The uncertainty over the venue of the Asian athletics championships is finally over with the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) saying on Thursday that the event will be held in Pune from July 3 to 7.
Confirming the decision to The Hindu through a text message, the AFI president, Adille J. Sumariwalla said, “Happy to inform you that the Asian championships will be held in Pune on the same dates.”
The AFI, in fact, has been knocking on many a door to save itself from the embarrassment of pulling out from its commitment to host the event, for the first time since 1989, ever since the Tamil Nadu Government backed out of its decision on February 21 this year to support the conduct of the championships in Chennai, citing political issues over the participation of athletes from Sri Lanka in the meet.
After that, the AFI approached the Jharkhand Government to have the championships in Ranchi.
But, with the State under President’s rule, the AFI proposal did not find approval. Further, when the issue was discussed at the AFI general body meeting in New Delhi last month, many delegates voiced their concern about having such a major event in Ranchi citing logistical problems, forcing Sumariwalla and his team to look for an alternate venue.
The AFI’s next stop was the Delhi Government which, having initially agreed to support the Federation, backed out later on realising that any flip-flop over the conduct of the championships would cost it heavily in the forthcoming polls to the State Assembly.
It was then, as a last-gasp effort, that the AFI approached the Maharashtra Government to have the event in Pune.
Citing the difficulties the AFI faced all along, its secretary-general C.K. Valson admitted that it certainly would have been embarrassing for the Federation to back out from its commitment to host the event in India.
“Of course, it would have been terribly shameful for the whole country had we been forced to back out of our commitment. But thankfully, all our worries are almost over as we have information now that the Maharashtra Chief Minister has cleared our proposal to have the championships in Pune.”
Valson said the AFI would be making a formal announcement in this regard only after receiving the relevant orders over the next two days, but has already informed the Asian Athletics Association confirming Pune as the venue of the five-day meet.
The AFI, compared to the comfortable budget of over Rs. 40 crore allotted by the Tamil Nadu Government, would be working with a scaled-down allotment of around Rs. 12.75 crore to be made by the Maharashtra Government for conducting the meet in Pune.
Valson said that further to this, the Maharashtra Government has also promised another Rs. four crore for sprucing up the stadium in Balewadi.
Valson said the track at the stadium, re-laid for the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games, was in good shape for the conduct of the Asian championships.
“We have no worries on that front and should be able to put up a good show of organising the event smoothly and successfully,” he said.
The 20th AAA Congress will also be held in Pune on July 1, two days prior to the championships.
The Indian squad for the event will be finalised based on the performance at the inter-State championships to be held in Chennai from June 4 to 7.