Mumbai, Jun 28: In spite of the very short notice available to prepare for a major meet, the 20th Asian Athletics Championships scheduled at Pune from July 3-7 will be among the best-organised ever, said Athletics Federation of India president Adille Sumariwalla here today.
"I have never seen an entire government machinery being pressed for an athletics meet like the Maharashtra government has done for this championship. This will be among the best-ever conducted Asian Championships," said the former ace sprinter at a media conference here in the presence of the state's sports minister Padmakar Walvi.
Maharashtra took up the challenge of hosting the event this month after Delhi and Jharkhand cried off for various reasons to fill up the slot left open by the withdrawal of the Tamil Nadu government from hosting it in Chennai due to the expected presence of Sri Lankan athletes.
"The Maharashtra government will spend Rs 18 crore on the championships. We have spruced up all the facilities. We have upgraded the facilities in the sports village (at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi) to five-star levels," said Walvi.
The state's principal secretary for sports, J S Saharia, said, "Our preparations are upto date."
The president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, Lamine Diack, is reaching Pune tomorrow, said Sumariwalla.
Sumariwalla also announced that a total of 578 athletes, including 150 from the host country, from 43 out of 45 member nations of the Asian Athletics Association will take part in the meet and the list included four world champions and 14 rpt 14 defending champions from the last meet in Kobe, Japan.
"This championship has assumed added stature and importance as the winners of the various events would gain direct entry into the Moscow World Championships starting on August 10 whether they reach the A or B qualifying mark or not," said the Olympian.
Among the top athletes who have entered are, Mutaz Essa Barshim, the young Qatari high jumper and new Asian record holder at 2.40m, former world champions Maryam Yusuf Jamal of Bahrain (women's 1500m), Yusuf Saad Kamel (Bahrain, men's 800m) and Rashid Ramzi (Bahrain, men's 1500m).