” he told ABC Television.
“Obviously in terms of going forward things could change.”
Australia still committed
Australian Commonwealth Games Association chief Perry Crosswhite has said that abandoning the event had not been discussed by Australian officials.
The latest development comes after Australian discus world champion Dani Samuels on Tuesday became the first Australian athlete to pull out of next month’s competition due to security and health fears.
Senator Arbib said the government was continuing to monitor the security situation in Delhi.
Two Taiwanese tourists were injured in a shooting at the Jama Masjid mosque in New Delhi on Sunday.
Senator Arbib said any athlete or spectator travelling to India in whatever capacity should continue to check the travel advisories.
“We are urging Australians to exercise a great deal of care.”
“We are working very hard to ensure that our athletes are protected, that those travelling to the Games are protected.
The number one focus, the number one priority for the Australian government is of course the safety and security of Australians travelling overseas.”
Senator Arbib will travel to Delhi next week as the federal government’s official representative at the Games.