Hunter optimistic for Delhi 2010 as countdown gathers pace
TEAM England chief Craig Hunter insists the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games represent the gateway to Great Britain's golden era of sport, despite continuing safety fears in the Indian city.
STAYING POSITIVE: Team England chief remains positive about Delhi 2010 despite continued concerns Games will be ready
With exactly a year to go until the opening ceremony at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Hunter, who managed the England swimmers at the Manchester 2002 and Melbourne 2006 Games, is preparing for a reconnaissance trip to Delhi this month.
Earlier this year, Badminton England withdrew from the World Championships in Hyderabad, citing security fears amid terrorist threats, while the death toll in last November's attack in Mumbai reached 172.
Australian Commonwealth Games Association chief Perry Crosswhite admitted on Thursday he could not guarantee athlete's safety and would be letting them decide for themselves if they want to compete.
But Hunter remains optimistic and labeled next year's Games crucial for athletes hoping to compete at London 2012.
"Delhi is fundamental," he said. "There have been a lot of World Championships this year that performance directors and coaches have been focused on, but now people's attention is turning to Delhi.
"The Delhi Commonwealth Games will be an important stepping stone to London 2012 and to the golden era of sport that's coming up in the UK, with the 2014 Commonwealth Games following in Glasgow. Delhi will help athletes and teams to evaluate where they are on the road to 2012.
"For a number of sports Delhi will also represent the most important competition on next calendar's year, including for non-Olympic sports, like netball and lawn bowls.
"In the next 12 months athletes will be focused on qualifying for the team and then finalising their preparations for the Games, so when our athletes get there they will be ready to compete with distinction at the highest level."
Aside from the security factors, Delhi 2010 organisers have also come in for considerable criticism for allowing the Games to slip behind schedule as a result of red-tape and poor planning.
Commonwealth Games Federation Mike Fennell called for immediate changes to the operating structure on Friday, but Hunter is staying positive about his trip to Delhi later this month.
"Our recce will give us the opportunity to look at all of the venues and to get a perspective of everything that's happening," added Hunter.
"I'm sure the Games will be wonderful and that the competition fields of play will all be fantastic."