New Delhi: After months of uncertainty and three cities refusing to become the hosts, the Asian Athletics Championships will finally be held in Pune from July 3-7.
Just a little over a month left for the prestigious event, Athletics Federation of India (AFI) today said that the Sports Complex at Balewadi in Pune will play the host.
"Pune will host the Asian Athletics Championships from July 3 to 7. It's the final decision and the Asian Athletics Association has given us the go ahead," AFI President Adille Sumariwala told PTI.
AFI Secretary General C K Valson said that the Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has signed the approval letter.
"We have been told officially that the letter of approval has been signed by the Maharashtra Chief Minister and the document is expected to reach us anytime. So, it's final that Pune will host the Asian Championships from July 3-7. We are starting the preparations," he said.
"The AAA has got back to us, saying it has informed the member countries about the venue and to make their travel preparations," he added.
This is the second time the continental showpiece event is being held in India after New Delhi hosted the Championships in 1989.
The AFI officials must be heaving a sigh of relief as they have found a host city at the last minute after three months of search. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister had on February 21 cancelled the event, which was scheduled to be held in Chennai, on the ground of the anti-Sinhalese sentiments prevailing at that time.
Ranchi and New Delhi were in the running and the respective state governments showed initial readiness only to refuse to host the Championships later on. Any delay on the part of the AFI officials might have seen the event being taken away from India as there was only a little over a month left for the start of the Championships.
Valson said that the infrastructure at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune was in good shape and the AFI would not need major refurbishment to hold the event.
"The Sports Complex has hosted the Commonwealth Youth Games and the infrastructure is in good shape. AFI officials have made an inspection a few days back. There won't be any need to lay new tracks, they are in fine shape," he said.
"Most of the equipment for the races and field events are available there and no need to take them there. The preparations will take 15 days at the most and we have now a month at our disposal," Valson said.
Sources associated with the search of host city said that AAA President and Pune Member of Parliament Suresh Kalmadi, who was jailed and later released in connection with the 2010 Commonwealth Games scandal, played a big role behind the scene.
Pune becoming the host city for the Asian Championships assumes significance as the election for the office bearers of the continental body will be held in Pune in the AAA Congress, a day before the start of the event and Kalmadi is expected to seek another term at the helm of affairs.
"AAA Congress is held at the venue of the Asian Athletics Championships and Pune becoming the host city is important for Kalmadi to get re-elected," a source said.