Hyderabad: England has pulled out of the badminton world championships next week in Hyderabad after the tournament reportedly received a terrorist threat from a Pakistan-based Islamic militant group.
Badminton England announced its decision Sunday after citing media reports that the group Lashkar-e-Taiba is threatening to target the tournament, which begins Monday and is second only to the Olympics as the sport’s leading event.
“This was an incredibly tough decision and one we didn’t take lightly,” said chief executive Adrian Christy, who consulted with the British Foreign Office, British High Commission and local police. “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.
“The conclusion is that safety is of paramount importance and therefore, with great regret, the team will be returning home immediately.”
Police Commissioner Prabhakar Reddy said “there’s no real threat, only a perception.”
“The entire security plan is in place, we’re geared up for the event whether or not there was any threat,” he told a news conference, adding that no team had sought extra security.
Reddy said a complex operation had been set up to protect the players, accompanying them from their hotels to the venues.
“We’ve mobilized 1,000 policemen for a five-layer security cover for the players and the tournament,” he said.
Badminton Association of India president VK Verma said the event won’t be hurt by England’s withdrawal.
“I don’t think this is a setback to the tournament. The quality and intensity of the championship will not be affected,” Verma said. “There was never any threat to the tournament and this was conveyed to us by the police officials.”
Thomas Lund, the chief operating officer for Badminton’s governing body (BWF), said he had spent several hours with top police officials Saturday to get a security update but England had already made its decision by then.
“It is unfortunate that the English team made their decision before we had an opportunity to properly brief the team management,” Lund said. “We had intelligence information following a meeting with the police commissioner Saturday, which would have been important in the assessment of security to their team. I personally went to give the information to England’s team, but the decision had already been made.”
Lund said the BWF had been working for six months with organizers on a security plan and that no other team had complained.
“No other teams have come to us,” Lund said. “I believe all players are now aware of what we know (about security arrangements), and that should bring their comfort feeling to a higher level.”
China’s chief coach, Li Yong Bo, said he was “happy with what I’ve seen over the past three days.”
“Of course, we’re concerned about our security, but have seen that India’s done a wonderful job,” Li said.
In March, two of England’s top badminton players withdrew from the India Open in Hyderabad citing security concerns.
Security concerns over sports events in South Asia have been heightened since an attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team in March at Lahore, Pakistan.
Six policemen and a driver were killed in the ambush by heavily armed gunmen. Seven players, an assistant coach and a match official were injured in the attack.
In November, terror attacks in Mumbai, India, left 164 people dead and forced the cancellation in India of a Twenty20 cricket tournament involving provincial teams from five countries.