LONDON, Dec 30, 2009 (AFP) - England is seriously considering pulling out of next year's Commonwealth Games in India over fears its athletes will be victims of a terrorist attack, according to a report on Wednesday.
Police and security advisers fear the England team will be targeted by Pakistani militants and feel the safety of athletes cannot currently be guaranteed, the Daily Telegraph said, quoting unnamed sources.
It would be the first time that England has not competed in the 80-year history of the Games, to be held in New Delhi in October.
Responding to the report, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said it "has not advised any of the British teams" against competing in the Games.
"We are aware that the Commonwealth Games Federation had some concerns about preparations for the Games," it added in a statement Wednesday.
"We continue to work closely with the Indian authorities who are doing everything they can to ensure a safe and secure Games."
The report comes after the England badminton team pulled out of the world championships in India in August, saying security in the host city of Hyderabad was lax, and sparking criticism that they were overreacting.
Paul Stephenson, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, visited the Indian capital earlier this month to inspect the Games sites and was said to have voiced "serious concerns" about the security arrangements, the newspaper said.
"If you are an English athlete there is no way you are going to want to risk your life competing at the Games," a source was quoted as saying.
"We currently cannot see any way that England will be able to send a team to Delhi next year," the source added.
A spokeswoman for the English Commonwealth Games told the newspaper that the security situation was being monitored, and a final decision on whether to take part will be made next year.
"We take guidance from the Metropolitan Police. We can’t make a judgment until nearer the time. We have had briefings on security and we will decide when we know what the terror threat is going to be like," she said.
Concern of an attack on England's athletes apparently stems from Britain's role in the international conflict against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The perceived risk of foreign sports stars being targeted in South Asia has increased since gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, Pakistan, in March.
Six policemen and two civilians were killed and seven Sri Lankan squad members were wounded in the assault as the team travelled to a Test match.
Militant attacks in Mumbai last November that killed 166 people have also added to anxiety about teams travelling to India.
Concerns are also mounting in India over delays on the construction of venues for the Games, which involve 6,000 international athletes competing in 17 sports.