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Venue uncertain, claims minister
- A communication gap, insists IOA

New Delhi: With less than three months to go for the scheduled start of the inaugural Afro-Asian Games, the Indian government is undecided where they should be held.

The Games, touted by Indian sports officials as a contest between the best athletes from Asia and Africa, were fixed for October 24-November 1 in Hyderabad.

But Union sports minister Vikram Verma announced in parliament on Tuesday the government had not yet made a decision on whether they should be held outside New Delhi.

“Though there seems to be an agreement among most of those concerned about Hyderabad being the venue, the cabinet is yet to take a final decision about the change of venue from Delhi,” Verma said.

The Games, a pet project of Indian Olympic Association (IOA) chief Suresh Kalmadi, were originally scheduled to be held in New Delhi in 2001 but were put off twice due to security reasons.

Competitions are to be held in eight disciplines: athletics, boxing, football, hockey, shooting, swimming, tennis and weightlifting.

The minister’s surprise announcement in parliament caught IOA officials by surprise. Others doubted whether the Games, budgeted at $40 million, were worth it.

A senior IOA official, who did not want to be named, downplayed the sports minister’s comments and insisted the Games will be held in Hyderabad as scheduled.

“There has to be a communication error somewhere,” he said. “Everyone knows that Hyderabad has been chosen the venue and preparations are going on there at full swing.”

Doubts also exist over how much money the IOA can raise from corporate sponsors.

The uncertainty comes at a time when a delegation of the Commonwealth Games Federation is in New Delhi to evaluate the capital’s bid to host the 2010 competitions. The Canadian city of Hamilton is the only other contender.

New Delhi hosted the Asian Games twice in 1951 and 1982, but garnered only two votes when it bid a third time for the 2006 Games, which were eventually allotted to Doha, Qatar.

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