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More worry over Delhi

Wednesday 22 September 2010 | Published in Regional

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As Team Cook Islands prepares to head to the Delhi Commonwealth Games early on Sunday, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has given his personal backing to any individual Kiwi athletes who decide to pull out of the games.

Three top British athletes yesterday announced they will not go to the Delhi Games amid widespread shock at the state of accommodation and concern over security.

Their move followed a declaration by Australia’s World Champion discus thrower Dani Samuels yesterday that she would not go. Samuels was the first athlete to officially pull out of the Games because of security concerns.

Key was briefed over the Delhi debacle last night and carried an updated briefing in to parliament this afternoon.

He again stressed that it was up to the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) to decide whether or not it sent a team.

“I would love to see the Games go ahead, but if they are to go ahead, from New Zealand’s perspective, the conditions have to be safe and sound for our people.”

Key said he would support any individual athletes who decided they did not want to go.

“I think in the end, they have to make their own decision on whether they feel comfortable or not with the risks involved.”

Government advice highlighted risks on both security and health issues.

“We’re trying to give our people the best assessment that we can,” Key said.

He would not put a percentage estimate on the likelihood a New Zealand team would attend the Games, which are due to start on October 3.

“Obviously there are lots of different pictures emerging and the British [athletes] pulling out is an interesting dynamic,” he said.

“I’m sure they [the NZOC] will compare notes with other countries and in due course make a decision they think is appropriate.

“We know that the New Zealanders talk to the Brits, to the Australians and to the Canadians. They’ve been sharing similar information so one would assume that they would often draw similar conclusions.”

Key said cancellation of the Delhi Games would damage the event’s long-term future.

“If the Commonwealth Games did not go ahead that would have significant implications for the future of the Commonwealth Games and that’s not something we’d like to see and it also wouldn’t be good for India.”

Team Cook Islands departs on Sunday morning for Auckland where they will spend a day before travelling direct to India.