Casting a security shadow over the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October next year, the Commonwealth Games chief of Australia Perry Crosswhite said in Sydney on Thursday that he could not guarantee the safety of his country's athletes.
Australia, a major sporting nation whose athletes will be among the top draws at the Delhi Games, had recently pulled out of a Davis Cup tie in Chennai and Crosswhite said athletes would have to decide for themselves whether they want to participate in the multi-discipline event.
"We have said to all the sports that the decision on whether athletes go or not is their decision," Crosswhite said.
"If some of them think it's not secure enough, they're going to make that decision. We can't guarantee anyone's safety. All we can say is we've checked it out and we think it's as safe and secure as it can be," he said.
The organisers of the Games have promised foolproof security measures in place for the October 3-14 Games following last November's terror attacks in Mumbai which left 172 people dead.
Crosswhite's reluctance to give a security assurance to the athletes comes barely three weeks after Commonwealth Games Federation chief Mike Fennell had made scathing remarks against the organisers for their tardy preparation.
Crosswhite was of the view that a clearer picture about Delhi's preparation for the Games would emerge after the CGF General Assembly in October.
"They'll probably get some more people on board, throw some more resources at it, get the security right, get the venues finished," he was quoted as saying by AFP.
"It will be a fantastic opening ceremony, while behind the scenes there will be a lot things that happen at the last minute.
"The sports will go ahead, the technical officials will make sure that works, the broadcasters will muddle through and somehow technology will catch up," Crosswhite said.
The Australian official, however, remained sceptical that the Delhi Games may not match the high standard set in the earlier editions of the event. "Everybody will go to it and have a pretty good time and go away and say they did it the Indian way and it was a success.
"But overall maybe it won't be as good as Manchester (2002) or Melbourne (2006)," he said.
Crosswhite's remarks are bound to create a flutter among the organisers in Delhi who have all along maintained that the Games would be held on schedule and all security aspects would be taken care of.
Fennell had sought an appointment with Indian Prime Minister to brief him about the delays and had hinted that the Games could be a "partial failure" if foreign experts were not taken on board immediately. PTI