Sports: Indian anger at England's badminton pull-out

NEW DELHI, Aug 10, 2009 (AFP) - India on Monday reacted furiously to England's withdrawal from the world badminton championships in Hyderabad, insisting the country was safe one year before it hosts the Commonwealth Games.

The English pull-out over security fears came after Australian tennis players refused to play a Davis Cup tie in Chennai, and as the capital New Delhi prepares to welcome 71 nations for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

"This is unfortunate and an over-reaction," Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said after England backed out of the tournament over media reports of a threat by Islamic militants.

"The security arrangements in Hyderabad are good and the government of India is committed to ensure the complete security of all competitors and the championships," he said.

Kenichi Hayakawa (L) of Japan watches as teammate Kenta Kazuno plays a shot against Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas of India during the men's doubles first round badminton match of the World Badminton Championships at the Gachibowli Stadium in Hyderabad on August 10, 2009. The Japanese pair won 21-13, 23-21. AFP PHOTO

Among high-profile sporting events planned in India over the next two years are cricket and field hockey World Cups, international cricket tours and the annual Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 tournament.

The IPL was forced abroad earlier this year over concerns that Indian security forces would not be able to protect the matches at the same time as the country held month-long national elections.

The perceived risk of foreign sports stars being targeted in South Asia has increased dramatically since gunmen attacked the Sri Lanka cricket team in Lahore, Pakistan in March.

Six policemen and two civilians were killed and seven Sri Lankan squad members were injured in the assault on the team as they travelled to a game.

Deadly militant attacks on luxury hotels in Mumbai last November have also added to nervousness about teams travelling to India.

But England's withdrawal from the badminton championships was criticised by both the organisers and by other teams.

"I think perhaps they have over-reacted," Anne Smillie, chief executive of Badminton Scotland, told the BBC. "Our Scottish players and our team manager, who are in Hyderabad, feel confident that security is at its best."

The head of English badminton authorities said that they were not prepared to place players, coaches and staff in what could be "a very volatile environment".

India's top badminton star Saina Nehwal described the pull-out as "immature" and would have no impact on the tournament since England were "not serious contenders".

As the week-long event entered its second day on Tuesday, the sparse crowd was outnumbered by security guards inside and outside the Gachibowli stadium.

Each ticketholder was frisked and their bags were checked before they entered the venue.

Indian Olympic Association official Randhir Singh, one of the senior organisers of the Commonwealth Games, said he saw no threat of teams refusing to take part in the Games.

"We are in constant touch with other nations and they are satisfied by the assurances given by the government about security," he told local media.

Another Indian sports official asked if cricketers from England and Australia would refuse to play in the lucrative Twenty20 Champions League in October or the IPL next year.

"They will come crawling for the money," said the official, who did not want to be identified. "And if India is safe for cricket, it is safe for other sports too."

Source: AFP

Other news