x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Harried security guards keep media at bay at World Cup

The Mumbai cricket stadium which is due to stage the final of the World Cup is locked down after failing to pass fire inspections.

Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium is pictured on Friday. The stadium, which is due to host three World Cup matches, including the final, has been put off limits to media after failing fire inspections. Vivek Prakash / Reuters
Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium is pictured on Friday. The stadium, which is due to host three World Cup matches, including the final, has been put off limits to media after failing fire inspections. Vivek Prakash / Reuters

Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium went into lockdown yesterday, just 24 hours after it was criticised by the city's fire chief for not meeting safety standards.

All unauthorised personnel were being ushered away by security guards, who were under orders not to allow any media to come within 75 metres of the stadium, which will host the World Cup final on April 2.

"We are under so much tension, every day something or other is happening," a uniformed guard told Reuters as he escorted journalists out of the stadium complex.

"Please go away. Our jobs are on the line. If any officer sees you, we will be in trouble."

A large digital clock in front of the Indian cricket board (BCCI) headquarters, which is housed in the same compound as the Wankhede, was counting down the minutes to India's opening World Cup match against Bangladesh in Dhaka yesterday.

There was no disguising the fact that time was fast running short too for Mumbai's cricket authorities to get their problems sorted before the venue hosts the first of its three World Cup matches on March 13.

Safety inspectors were unhappy that mandatory fire equipment, including water hydrants, no-smoking indicators, fire alarms and extinguishers were still not in place.

"They should have sorted this beforehand as you never want to leave these things so late," a Mumbai fire officer, who declined to reveal his name, told Reuters.

"It's never good to hear negative things about your city ... and we are still waiting for them to let us know when we can come back," he added.

All the negative publicity surrounding the imposing 33,000-seat concrete and steel structure, which rises out from the middle of one of Mumbai's most affluent areas, has not gone down well in the neighbourhood.

"After what happened here [when more than 150 people were killed in the 2008 Mumbai attacks], the authorities cannot allow any kind of safety or security lapses. It's really shameful," resident Mita Mithani said.