Monday, February 22, 2010

India Will Step Up Security at Commonwealth Games

India’s plans for the 2010 Commonwealth Games include roof-top snipers, food tasters for the athletes and their families, and the closing of schools and courts to cut traffic, officials said Monday.

“We’re quite determined to provide a safe and secure games,” Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said at a press conference in New Delhi.

A bomb blast that killed 15 people in Pune this month has heightened concerns about security in India, which is scheduled to host several international sporting events, including the Commonwealth Games in October, in the coming months.

Mr. Pillai dismissed recent reports that the Commonwealth Games were being targeted particularly by terrorists. “We are aware” of these alleged threats, Mr. Pillai said, adding that they were “not credible.”

New Delhi is scheduled to host the field hockey World Cup, which will start Sunday, and an Indian Premier League cricket tournament in mid-March.

But it is the Commonwealth Games that are the greatest source of anxiety. The games will be by far the largest international sporting event ever in India, and officials want to prove that the country is capable of putting on a world-class show. About 100,000 spectators and thousands of athletes from 52 countries are expected.

The Commonwealth Games bring together teams in countries from Britain’s once-sprawling empire. So far, the run-up to the 2010 games has been marked by controversy, discord and missed construction deadlines.

On Monday, Mr. Pillai and several officials from the Home Ministry, the Ministry of Sports and Delhi’s police department detailed the stepped up security that they have planned for the Commonwealth Games. New Delhi’s plans include a 4.3-meter, or 14-foot, fence and grill around the main stadium, closed-circuit camera surveillance and a heavy presence of armed guards. In addition to a food taster, athletes and their families will protected by helicopter surveillance and snipers.

Officials have made “elaborate plans for the entire city,” the Delhi police commissioner, Y.S. Dadwal, said Monday, and they include vehicle checkpoints and stepped-up patrolling by the police.

Indian officials are working with security and intelligence experts from Australia, Britain and Canada to track terror threats ahead of the sporting events. The biggest challenge, Mr. Pillai said, is the “real lone wolf,” an unknown terrorist who acts without the support of a group.

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