New Delhi: The latest controversy to hit the organisers of the Commonwealth Games is a claim that the security has been breached.
Australia's Channel 7 claims to have exposed major security lapses at the CWG venues in a sting operation. The channel claimed its reporter got by security checks at the main venue -- the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium -- with crude explosives. What's worse it went undetected.
The Delhi Police have completely rubbished the sting operation calling it bogus and incorrect. Rajan Bhagat, the police spokesperson, said: "This sting operation, which is being shown, is totally bogus and incorrect. There is no lockdown in Jawahar Lal Nehru stadium. When there will be a lockdown there, I can assure you, no one will be able to make an unauthorised entry. No one can enter during the games or the lockdown period. This is a deliberately planted story. Can't say anything else. This is a completely bogus and incorrect story. This is just being done to spread misinformation. Checkings are done only after the lockdowns."
Mike Duffy of Seven News was easily able to gain entry to the JLN Stadium with a huge suitcase full of crude explosives.
“At New Delhi's main Commonwealth Games stadium, there was a yellow Delhi Police security gate. Patrol cars drove in and I slipped through. While they were distracted by their own cars, I breezed in with an oversized suitcase. There were dozens of police, but nobody asks me what it’s for. And this was no ordinary piece of luggage,” said Duffy.
He procured the crude explosives out of a car boot at a car park north of Delhi. When Duffy asked the salesman if the explosives could flatten an entire building, he relied: "Absolutely."
It was a portable, purpose-built casing for a remote detonation kit. The unit is capable of setting off 200 explosions. "It will say shoot, ready to shoot or turn off," explained the salesman.
The detonation kit salesman further assured: “If I need to blow up this car, all I need further is a detonator and an explosive.”
The salesman was paid and Duffy left with the explosives. “We paid up and took the case. Ever since the Mumbai terrorist attacks Games organisers have been at pains to paint Delhi's security situation in a good light,” Duffy said.
Suresh Kalmadi, Chairman of India's Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, had assured security has been at the top of the agenda.
Lalit Bhanot, Secretary of the Organising Committee, too said: “Delhi Police have taken full control of it and they will assure that it will be a safe Games.”
Duffy sourced the explosives too. In India's mining areas, the blackmarket for explosives is rife. He reached a place that is just a day's drive back to the Commonwealth Games.
He was shown explosives, including ammonium nitrate. Duffy was even given a demonstration of an explosion in stone.
“That was actually quite frightening. You could actually feel the blast from here. He used about a tenth of what was in that bag. And we're a hundred metres away and you could physically feel it,” Duffy said after the explosion.
In Australia, these explosives and the devices that control them are under extremely tight regulation. But in this region in India alone 160 truckloads of explosives have gone missing from official records since May.
Clive Williams, former military intelligence officer, said: “I am a bit concerned about reports that maybe the venues haven't been secured yet, because that means someone could, for example, hide explosives and remotely detonate them.”
The Ministry of Home Affairs has reacted to the sting operation. A statement said: “Lockdown in the stadiums will be done only tomorrow. It hasn’t happened so far. Security cordon will take over stadium venues by tomorrow night.”
Home Secretary G K Pillai said: “There is no security breach. Stadium will be locked in today.”
But the man who carried out the sting operation -- Channel 7 correspondent Duffy -- says the response of the authorities is laughable.
Speaking to CNN-IBN on Wednesday morning over phone from Sydney, he said: “It is laughable that they are calling this sting bogus. You can see all the evidence. I am able to take a suitcase not only to the main gate, but also to the floor as the police did nothing. At no point were we stopped. We were there for 15 minutes or so and at not point were we stopped and walked around.”
“I read the Delhi Police statement and they said they did stop me. So as they claim there are CCTV cameras, I think they should show the evidence that we were stopped. There was a lot of police but doing very little. I have been to may events like this but I can tell you that it is out of the ordinary and worrying. My hope is that it encourages the Delhi Police to up their game when it comes to security,” Duffy said.
This comes as delegates are slamming the Games. Canadian officials say Games organisers are indifferent to problems they are raising.
Commonwealth Games Canada President Andrew Pipe said: "Personally, I'm very deeply disappointed with the reactions of the Indian government and the Organising Committee to this point."
"They have been glacial in responding to the concerns that have been raised by my colleagues and me for weeks, and indeed months, leading up to these Games. This would have been an opportunity for India to shine, instead I think it risks considerable national embarrassment unless some of these deficiencies can be addressed," he said.
The damage is already done. Athletes are already beginning to pull out. First it was discus world champion Dani Samuels from Australia who decided to skip the Games citing security fears. And now three top English athletes, including world triple jump champion Phillips Idowu, have cancelled their trip to India due to security fears.