Page last updated at 19:56 GMT, Sunday, 9 August 2009 20:56 UK

Badminton team quits after threat

A guard at the World Badminton Championships
The World Badminton Championships are being held in Hyderabad

The England team has withdrawn from the World Badminton Championships in India because of "a specific terrorist threat" made by extremists.

The eight-strong squad pulled out of the tournament, which starts on Monday in Hyderabad, after reports of threats by Muslim extremists Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Badminton England said it was "an incredibly tough decision".

Badminton Scotland said its players will stay, and Welsh Badminton have three players at the tournament.

The England squad arrived home on Sunday night ahead of a news conference by players and officials at the National Badminton Centre in Milton Keynes on Monday.

Anne Smillie, chief executive of Badminton Scotland, said that Badminton England had "perhaps overreacted".

She said: "I don't necessarily think they've made the right decision.

"Certainly our Scottish players and our team manager who are in Hyderabad feel confident that the security is at its best. They have been well looked after and they have no intention of coming home."

Volatile environment

Badminton England chief executive Adrian Christy said: "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."

He said the team, which included Olympic silver medallist Nathan Robertson, had "carefully considered" information from local police authorities.

Our athletes were extremely well prepared for these championships but, at the end of the day, personal safety must take priority over performance
Ian Moss
Badminton England

And after taking advice from the Foreign Office and British High Commission, the conclusion made by Badminton England was "that safety is of paramount importance," he added.

Performance director Ian Moss said: "It is a disappointing outcome, especially after we had enjoyed a very good preparation at our holding camp in Doha, Qatar, last week.

"Our athletes were extremely well prepared for these championships but, at the end of the day, personal safety must take priority over performance.

Rahul Tandon
Rahul Tandon, BBC News, Calcutta

The decision by the England badminton team to pull out of the World Championships came as a surprise to many here. But it does raise questions about India's ability to host major sporting events.

There are plenty of them coming up. The first ever Cricket Champions League featuring teams from England, South Africa and New Zealand takes place in October. It was cancelled last year because of the attacks in Mumbai. Whilst India's largest ever sporting event the Commonwealth Games will be held in Delhi next year.

Security is a sensitive issue with the sporting authorities here. They say there was no specific threat against the championships in Hyderabad but they know that following the Mumbai attacks some sports stars are worried about coming to India. Those fears grew when the world's most lucrative cricket tournament, the IPL, was shifted from India to South Africa earlier this year.

The men who run Indian sport are now going to have to work hard to counter the growing perception that the world's biggest democracy is not a safe place for international sports stars.

"This was a unanimous squad decision and is not reflective of the efforts made by the organising committee to create the safest environment possible for all athletes."

Terror attacks

Lashkar-e-Taiba is Urdu for Soldiers of the Pure, and is a Pakistan-based organisation fighting against Indian control in Kashmir.

It has been blamed for several terrorist incidents in India including the October 2005 bomb attacks in Delhi, which saw 60 people killed, and is alleged to have played a part in the armed raid on the Indian parliament in December 2001.

It was also linked with the Mumbai terrorist attacks in November 2008, which killed at least 188 people.

Gerry Sutcliffe, the sport minister, insisted the decision had been that of Badminton England alone.

He added: "It's a decision that's not taken lightly, but you have to support them, because the players' security has to come first."

Ms Smillie said she understood that England was the only team to pull out of the tournament.

The Scots have two singles players in the tournament - Susan Hughes and Alistair Casey.

Welsh Badminton said its three Welsh players are still at the championships, but that the situation is being closely monitored.

The Foreign Office and Department for Culture, Media and Sport had earlier issued a statement saying: "The British High Commission had been in close contact with the Indian authorities which gave assurances that the highest level of security was in place around the Badminton World Championships."



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