India-Pakistan Davis Cup tie postponed over security fears

Leading Pakistani tennis player Aisam Qureshi. (AFP)
Updated 22 August 2019

India-Pakistan Davis Cup tie postponed over security fears

  • The All India Tennis Association (AITA) had requested the game’s world body to either postpone or move the Asia/Oceania Group I tie scheduled in September out of Pakistan
  • Relations between the neighbors are badly strained after India revoked the special autonomy status of Kashmir, which the nuclear-armed rivals have fought two wars over

NEW DELHI: The upcoming Davis Cup tie between hosts Pakistan and India has been postponed amid security fears, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) said Thursday.
The All India Tennis Association (AITA) had requested the game’s world body to either postpone or move the Asia/Oceania Group I tie scheduled in September out of Pakistan following rising political tensions between the two nations.
Relations between the neighbors are badly strained after India revoked the special autonomy status of Kashmir, which the nuclear-armed rivals have fought two wars over since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.
The ITF, which was earlier satisfied with the security situation at the venue in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, said it was postponing the tie under “exceptional circumstance.”
“Following an in-depth security review of the current situation in Pakistan by independent expert security advisers, the Davis Cup Committee has taken the decision to postpone the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group I tie between Pakistan and India in Islamabad, due to be played on 14-15 September,” the ITF said in a statement.
“The Committee concluded that this is an exceptional circumstance while the first priority of the ITF is the safety and security of athletes, officials and spectators.”
The statement added: “The tie has been rescheduled for November, with the exact dates to be confirmed by the Committee no later than 9 September.
“The ITF will continue to monitor the situation in Pakistan and the Davis Cup Committee will re-convene to re-examine the security situation in advance of the tie.”
AITA secretary Hironmoy Chatterjee said the Indian team, led by Mahesh Bhupathi, was “very happy” with the decision.
“We are hoping that the situation will improve and settle down within two months and it will be conducive to go and play,” Chatterjee told AFP.
“As of now it was not right to go and play in Pakistan because of the political situation.”
Pakistan has downgraded diplomatic ties with India amid a military lockdown in Indian-administered Kashmir.
India cut bilateral cricket ties with Pakistan after deadly attacks in Mumbai in 2008 that authorities blamed on Pakistani militants, with just one limited-overs tour in 2012-13.
An Indian tennis team last played a Davis Cup tie in Pakistan in 1964, when they beat the hosts 4-0. Pakistan lost 3-2 when they played in Mumbai in 2006.
Until recently, Pakistan has been forced to host Davis Cup ties at neutral venues as teams refused to travel to the South Asian nation over security concerns.


World’s richest horse race Saudi Cup to ‘open doors’ for tourists to Saudi Arabia

Updated 2 min 51 sec ago

World’s richest horse race Saudi Cup to ‘open doors’ for tourists to Saudi Arabia

  • Race billed as the richest on the planet with prize fund of $20 million
  • Visa procedures for the event were also confirmed on Monday

LONDON: Next year’s Saudi Cup horse race in Riyadh will help open up Saudi Arabia to visitors from around the world, Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia chairman Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal said on Monday.

The race, billed as the richest on the planet with a prize fund of $20 million, will be run at the King Abdul Aziz racetrack in Riyadh on Feb. 29.

The race over a distance of nine furlongs (1,800 meters) on the dirt track will have a maximum field of 14 starters and will be free to enter and to participate in.

Prince Bandar told Arab News the race will allow visitors to the Kingdom an opportunity to enjoy everything the country has to offer.

“This event was initiated by the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, it has been two years in the making, and we were extremely encouraged by the position of the government,” he said.

“They have been very supportive in everything they can do to ensure it is a successful event, there is a definite political will to do so.”

Prince Bandar referred to an announcement earlier this month that Saudi Arabia would open its doors to tourists from around the world by the end of 2019.

“So that works for us very nicely,” he added.

Prince Bandar said while the prize money was obviously important in building the reputation of the event, it was not the sole reason for its hosting and that he hoped it would establish Saudi Arabia as a major racing nation on the global stage.

Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia's chairman Prince Bandar (C) with a host of UK trainers and jockey Frankie Dettori at the London launch of the Saudi Cup. (AN Photo/Daniel Fountain)

“It definitely falls in line with the kind of activities that are now opening up the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its people and culture to people from all over the world, so that they can come and experience the country first-hand and have the opportunity to see a part of the world that has not been visited as often as we would like.

“The introduction of the Saudi Cup as an international race is without doubt the most significant event in the history of horse racing in Saudi Arabia and it demonstrates our resolve to develop this great sport in the Kingdom and also our ambition to become a leading player on horse racing’s world stage,” he added.

During his address in central London Prince Bandar said: “We will be thrilled to welcome international competitors to these new races. I am especially pleased that we will be having turf racing in Riyadh for the first time, things are really beginning to take shape.”

The prince also said he was keen for women jockeys and trainers to get involved with the Saudi Cup, adding they would be “most welcome” to compete at the event, and that he hoped it would entice some of the world’s most promising female talent.

“Women have been very active in equestrianism as a whole in the Kingdom, it is quite normal in Saudi Arabia for them to compete at that level,” he said.

Also announced at the London launch were the meeting’s support races, which include a staying handicap race run over 3,000 meters, a middle-distance race over 2,100 meters, while the two races on the dirt track are over 1,200 meters and 1,600 meters.

Tom Ryan, Saudi Cup Race Director, said the races and the horses competing in them had been selected to offer the most competitive spectacle possible for the estimated 10,000-12,000 expected to be watching at the racetrack itself and global television audiences.

World-renowned jockey Frankie Dettori also spoke at the event and described his experiences of running horses on the King Abdul Aziz dirt track.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have been going there for a number of years, and the quality of the dirt track in Riyadh is second to none, probably the best I’ve ridden on. 

“I’ve ridden European horses on it, and they take to it really well, and the new turf track will give the day even more appeal. 

“I’m sure this is going to attract a lot of interest from around the world, I hope I’ll be there on the starting line come February 29.”

Visa procedures for the event were also confirmed on Monday, with the Saudi Cup following a similar system used by recent sporting events hosted in Saudi Arabia. Racegoers who buy a ticket for the Saudi Cup will automatically receive a visa to enter the Kingdom.

Prince Bandar said: “In Saudi Arabia, we’ve had experience with Formula E and other such events, whether it is in hospitality or entertainment and we have no problem with accommodation for those involved with the horses or who wish to attend the event.

“We will also be providing programs and packages for people who wish to tour Saudi Arabia, whether it is for the archaeology, for nature, or the seas, deserts or mountains — we have everything accounted for.”