To go or not to Delhi 2010 should be up to individuals
Watching Robert de Castella win the marathon at the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games is one of my favourite sporting memories. De Castella trailed two runners from Tanzania for most of the race, eventually powering home to win in the last 100 metres. It’s what the Commonwealth Games is all about.
During the Republic debate in 1999, one of the most frequently asked questions was if Australia became a Republic could we still attend the Commonwealth Games? The answer of course was yes, but it showed how much the Commonwealth Games is part of our rich sporting history and national identity.
In just nine days, 390 Australian athletes will join 7,000 athletes and officials from 71 nations around the world to write the newest chapter in Commonwealth Games history.
For many, these Games in New Delhi represent the culmination of years of training and tireless work, of 4am wake-ups and countless laps of pools and running tracks.
On the issue of whether the team should travel to the games, it is important to understand that the decision must be made by individuals themselves. The Government cannot tell people not to compete. It can’t stop people from travelling.
Even when the Fraser Government called on Australian athletes to boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, athletes still attended.
What the Australian Government can do, and is doing, is providing Australians with the best and most up-to-date information about the security environment in India so people can make informed decisions.
The Government’s travel advice urges Australians to “exercise a high degree of caution”. It says: “Australians in New Delhi should be aware that the Commonwealth Games will be held in a security environment where there is a high risk of terrorism”.
Our travel advice reflects the Government’s best assessment of the safety and security issues in India and I support the decision any athlete whether they decide to attend the games or not.
The Australian Government is of course aware of the health and security concerns people hold about the Games.
I share many of these concerns. As a Government we are working closely with officials from India and the Commonwealth Games Federation and the safety of Australians in India is our number one priority.
We encourage anyone going to the Games to register on smartraveller.gov.au for the most up to date travel advice.
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