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September 30, 2010

India-Pakistan friendship blooms amid Games chaos

World

AFP
September 30, 2010

NEW DELHI: India has received support from an unlikely source as it races to finish preparations for the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi which start are due to start on Sunday.
Following recent concerns about unhygienic athlete accommodation, security and an epidemic of Dengue Fever, in part blamed on stagnant water around unfinished construction sites, sports administrators in neighbouring Pakistan are unwavering in their support for the troubled Games.
“When you host something like this, there will be issues but I’m confident it will be a success,” Lal Chand, Pakistan’s deputy chef-de-mission told Reuters by phone.
Politically, relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours, who have fought three wars, were frozen when militants attacked the Indian City of Mumbai in 2008, killing 166 people.
However that has not appeared to be the case for sport and Games Organising committee chief Suresh Kalmadi earlier this year thanked Pakistan for supporting India’s bid to host the October 3-14 event.
Even when complaints about dirty and unhygienic facilities at the Games Village was drawing flak from all corners, Pakistan hockey player Rehan Butt came out in support for the organisers.
“...I feel that the issue is blown out of proportion in this case. There were problems during the Manchester Games (in 2002) as well where we stayed in a university hostel,” Butt was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency.
Sports historian Boria Majumdar provided a perspective on what brings the bitter neighbours closer in sport.
“I’m not surprised, after all India and Pakistan have inherited the same culture. Historically, they have always put up a united stand in international sport,” said Majumdar. “Even when politicians were at loggerheads, sports bridged the gap,” he said.
In 1987, then Pakistan President Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq visited India for a cricket match, using the trip to help defuse tensions between the neighbours

over a massive Indian military exercise held near the border just months before. The same year, the two countries jointly hosted the cricket World Cup.
The tennis duo of Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul Qureshi were US Open men’s doubles finalists earlier this month. India’s foreign minister S M Krishna has invited his Pakistani counterpart to watch the Games, and said he hoped it could also give them a chance to move on their peace dialogue.

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