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Greek athletics victim of austerity, suspends domestic competition

Track and field federation warns competing at international events may be impossible.

Greece Olympics athletics suspendedEnlarge
Greece's Konstantinos Douvalidis rests on a hurdle after a false start by another runner at the IAAF World Indoor Athletics Championships in Istanbul on March 10, 2012. Due to deep funding cuts, Greece's athletics federation suspended domestic competitions and said international events are in jeopardy. (ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Greece, birthplace of the Olympics, suspended domestic track and field events today due to funding shortfalls as the country continues to grapple with financial crisis, The Associated Press reported.

While athletics officials said the country’s Olympic team would compete in England this summer, and the torch-lighting ceremony for the London Games will go ahead next month, it also warns the worst may not be over.

“The Board of Athletics Federation ... unanimously decided to suspend all domestic sporting activity until decisions to make unfair and selective cuts in funding are reviewed,” a statement from the Greek athletics federation (SEGAS) said.

Greek athletes told the AP facilities constructed for the 2008 Games are crumbling.

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Federation representatives called on immediate action from the government, Reuters reported.

The Greek Ministry of Culture has cut funding to athletics by 50 percent between 2008 and 2011, SEGAS president Vassilis Sevastis said.

“The federation calls on the state’s sports leadership, and particularly the Minister of Culture, Pavlos Geroulanos, to intervene in order to prevent the economic collapse and dissolution of the structure of Greek athletics,” the statement read, according to Reuters. “The federation will be ready to reconsider its position in the next few days for further escalation or de-escalation of decisions, depending on the progress that has been made concerning this major problem.”

Greece hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics, but lost the 2013 Mediterranean Games due to funding shortfalls, Reuters said.

The Greek athletics association is expected to meet again in two weeks, and said the government could continue funding cuts in 2012.

SEGAS has not paid coaches, suppliers or athletes in nearly a year, BBC reported.

The governing body has canceled all domestic competitions, and may review international events if the government doesn’t restore funding, BBC said.

The country relied on sponsors to pay for next month's ceremonial Olympic torch lighting, the AP said.

"We won't scale down on what we are going to do on Greek soil about the torch relay," HOC head Spyros Capralos told the AP late last month. "It's going all around the country ... to remind all our fellow countrymen of the importance of the torch, the importance of the Olympic Games, that everything started from here." 

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/120404/greek-athletics-victim-austerity-suspends-domestic-competition