Aug. 9 — England’s badminton squad has pulled out of the Yonex-Sunrise BWF World Badminton Championships in India amid reports of a terrorist threat.
A specific threat from Pakistan-based militants Lashkar-e- Taiba had reportedly been made against the championships, due to start tomorrow in the southern city of Hyderabad, Badminton England said in a statement on its Web site today.
“This was an incredibly tough decision and one we didn’t take lightly,” the team’s Chief Executive Officer Adrian Christy said in the statement. The eight-strong team would be returning to the U.K. “immediately.”
India’s Home Ministry and the police chief of Hyderabad ruled out a terror threat to the event, V.K. Verma, president of the Badminton Association of India, said in a phone interview from Hyderabad.
“We had clarified our stand on the terror concerns to England yesterday too and we have acted as quickly as possible,” Verma said. “They have taken some media reports seriously.”
Forty-four other teams, including players from the U.S., Russia, France, China and Indonesia, have arrived and started practicing for the championships, Verma said. “No other country has pulled out.”
The decision to withdraw was made by entirely by Badminton England, the Foreign Office in London said in an e-mailed statement. “They took this decision based on their own assessment of the situation on the ground.” The Indian authorities had given assurances that “the highest level of security” was in place, the statement said.
“Security is our primary concern and there are already 480 security personnel guarding the stadium,” Punnaiah Choudary, joint secretary of the Badminton Association, said in a phone interview from Hyderabad. “There is no threat from any groups.”
There was no specific intelligence report about a “terror alert particularly for the badminton event,” Andhra Pradesh intelligence chief, K. Arvinda Rao, told the Press Trust of India. Hyderabad is the capital of Andhra Pradesh state.
Ian Moss, the England Performance Director, said withdrawing was a “unanimous squad decision and is not reflective of the efforts made by the organizing committee to create the safest environment possible for all athletes.”
U.K. Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe said he would be contacting the Indian authorities to discuss the security situation.
“I hope we can do something about it, because clearly we’ve got the Commonwealth Games in India next year, and we don’t want to see major sporting events affected in this way,” Sutcliffe told the BBC in an interview.
At least 42 people were killed on Aug. 25, 2007, after two bombs exploded at a restaurant and an open-air auditorium in Hyderabad. In May the same year, a bomb exploded during Friday afternoon prayers at a mosque, killing 11 people.
In March this year, terrorists killed five Pakistani policemen and injured six members of the Sri Lankan cricket team in a gun attack on the team’s bus in Lahore.