England pull out of badminton worlds amid attack fears

Last Updated: Mon, Aug 10, 2009 05:21 hrs

Hyderabad: England pulled out of the badminton world championships in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad Sunday amid concerns about the team's security.

Badminton England said in a statement that the decision followed "concerns about the English team potentially being a target of attack in the event of a terrorist act."

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The team had already arrived in India for the championships, due to start Monday, but would be returning home immediately.

"The decision follows media reports of a specific Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist threat against the championships," the statement said.

"Following those reports, Badminton England felt the risk to the safety of the team was one they could not take."

Security for sports teams in the sub-continent has been in question following the ambush of the Sri Lanka cricket team bus in Lahore, Pakistan in March that killed seven Pakistanis and wounded six players.

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That incident triggered concerns sport could become a target for more attacks in the region and India remains nervous after militants killed 166 people in an attack on Mumbai last November.

England's cricket team had pulled out of their India tour following the Mumbai attacks before being persuaded to return and complete the series after an independent security assessment.

"This was an incredibly tough decision and one we didn't take lightly," Adrian Christy, chief executive, said in the statement on Badminton England's website.

"After the Olympic Games, this is the most prestigious championships in the world but we were not prepared to risk the safety of our players, coaches and staff in what we felt could have been a very volatile environment."


Christy said the federation had also taken advice from the British Foreign Office and High Commission in India.

"We have been in constant dialogue with them over the past couple of days," said Christy.

"The conclusion is that safety is of paramount importance and therefore, with great regret, the team will be returning home immediately."

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However, an Indian badminton federation official blamed the media for causing panic.

"They (England players) didn't want to go actually. They were called back by their government over security fears," Punnaiah Choudhary, Badminton Association of India (BAI) joint secretary, told Reuters.

"They were disappointed and so are we as organizers. A rumour (of the threat) was stretched by the media internationally."

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The decision comes a day after the country's home minister and local police chiefs had tried to allay concerns following reports the championships could be targeted by militants.

A Badminton World Federation official said England were the only team that would be leaving.

"No other team has withdrawn or indicated a decision to withdraw," S. Selvam, BWF media and communication manager, told Reuters.

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