Hockey World Cup teams arrive amid heavy security (Round up)

February 22nd, 2010 - 11:27 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 22 (IANS) Australia, Pakistan and South Africa teams arrived here Monday for the World Cup hockey starting Feb 28 under a thick security cover.
The Australian hockey team was the first to reach New Delhi in the wee hours Monday followed by South Africa in the afternoon. The Pakistan team entered India through the Wagah Border and reached the capital in the evening. Spain and South Korea are expected to arrive late in the night.

New Zealand, who were cleared for participation by their federation Sunday, will arrive Tuesday. Their star striker Simon Childe, however, pulled out at the last minute, saying it will not be an “ideal environment” to play under such thick security cover.

The Pakistan World Cup hockey team rode into Delhi after a six-hour drive from the Wagah border. It is Pakistan’s first official sporting contact in India after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

The 18-man Pakistan squad, with an unprecedented security cover, was received and garlanded at the Ambedkar Bus Terminal by the Pakistani high commission and Hockey India (HI) officials before leaving for the team hotel in New Delhi.

“We have come here with the message of love and peace,” said team manager Asif Bajwa.

Bajwa, who is also the secretary of the Pakistan Hockey Federation, said the team was satisfied with the security arrangements.

“We were the first team to say that we are satisfied with the security arrangements provided by the Indian government,” he said.

“Terrorism is a global issue and it is not specific to India and Pakistan. India is a safe place for the World Cup,” Bajwa said.

Pakistani player Rehan Butt said his team was upbeat about their chances.

“We had good preparations and I’m hopeful about our chances in the World Cup,” Butt said.

HI secretary-general Narendra Batra said the Pakistanis are our special guests and they would be looked after as such.

“We welcome the Pakistan team and any team from that part of the subcontinent gets special treatment, and they have huge following here,” said Batra.

Security has been heightened at Le Meridian hotel where the players will be staying following terror group Al Qaeda’s warning to international athletes against participating in any sports events in India.

A tight vigil has also been mounted around the Metro stations in the vicinity.

At least a dozen policemen and armed security personnel stood at the gates of the hotel and allowed entry only after strict scrutiny. Several other security personnel were stationed around the area. The media is not allowed either the stadium or the team hotel though some correspondents managed to sneak in and have a word with some players before being asked to leave.

“There is an elaborate, fool-proof security arrangement in place for safety of the hockey teams who are here for the World Cup. All guests visiting the hotel are properly scrutinised before being allowed entry,” Joint Commissioner of Police (Security) S. Nityanandam told IANS.

The three-member support staff of the Canada team, including the coach, also arrived Monday.

“The whole team will be coming tomorrow. We are happy with the security. It’s a bit stifling though with so many security personnel around,” Canadian coach Alan Brahmst told IANS.

Australia also had a practise session at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in the evening.

Earlier, New Zealand player Childe pulled out of the tournament, and said: “It’s not an ideal environment to be trying to play your best hockey and to be performing for your country. I think that was the major issue that swayed me when I made up my mind.” Childe travelled with the 18-man squad to Western Australia for a series of build-up matches, but finally dropped out.

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