Security Worries For Sports After Pakistan Attacks
LONDON (AP) -- With authorities in Pakistan still trying to find the gunmen who attacked Sri Lanka's cricket team, sports event organizers are thinking about how to protect future tournaments and competitions.
Already in Pakistan, a junior international tennis tournament and a squash event have been called off because of security concerns. Sports officials in south Asia and nearby regions, though, remain confident they will be able to ensure safety at their events.
The chief organizer of this month's SAIL Open golf tournament in India said the "sports fraternity will obviously be concerned about security" after Tuesday's attack in Lahore left six police guards dead and seven cricket players injured.
"No specific concerns have been cited by the golfers coming to our tournament, but we'll ensure that proper security arrangements are made for the players and also the spectators," event organizer Karan Dube said.
The attacks occurred as the Sri Lanka players and officials were heading to the stadium to play. It was the highest profile attack on a sports team since 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team were killed at the 1972 Munich Games.
International Cricket Council president David Morgan said the attacks in Pakistan had "completely changed the landscape" of sports.
The junior tennis event in Karachi for players between the ages of 13 and 18 was postponed by the International Tennis Federation. Luca Santilli, the ITF manager of junior tennis, said the attack on the Sri Lankan team was not the only factor in postponing the March 16-21 tournament.
"It was more the general atmosphere in the country, the general security in the country," Santilli said.
The Professional Squash Association had a tour event scheduled for April in Islamabad, but also chose to postpone it because of the attacks. "It is with deep regret that PSA are going to have to postpone the COAS International in Islamabad and going forward we will have to review the registration of any upcoming events in Pakistan," PSA chief executive Alex Gough said in a letter to members.
Besides cricket, field hockey is hugely popular in Pakistan, but no international event has been played in the country since the men's Champions Trophy tournament was switched to Malaysia in September 2007 because of security fears. Two of the six nations scheduled to play, Australia and Spain, refused to travel to Pakistan.
"We did everything we could to keep the tournament in Pakistan," International Hockey Federation spokesman Arjen Meijer said Wednesday. "Unfortunately we had to move it from Lahore to Kuala Lumpur because we could not guarantee security there."
In soccer, Pakistan has not played an international match on home soil since losing a 2010 World Cup qualifying match to Iraq 7-0 in Lahore in October 2007. The national team is training in Lahore this week to prepare for a friendly against Bangladesh to be played in the Nepalese capital Katmandu on Sunday. FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, said friendlies are the responsibility of the national associations.
Next month, Pakistan is scheduled to play in a four-team soccer tournament in Sri Lanka. The matches in Colombo against Taiwan, Brunei and Sri Lanka are qualifiers for a tournament in India next year, where a place in the 2011 Asian Cup is at stake.
The matches will be organized by the Asian Football Confederation.
The biggest upcoming event in the region is probably the 2010 Commonwealth Games, which will be held in New Delhi in October.
"We're fully geared up to provide adequate security to the athletes and spectators at the Commonwealth Games," said Indian Olympic Association secretary-general Randhir Singh, who is also a vice president of the Commonwealth Games organizing body. "New Delhi is going to make no compromise on security."
Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive Michael Hooper said his group was aware of its obligations to provide safety.
"Security plans at all major events are subject to continual review and are amended as appropriate to reflect the threat assessment at a particular time," Hooper said. "Everyone is committed to creating a safe and secure environment for the Commonwealth's athletes."
Dawn Fraser, an Australian Olympic gold medalist swimmer in the 1950s and 60s, called for the games to be canceled.
"We don't want another Munich," she told the Australian Daily Telegraph. "With an attack like that you wouldn't be sending any team over to that region at all."
Indian cricket board chief administrator Ratnakar Shetty didn't seem to think the attacks in neighboring Pakistan would affect the game in his country.
"Cricket teams touring India are always provided adequate security," Shetty said. "No fresh concerns have been raised by any of the foreign cricket boards who are expected to tour India in the forthcoming season."
India will next host an international cricket team in October, when Australia visits. Sri Lanka follows in November-December and South Africa is due in February-March.
The World Badminton Championships are scheduled for Hyderabad, India, from Aug. 8-13, but Badminton Association of India president V.K. Verma said the tournament would provide enough security to keep athletes safe.
"The Badminton World Federation has hired an international security consultancy, whose representatives visited Hyderabad last month," Verma said. "They met top police officials, including the police commissioner, and discussed security arrangements with the local security agencies. The security consultants have visited and assessed the venue as well as the team hotel. All directions of the security consultants will be complied with."
AP Sports Writers Graham Dunbar in Geneva and Sandeep Nakai in New Delhi contributed to this report.