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We will be glad to host SAF Games: Kerala minister

If Kerala does get to host the Games, then it would complete the double of hosting both National Games and the SAF Games.

The Indian Olympic Association cleared Kerala as host for the SAF Games

Thiruvananthapuram, May 21 (IANS): The ball is now in the Narendra Modi government's court after the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) cleared Kerala as host for the 12th South Asian Games, formerly known as the South Asian Federation (SAF) Games.

State Minister for Sports Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan told IANS that Kerala will be glad to host the Games.

"The very fact that Kerala has been recommended by IOA ahead of Telangana and Pune is simply because of the excellent conduct of the 35th National Games earlier this year. We are just waiting to hear the good news from the Centre," said Radhakrishnan.

If Kerala gets the nod, it would be a huge relief for the state government after a hostile media played a 'double game' just ahead of the recently held National Games here.

Virtually the entire media turned against the organisers -- the Kerala government -- after it was found that an event management company of a leading vernacular newspaper Malayala Manorama was handed over the contract of the Run Kerala Run, the promotional event of the National Games.

A major section of the media had turned hostile and found faults with everything which led to numerous allegations of corruption.

"The entire country was stunned by the stupendous success of the Run Kerala Run event and once the Games began, despite having close to 30,000 accredited officials, there was not a single complaint from any quarter, the way the Games was held. So we will be glad if we get the chance to play host to the 12th South Asian Games," said Radhakrishnan.

The Games would include around 2,500 athletes from the eight member countries -- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

"Unlike the National Games, which were held in seven districts, the South Asian Games can be held in two or maximum three districts in our state. The entire infrastructure is there and it includes world class facilities. We will do it in the best possible way," added Radhakrishnan.

At the last South Asian Games, held in Bangladesh, there were under 5,000 participants including athletes, staff, and support staff, with 23 events.

Incidentally, the FIFA and ICC approved the brand new stadium here where the opening and closing ceremonies of the National Games were held. It will be fully ready in the coming months to host international cricket and football matches.

Speaking to IANS, Jacob Punnoose, the chief executive of the National Games who determinedly faced all allegations of corruption, said all that needs to be done if the South Asian Games are held in Kerala is to prepare the food only.

"Fortunately the state-of-art Games Village that has 365 housing units in the capital district and which housed 5,000 athletes, coaches and officials with three-star facilities is still avauilable. Even the entire computer facilities are in situ and all that needs to happen is Kerala should be given the event," said Punnoose, a former director general of police.

The biggest relief for the Kerala government came early this month when a CBI perusal of the National Games conduct gave a clean chit to the organisers and now with this, it's going to be double joy for the Kerala government.

"What all was being propagated about the manner in which the National Games were being held and it came to a situation when some even said the 35th National Games would be postponed. Finally, everything went off smoothly and even the allegations of corruption also disappeared," said Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.

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