Pune to host Asian Championships

Pune to host Asian Championships

Pune will host the 20th Asian Athletics Championships from July 3-7, the Athletics Federation of India announced on Thursday, ending a long period of uncertainty that cast a cloud over the event.

Chennai was the original host of the event but the preparations were thrown into disarray when Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha backed out in February, saying the state won’t play host to Sri Lankan athletes in view of the alleged atrocities against Tamils in the island nation.

The AFI, caught in a quandary, decided not to let go the hosting rights and since then, it has been a frantic search for an alternative venue. Delhi came into the picture soon after but after much dithering, they too backed out. Having taken plenty of flak after the Commonwealth Games, the Delhi government wasn’t keen to take another risk and in such a scenario, there was speculation that the event might even be shifted out of India. 

Those doubts have been laid to rest by the announcement made on Thursday by AFI President Adille Sumariwala, but with little over a month remaining in the preparatory period, it will be a race against time for the AFI. 

“We have to work on a war-footing to get things ready,” admitted AFI secretary C K Valson. “But I am confident we will be ready on time and we will host a good event,” he said, and revealed that the intervention of Sports Minister Jitendra Singh had helped in finalising the latest venue.

“He was very keen that the event should not be taken away from the country and the ministry officials worked in tandem with the Maharashtra government to sort out the problem. They (the Maharashtra government) has laid out a budget of Rs 17 crore for the event,” Valson said.

Pune has all the facilities required to host the continental championships at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex but the accommodation and visa requirements for athletes from over 40 nations will pose a tough problem, with lack of time being a huge factor. “We will tackle these issues on time,” said Valson.

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