British sports and culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Wednesday that his government cannot force his country's sportspersons to participate in October's Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
Hunt's comments come a day after Australia's world no.5 tennis player Samantha Stosur pulled out of the Games citing WTA commitments.
Reacting to Suresh Kalmadi, chairman of Commonwealth Games organising committee's plea to all British athletes to participate in the Oct 3-14 Games, Hunt said: "We don't have control over what our athletes feel to do. But we are going back with a strong message and we will encourage British athletes to come to the Commonwealth Games."
Hunt, however, was impressed with the arrangements. Commonwealth Games England (CGE) is sending a team of 560 athletes for the Commonwealth Games and the squad is bigger than the one for the 2006 Melbourne Games.
"We're impressed by the attention being paid to detail. Sixty-four days is not a long time, which makes this attention to detail more impressive," said Hunt, who is part of the delegation of visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Hunt along with Sebastian Coe, chairman of London Olympic Games organising committee, former athletes Steve Redgrave and Kelly Holmes, who is also the president of the CGE, were given a presentation by the organising committee on Delhi's preparedness for the Commonwealth Games.
"We have in our delegation three of the best British athletes in Lord Sebastian Coe, Sir Steve Redgrave and Dame Kelly Holmes, which goes to prove that we are serious about stronger sporting ties with India, ties that go beyond cricket," Hunt said.
Hunt said that the Commonwealth Games, will be a big stepping stone for India in bidding for bigger sporting events in future.
"The 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games were a big stepping stone for us for the 2012 Olympics. We hope that the 2010 Games in New Delhi will be a similar step for India. It is a big gap that India have not hosted the Olympic Games," he said.
Hunt also hoped that Commonwealth Games will leave a long lasting legacy for India.
"We're heavily involved in London 2012 Olympics and looking to leave a lasting sporting legacy. We hope that the Commonwealth Games 2010 also leave something to inspire the younger generation in India," he said.
Kalmadi promised the delegation that Delhi will stage a fantastic Commonwealth Games.
"We assure you all of a fantastic Commonwealth Games. We also promise you great opening and closing ceremonies. The Games will be a fantastic cultural extravaganza," Kalmadi said.
"Our infrastructure will be world class. The Dhyan Chand National Hockey Stadium is the best in the world, and this has been acknowledged by Leandro Negre, President of the International Hockey Federation. All the stadia are fantastic and we have a Games Village that's even better than that at the Beijing Olympics," Kalmadi said.