Financially-stricken Greece forced to suspend athletics

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Greek athletics has suspended all operations because of funding cuts, a month before the country hosts this year’s Olympic flame-lighting ceremony.

The governing board of the track and field federation made the decision after an emergency meeting. The suspension is indefinite and has the immediate effect of halting all domestic competitions.

Federation president Vassilis Sevastis had said the body was considering the suspension due to deep cuts in state funding in the financially-strapped country. He said coaching staff and suppliers had not been paid for months due to budget reductions.

Greece holds the Olympic flame-lighting ceremony in Ancient Olympia for the 2012 London Games.

The move immediately halts all domestic track and field competitions, including a meet on 12 May.

Although the suspension does not affect international competitions such as the 2012 London Olympics at the moment, the federation will meet again in two weeks and could toughen its stance if the government fails to respond. “We call on the sporting leadership to intervene and avert the disintegration of track and field,” the federation said.

Faced with the threat of bankruptcy since finding severe financial shortfalls in 2009, Greece has abruptly slashed funding for sports, healthcare and public services.