| Bhupathi changed his mind after getting a call from the Andhra CM
Calcutta: Mahesh Bhupathi, Prakash Amritraj and Rohan Bopanna will, after all, take part in the Afro-Asian Games to be held in Hyderabad from October 24-November 1. This was announced by Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Suresh Kalmadi, during a video-conference on Thursday.
The All India Tennis Association had earlier named a second-string team sans all top names.
Bhupathi’s decision meant that he would be skipping the Paris Masters Series meet, which could cost him and Max Mirnyi the year-ending No. 1 ranking.
“The CM (Chandrababu Naidu) himself called and requested me to play… I just couldn’t say no even if it affects our No. 1 chances. He has, after all, done so much for sport,” Bhupathi told The Telegraph from Madrid.
“Max and I will be playing St Petersburg and the Houston Masters meet… we’ll still have a chance, let’s see,” Bhupathi said.
Sydney Olympics bronze-medallist Karnam Malleswari may, however, miss the inaugural Afro-Asian Games. “She will be preparing for the world championships to qualify for Athens,” Kalmadi informed.
Andhra Pradesh chief minister Naidu, present at the video-conference which was conducted from Hyderabad with five cities including Calcutta hooked in, hoped the successful staging of the Games would pave the way for staging of mega multi-discipline events in the country — like the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and Olympics — in the future.
“We have 100 crore people and are still struggling to win medals at international meets. We want to create good environment and infrastructure. The Afro-Asian Games will help us in staging all major events which India have never got besides the Asian Games,” Naidu said.
Naidu, who recently survived an assassination attempt, said there was no law and order problem in his state. “There’s no security threat. All arrangements have been made to ensure the Games’ smooth functioning,” he said.
Kalmadi informed adequate procedures have also been put in place to check doping. Samples will be sent to the SAI laboratory and in case of an emergency, to Bangkok.
Naidu hoped the Rs 200-crore infrastructure will not go waste. “We have created excellent infrastructure and we will ensure that these are properly utilised.
“That is one of the reasons why we have entered into a public-private partnership with IMG who will take over its maintenance,” he said.
The music video for the opening and closing ceremonies was also released on Thursday.