Chennai: The issue relating to the shifting the Champions Trophy from Lahore to another city in view of the security concerns expressed by participants continues to engage the attention of the International Hockey Federation.
If anything, Tuesday’s blast at Rawalpindi that killed over 25 people and injured a large number, has only accentuated the problem for the FIH.
For the moment, the FIH is maintaining its official position, sticking to the December 1-9 dates for the Lahore edition, despite the withdrawal of Olympic champion Australia earlier and South Korea on Wednesday.
The Rawalpindi blast and the predicted upheaval feared when the two former Prime Ministers return to the country this month are compelling the FIH to react quickly.
The FIH is keen to formulate a contingency plan in case it becomes necessary to shift the tournament out of Lahore. The desire expressed by India and Malaysia as a substitute are being examined at the moment.
Indicating that a line of thinking does exist in the FIH, Mr. Bob Davidzon, connected with the marketing committee, is reluctant to confirm whether a firm decision has been taken. Now in Chennai for the Asia Cup to finalise his work with the Indian Hockey Federation as the IOC Solidarity Project co-ordinator, Davidzon said neither of the two countries had made an official offer for the FIH to pursue the matter.
The first fortnight of September is crucial as the FIH will have to come out with a decisive move by that time. This is a must since the participants must be given adequate time to prepare their travel plans and accommodation facilities.
Though an offer had emerged from IHF at the spur of the moment when the idea of the shift was floated sometime ago, there are no corresponding moves to put in a firm offer. Whether the venue is Chandigarh or Chennai remains a moot question.
Mr. Davidzon is hugely impressed by the face-lift given to the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium and the spectator response here. He had been here in 1996 and 2005 when the Champions Trophy events were held here.
Malaysia staged the Champions Trophy in 1993, but is keen to have the event as part of the preparatory exercise to the Olympic qualifiers.
The question that surfaces inevitably is whether the new administration is ready for an event of this magnitude.
The dilemma confronting the FIH is understandable given the prestige and importance of the event, which carries the banner of a huge international sponsor — Samsung.
Considerable pressure will be enforced on the FIH as the entire process of working a tie up with a new host to begin again, relating to TV rights, ticketing, hotels and marketing areas, apart from VIP hospitality etc.
True, this is not the first time that FIH will be forced to shift the venue from Pakistan. It happened in 2001 when the Champions Trophy was moved to Rotterdam with little over a month left for staging the event. But the professionalism of the Dutch associations cannot be compared with the others to make adjustments and respond to the demands given the pulls and pressures.
The apprehensions of FIH about an Asian entity moving in decisively in the time frame given are justified. At the moment one thing is clear; the fate of the Champions Trophy 2007 hangs in the balance.