SA team for India despite terror alert

2010-02-22 00:00

AL-QAEDA threat or not, the South African men’s hockey team are participating in the Hockey World Cup in India, which starts next Sunday.

The team leave for New Delhi this week ahead of the World Cup finals, which pitches the 12 qualified countries into battle from February 28 until the title showdown on March 13.

Doubts as to whether the tournament would go ahead surfaced last week when news broke of a terrorist threat from an armed wing of Al-Qaeda, the Kashmir-based 313 Brigade.

Friday saw a top-level meeting in Delhi of officials from the participating countries, the Indian government and security apparatus, as well as the International Hockey Federation.

In the wake of the terrorist threat, security details were unveiled to embassy officials of the 12 countries.

Armed escorts will accompany the teams throughout their stay in New Delhi, while access to the Hockey World Cup hotel will be heavily restricted. The hotel, situated close to the president’s home, is in a high-security zone.

The hockey stadium will be under the control of the Delhi police and 64 CCTV cameras will be used to conduct surveillance.

A total of 2 000 Delhi police officers, including 400 special force commandos, have been assigned to the Hockey World Cup.

A fully equipped medical clinic will be situated at the stadium, and four hospitals nearby have been identified as event hospitals.

The police have stated that while there have been media reports and e-mails forwarded by radical terrorist organisations, threatening to disrupt the Hockey World Cup, the security provided for the tournament will be sufficient to counter any threat. The police added that they are confident of a successful hosting of the event, based on their track record with previous international events.

However, officials have expressed reservations about India being the venue for other sporting events coming up soon.

The Australian daily, the Age, yesterday quoted Bob Nicholls, private security boss of the Indian Premier League cricket tournament, as saying organisers will have to reconsider hosting the IPL in India this year if threats supersede safety strategies.

There have also been doubts expressed about the hosting of the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi later this year.

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