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CWG mess: Gillard leaves final decision on athletes

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard today announced extra officials will travel to Delhi for the Commonwealth Games and said it is ultimately for the athletes to decide if they want to attend the event or not.

world Updated: Sep 23, 2010 12:25 IST

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Thursday announced extra officials will travel to Delhi for the Commonwealth Games and said it is ultimately for the athletes to decide if they want to attend the event or not.

"We have also boosted the number of officials we have in New Delhi and we have others on standby," Gillard said, according to latest media reports.

Acknowledging that there was "widespread concern" about health and security of the contestants, Gillard said the new Sports Minister Mark Arbib would still attend the games.

Gillard said attending the Commonwealth Games was a matter for individuals as they considered the government's travel advisory.

"The decision on whether to attend the games is obviously a matter for individuals," she said, adding, "As the government we seek to provide people with the best possible travel advice."

"But I do remind Australians that for a considerable period of time our travel advice for people in relation to India has asked Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in India.

"Our travel advice has made clear that there is a high risk of terrorism in New Delhi and since 2000 there have been at least 14 major terrorist attacks in New Delhi," she said.

Gillard pointed out how she travelled to India in 2009 in her former capacity as deputy prime minister when the travel advisory said the area was unsafe.

"In a democracy, where people are free to make their own decisions, we don't tell people what to do, we give them the best possible information," she said.

The Commonwealth Games has been marred by construction delays and corruption charges and to make things worse, there was an attack on two Taiwanese tourist, while a footbridge collapsed in in J L Nehru stadiumon Tuesday, raising concerns among the touring athletes.

The October 3-14 Delhi mega-event has also seen many top athletes pulling out citing security fears and health hazards, including Triple Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt.