25 Sep 2010

NZOC confirms team still going to Delhi

11:15 am on 25 September 2010

The New Zealand Olympic Committee has confirmed it still intends to send a team to the Commonwealth Games in India but it will continue to review the situation daily.

The decision to participate follows days of concern over sub-standard accommodation for athletes at the Games Village in Delhi, security and infrastructure problems, and health worries due to an outbreak of dengue fever.

The NZOC on Friday was briefed on the problems by president Mike Stanley and secretary-general Barry Maister after they made a short visit to Delhi earlier this week.

India's Minister for Urban Development Jaipal Reddy has given a guarantee that the athletes' village will be ready in time. The Games are scheduled to begin on 3 October.

Mr Stanley told a news conference the Indian government has acknowledged the issues which prompted New Zealand team management to delay the arrival of athletes until Tuesday because they regard the accommodation as uninhabitable.

Mr Stanley says what they found in Delhi was inexcusable and unacceptable, but there has been a change in leadership and the NZOC is now hopeful things can be turned around.

"It's quite exceptional. I've been an athlete in Games, I've been an administrator associated with Games (but) I have never experienced these conditions before."

Regarding security concerns, he said: "Our government advisers have confirmed that, while there is risk in a general sense associated with India, there continues to be no direct threat to the Commonwealth Games.

"Their advice is that, while Indian security arrangements are different to those we would find in countries like New Zealand, there is no reason to assess that they would not be appropriate to the level of risk in India."

Cyclist withdraws

Mr Stanley says the NZOC's responsibility is to the athletes, and it takes that very seriously.

"We want to provide a safe and secure environment for them. We are working and taking every single step with our team on the ground in Delhi, with the support of the New Zealand Government, and with the cooperation of the organising committee to make sure that that is the case."

Cyclist Greg Henderson is the first New Zealand athlete to pull out of the Games, citing concerns around security and family reasons for his withdrawal.

While Mr Stanley says he is concerned Henderson's decision could have a domino-effect on other athletes, he is confident once the issues have been resolved the athletes who choose to go will be able to perform to their best.

Security tight

Mike Stanley says the security of athletes is unlikely to be compromised, as long as they stay within the security "bubble" of the event complexes.

He says there the Games village is heavily secured. "There (is) intensive searching both electronically and physically of anyone who goes in and outside of that village.

"The likelihood, we have been told by our security advisors, of someone being able to get anything in there that would compromise the safety of athletes is very remote."

Games organisers criticised

Mr Stanley says there is still the issue of the as-yet untested transport system and health and hygiene concerns at the Games Village, but these are being reviewed on a daily basis.

Mr Stanley says for the past 10 days, NZOC officials in Delhi have been working in "very, very trying conditions. And it is deeply regretful that the (Indian) organising committee hasn't responded effectively to that.

"And in saying that, there has to be some criticism levelled at the Commonwealth Games Federation as well for letting the situation develop."

The head of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Mike Hooper, insists that the problems will be resolved in time.

England, Scotland, Wales and Kenya have confirmed their teams will compete.