Sri Lanka's role as host in the balance
Friday 02 February 1996
Sri Lanka's role as co-hosts of the World Cup hung in the balance last night after the organisers said they are to review security arrangements and the International Council announced that it is to monitor the situation over the next two or three days, following Wednesday's bomb blast which ripped through the capital, Colombo, and left at least 72 dead and hundreds more seriously injured.
In a statement issued yesterday, the ICC chief executive, David Richards, said: "The explosion in Colombo... is obviously a matter of concern to all countries competing in the World Cup. I have spoken this morning to Mr Dalmiya, the convenor-secretary of Pilcom [the World Cup organising committee] who has given an assurance that an assessment of the position will be carried out over the next two to three days."
Already two of New Zealand's top rugby provinces, Otago and Auckland, have cancelled two exhibition matches which were due to be played in Colombo on 8 and 11 February. That has not deterred Leicestershire who are planning to prepare for their County Championship campaign with a nine-day tour against top Sri Lankan opposition next month. Their chief executive, Tony Norman, said: "Unless we get advice to the contrary the tour is still on. There has been trouble for some years now but most of that has been in the north and we will be avoiding that district."
Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs issued a warning to all its nationals to defer all non-essential travel. While it may be debatable as to how essential a one-day tournament held every four years may be when compared with this week's indiscriminate carnage in the country, Graham Halbish, chief executive of the Australian Board, did say last night: "I expect every player will attend the training camp in Brisbane early next week and we'll talk further there. But if any individual player feels that he is not able to make the tour, then that decision will be respected."
It has been suggested by one player that Australia may forfeit their World Cup opening match against Sri Lanka in the capital on 17 February. The pace bowler Craig McDermott, one of a number of players to have received a death threat from Sri Lanka following an ill-tempered Test series in Australia, added: "Maybe it puts all games in Colombo in jeopardy."
Zimbabwe and the West Indies are also concerned. A Zimbabwe spokesman said: "I am not sure that we would forfeit... The one alternative that comes to mind is to maybe ask for... a contingency plan for an alternative venue."
England do not have a match in Sri Lanka but the Test and County Board is staying in touch with the Foreign Office, which will also be advising the West Indies. The Sri Lankan Board insisted last night that everything was going ahead.
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