Friday, September 14, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Question mark on Afro-Asian Games

New Delhi, September 13
The first Afro-Asian Games, scheduled to be held here in November, are being postponed but a final decision would be announced tomorrow after a meeting between the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, and the Sports Minister Ms Uma Bharti.

The Cabinet Committee on Security, chaired by Mr Vajpayee, today suggested postponement of the games keeping in mind the security scenario following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, official sources said here. Highly placed sources had earlier said the November 3 to 11 games were being postponed indefinitely and fresh dates would be announced as soon as the situation arising out of the attacks becomes clear.

Ms Bharti, who was out of town and returned this evening, and the Indian Olympic Association President, Mr Suresh Kalmadi, discussed the situation and insisted that a final word on the games was yet to come.

Both Mr Kalmadi and the IOA Secretary-General, Mr Randhir Singh, felt the games should not be postponed unless it became impossible to hold them.

Mr Randhir Singh, who is also the Secretary-General of the Olympic Council of Asia, told PTI that with 95 National Olympic Committees involved in the games, any postponement at such a late stage would be very difficult.

“We will review the situation arising out of the terrorist attacks in the USA in a meeting with the Prime Minister tomorrow. After taking into account all the security concerns, a decision on the Afro-Asian Games would be taken,” Ms Bharti said.

“I discussed the issue with (Indian Olympic Association President Suresh) Kalmadi, who is in touch with international sports bodies and we are keeping a watch on the developing situation,” she said.

Ms Kalmadi too said there was no final word on the games as yet and they could still be held as scheduled. “It would be very difficult to postpone the games now as all the arrangements have been made. All the participating countries are ready to for the games and it would be a big disappointment for everybody.

“But the new security angle arising out of the attacks in the USA would have to be considered.

“We can’t compromise with security,” he said.

Mr Kalmadi denied that security concerns were being used as an excuse to postpone the games which reportedly has not attracted many sponsors or top athletes till now. “If at all the games get postponed, it would be only because of security concerns,” he asserted.

The games have had a bumpy ride ever since they were conceived in 1982 following the successful organisation of the ninth Asian Games here. A novel idea, with competitions envisaged between two continents and not between individual countries, the Afro-Asian Games remained in a limbo for 18 years due to one reason or the other before it was finally decided to hold them in November this year.

Even earlier this year, Ms Bharti announced the postponement of the games saying there was not enough time to make the necessary preparations.

Mr Kalmadi, one of the prime movers behind the games, however got Mr Vajpayee to intervene and announce that the games would be held as scheduled. PTIBack

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