Greek funding cut halts athletics

Greek athletics has suspended all operations because of funding cuts, a month before the country holds the 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 May 12.

Although the suspension does not affect international competitions like 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 economic dead-end and the disintegration of track and field,” the federation said in a statement.

Faced with the threat of bankruptcy since finding severe financial shortfalls in 2009, Greece has abruptly slashed funding for sports, health care and public services. Since May 2010, the country has been surviving on billions in emergency loans from the International Monetary Fund and other countries that use the shared euro currency.

The debt problems that first emerged in Greece have fuelled the entire continent’s debt crisis and shaken confidence in the euro, used by 17 nations.

Greece has been operating under a technocratic-led government since the Socialist government fell last fall. The country is facing new elections in late April or early May, and has so far refused to take back any of its main austerity measures despite near-daily strikes and protests that often degenerate into riots.

Federation officials said its budget was cut by nearly a third in 2011 and by a similar amount in 2012.

Several high-profile athletes have complained, meanwhile, that training facilities created for the 2004 Athens Olympics have been poorly maintained due to funding cuts.

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