New Zealand confident about Games security (Lead)

October 1st, 2010 - 4:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Wellington, Oct 1 (IANS) New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Murray McCully Friday said he is confident about security during the Delhi Commonwealth Games and asked Michael Hooper, a New Zealander who is the CEO of the Commonwealth Games Federation, to share blame for other problems related to the event.

“There are always some elements of risk in relation to terrorist activities but we don’t have any specific information that should be drawn to people’s attention at this point,” McCully was quoted as saying by The New Zealand Herald.

McCully was dubious about reports warning New Zealand supporters not to draw attention to themselves in case it made them a terrorist target.

“This (came from) an Australian journalist looking to get a headline… but I think it probably painted in a starker form than was necessary the need for people to be reasonably discreet and not overly draw attention to themselves.”

He said he was confident about security in New Delhi but anyone going there should check the foreign ministry. “I’ve got no doubt there were some raw nerves touched, but serious issues of safety and welfare were arising.”

McCully, who is also the sports minister, said Indian pride had been hurt by revelations of poor accommodation for athletes, but the damage could be repaired if the Games, starting Sunday, ran smoothly.

There had been too much finger-pointing at Indian officials, he said. Some of the blame lay with Games Federation chief executive Hooper, McCully added, responding to questions related to the remarks made by Hooper about organising the event.

Hooper has been at the centre of a blame game over shoddy conditions at the athletes’ village that at one time threatened to derail the Games. He has defended the federation, saying it had implored Indian officials at every opportunity to be ready for the event.

But McCully said Hooper was partly to blame.

“So we should be careful about simply asserting that Indian officials carry all the responsibility.

“He’s been based there to oversee those arrangements. I certainly think there’s going to be a sharing of responsibility, but this is not the time. Let them do their jobs and leave the serious questions for afterwards. But they should be asked,” McCully said.

Hooper reportedly had said that Delhi’s “population hazard” hampered the organisation of the Games, sparking protests in the Indian capital. CGF president Mike Fennell denied the remark was made.

Hooper also faced criticism for his luxurious lifestyle while staying in India to oversee the Games preparation. The cost, which include tax breaks of $600,000, a rented accommodation worth more than $36,000 monthly and a chauffeured limousine, was paid by the Games Organising Committee.

Thursday, New Zealand Commonwealth Games chef de mission Dave Currie also said that some teams are uncomfortable with the extent of security checks at Games venues.

According to Currie, concerns were raised by other countries at a chefs de mission meeting about how athletes and officials were finding the pat down, bag opening and waving of metal detector wands as they enter different areas of “the bubble”.

“(The checks) are thorough to the point where some of my colleagues are not comfortable,” Currie said.

The checks can tend to have a token feel about them, as if they are being done out of duty rather than for security purposes - but Currie is adamant they need to continue.

“Everybody is concerned about security, so the Indians are making sure nothing occurs on their watch.”

While Currie had praise for Indian efforts on the security front he was less effusive on allegations by Australia channel ABC’s current affairs show Media Watch that Channel Seven reporter Mike Duffy had produced a “shocking beat-up” in his recent story about taking bomb materials into the main stadium. Duffy is now suing the ABC show for defamation.

If proven true, Currie says it’s not helpful.

“In fact it’s unbelievably wicked. Especially at a time when athletes are nervous and concerned, saying ’should we come or not?’ and we are saying our security observations are good. Then a journalist runs that and it undermines all the things we are seeing. He needs a kick in the bum.”

Currie says it also might have impacted on athletes pulling out.

“We’ve only had Greg Henderson and Ellen Barry miss the Games at this stage but it’s unfortunate if that was part of their decision-making process, it’s potentially a fraud. But if he genuinely got it through then I guess it’s fair cop.

“From what I’m hearing he didn’t get into the main stadium. He got into a check point three miles down the road. That’s a very soft target.”

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