Sunday, July 4, 2010

CWG athletes most vulnerable in transit

With less than 90 days left for the Commonwealth Games, a leading US-based strategic think tank has warned that athletes will be most vulnerable to terrorist attacks while in transit to and from the venues.

These experts cite the example of the Sri Lankan cricket team which was attacked by terrorists in Lahore in Pakistan on March 3, 2009 when the team was travelling by bus to the stadium. Providing security amid Delhi's chaotic traffic could prove difficult, they said.

"After the March 2009 attack on the Sri Lankans, the Indian authorities will try to secure the teams during transit, but securing travel routes is more difficult than securing hotels and venues -- especially with the heavy traffic in India.

"This means that the athletes will be slightly more vulnerable during transit than at their hotels or sporting venues. The athletes could also be vulnerable should they choose to leave the protective cordon around them," Vice- President of Tactical Intelligence, Stratfor, Scott Stewart said.

Possibly because of such fears the authorities in Delhi have already ordered markets, schools and colleges to remain shut during the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games to keep traffic on the roads to the minimum.

Besides, Stratfor said, anti-national elements may also eye malls, markets and other crowded places as 'soft targets' during the Games apart from venues and hotels.

"The Indian government has had a couple of years now to think about this event, plan for it and watch how security has been conducted at other high-profile events like the World Cup and Olympics.

"Given this tight security environment, it is possible that any militant group planning an attack would choose to go after soft targets including shopping malls, bars and clubs, or even crowds outside of the main venues waiting to enter the facility. So our assessment is that soft targets and crowds are more at risk than the athletes," he said.

Over 70 countries will participate in the mega sporting event scheduled here from October 3-14 this year. Delhi Police and Central security agencies are striving to ensure adequate security for the event, which is being hosted by the country for the first time.

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