QUEEN Elizabeth's decision not to attend the Commonwealth Games in Delhi later this year is understandable although it has annoyed opinion in India. The Queen is now 84 years old although her age was not mentioned as a factor in her decision in the Buckingham House statement which referred to “the volume of engagements, coupled with other overseas commitments.” Among the engagements which will require her attention in the autumn is the visit of the Pope which will be sensitive and potentially troublesome.

The Queen has attended every Commonwealth Games except one since 1966, nor can she be faulted on her faithful attendance at Commonwealth Heads of Government gatherings since she came to the Throne. There has to come a time when the special pressures of overseas travel, including increasing security considerations, must limit her commitments and the decision over Delhi may be the first substantial recognition of that. It is unlikely that she will attend the next Games, wherever it is held, in four years time.

Prince Charles will be at the Delhi Games in his mother's place. More than 70 countries will be competing and very large attendances are expected. As it passes through a period of unfamiliar prosperity India has spent lavishly on the facilities for the Games as well as on a new airport terminal and an extension of the city's metro system. Queen Elizabeth will be missed but the time has come.