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Britain to explain badminton pullout
London, Aug 10 (IANS):
Published on 10 Aug. 2009 11:52 PM IST
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Criticism grew Monday of England’s controversial decision to withdraw from the World Badminton Championships in Hyderabad, prompting a British minister to say he will explain the action to India. William Hague, the opposition Conservative party’s shadow foreign secretary and a senior British politician, criticised the pullout, saying: “Wherever possible we should err on the side of going ahead with normal life, in the face of terrorist threat.” Although the British Foreign Office stressed that it had not advised the team to drop out, Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe said he supported the decision. “You have to support them, because the players’ security has to come first,” Sutcliffe said. But the minister added that he would be speaking to the Indian authorities about the issue and Britain would do all it could to support India ahead of the Commonwealth Games next year in New Delhi. A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: “The decision to withdraw from the World Championships was entirely Badminton England’s. They took this decision based on their own assessment of the situation on the ground.” Embarrassingly for England’s badminton officials, the decision to pull out was also panned by British sporting authorities. Anne Smillie, chief executive of Badminton Scotland, said English players would have to live with the knowledge that they had pulled out of a major world event. “I don’t necessarily think they’ve made the right decision. I think perhaps they have over-reacted. Certainly our Scottish players and our team manager, who are in Hyderabad, feel confident that security is at its best,” she said. She added: “The impact it will have on the English players is that they will have to live with the knowledge that they’ve pulled out of a major world event and, of course, with that, they will lose valued ranking points.” Scotland has two players in the tournament and Wales has three. Reacting to the Scottish criticism, Badminton England Chief Executive Adrian Christy said: “I absolutely respect the decision of any nation to stay. We took a decision based on facts that were available to us at the time.” He said the team had received warning of a threat “not just generally to the tournament but to specific top stars”. “I would suspect, on the back of our decision, security has been strengthened, but that wasn’t there when we needed it.” When shown television footage of stringent security measures in Hyderabad, he told the BBC: “When we arrived on Friday we sought [security] assurance. “The level of security that we see now wasn’t available or not evident at the time. It was at the point that players’ mindsets changed.” The team flew back because they decided they “couldn’t win the medals” with that mindset. Elsewhere, Christy said: “Considering the level of concern that we had, security was very poor. After the players had experienced that, they felt they couldn’t put themselves back in the performance mindset. I would suspect, on the back of our decision, security has been strengthened, but that wasn’t there when we needed it.” The eight-strong England squad, which includes Olympic silver medallist Nathan Robertson, pulled out of the event after a newspaper reported threats by the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba. Thomas Lund of the Badminton World Federation said: “It’s unfortunate that the English team made their decision before we had had an opportunity to properly brief the team management.”

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