Lord's match in doubt as blasts leave sport with moral dilemma

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The Independent Online

The England and Wales Cricket Board will hold urgent discussions today with the MCC, the Metropolitan Police and other relevant organisations before deciding whether the second NatWest Challenge tie should go ahead.

Elsewhere, a reception this morning to mark the return of London's successful 2012 Olympic bid team has been cancelled. After arriving at Heathrow Airport, the British delegation was due to hold a celebratory press conference and then tour Olympic sites by helicopter, but those plans have been shelved. Tessa Jowell, the Olympics minister, said: "The plans that were laid out for the farewell and arrival have been cancelled. It would be completely inappropriate in view of this appalling tragedy."

Last night's race meeting at Epsom was also called off, but most of the rest of the British sporting programme over the next few days is due to go ahead. The Formula One British Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday at Silverstone, is almost certain to take place as will next week's Open golf championship at St Andrews in Scotland.

Sunday's cricket at Lord's may be in jeopardy but the first game of the three-match NatWest Challenge was played to a finish at Headingley in Leeds yesterday. When the cricketers took the field for the 10.45am start, early reports suggested that there had merely been power problems on the London Underground system. By the time the grim reality had emerged, the match was well under way in front of 20,000 spectators. In the circumstances, the ECB decided it was wiser to continue with the match.

However, there are both moral and logistical aspects to be considered before a decision can be taken on staging Sunday's match in north London, and the third and final tie scheduled for across the River Thames at The Oval on Tuesday.

The most pressing issues are of safety and transportation but should those be settled, the ECB and other bodies will still be faced with difficult decisions. After 9/11, most sporting events were cancelled or postponed for a few days in Europe and for a fortnight in the United States. A similar mood may prevail in the UK in the coming days but the counter-argument is that cancelling events is deferring to terrorism.

There are also, unavoidably in the modern sporting world, financial considerations for the ECB, the grand prix circuit and the Open championship. Such is the pressure on the sporting calendar, postponement may effectively mean cancellation, especially when it comes to Sunday's cricket international. Colin Gibson, the ECB's communications director, said: "The security and safety of players and spectators comes first. We will take all relevant direction from the appropriate authorities."

Gibson said that should the match be played, the ECB would consider " appropriate tributes and remembrances". He added: "We are aware of the situation and our thoughts are with the people involved and affected."

The MCC, whose executive committee will meet this morning, said it already had stringent security measures in place at Lord's, including the use of hand-held metal detectors and sniffer dogs. Similar precautions are likely at Silverstone, where security has been tightened since the 9/11 attacks in 2001, and the one-man track invasion at the track two years later.

The plethora of organisations involved in motor racing have been meeting but there is little anticipation of a postponement. Silverstone issued a statement to "reassure all visitors that the security of both spectators and participants is of paramount importance". It added: "Silverstone is confident that the [security] measures are adequate to ensure the safety of all attending."

Dan Leach, spokesman for the Northamptonshire track, said: " Unfortunately, post-9/11, security is a major issue at all big sporting events and you have to be prepared. It would be counter-productive to go into detail but at this stage the event is continuing as planned. Most people drive to the event so we are not expecting many problems with transport."

Last night's race meeting at Epsom was called off as the scale of fatalities in London became clear. Racing director Andrew Cooper said: "The decision was taken in view of the escalating situation in London. We feel it would be inappropriate to race." With the meeting due to be followed by an open-air concert by Ronan Keating, a crowd of about 10,000 had been expected. Today's meetings at Chepstow, Chester, Lingfield, Wolverhampton and York are scheduled to go ahead.

With a week to go before The Open begins at St Andrews, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club said it would consult with Fife Constabulary but expected to proceed as planned. Final qualifying, which is taking place nearby, should not be affected.

Two football-related events were also postponed yesterday. Arsenal were to host the "topping-out" ceremony at their new Emirates Stadium and Chelsea had intended to unveil new signing Asier del Horno and a new kit.

How sport is affected

TODAY

* Complete round of county cricket fixtures to go ahead

* All horse racing unaffected

* Scottish Open at Loch Lomond to continue

* British Grand Prix qualifying at Silverstone remains on

TOMORROW

* British trials for World Athletics Championships to take place in Manchester

* Horse racing unaffected

* Scottish Open at Loch Lomond to continue

* British GP qualifying still on

SUNDAY

* MCC to meet today to discuss whether Natwest Challenge match between England and Australia at Lord's will go ahead

* All horse racing still on

* Scottish Open at Loch Lomond to continue

* British GP still on

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