Volcanic dust forces Birmingham gymnastics delay

The volcanic dust cloud that has caused transport chaos throughout northern Europe has forced the Birmingham organisers of the European gymnastics championships to postpone the start of their event next week by 24 hours.

The men’s events in the championships, being staged at the National Indoor Arena in central Birmingham, were due to begin next Wednesday, April 21, and run until Sunday, April 25. The women’s events are due to be staged from April 28 until May 2 and, as yet, remain unaffected by the volcanic eruption.

The decision was announced this afternoon, after discussions between British Gymnastics, the local organisers and UEG (European Gymnastics Union).

An official statement from the organisers said, “The UEG has made the decision today to delay the start of the men’s competition by one day to ensure that all participating teams and officials have the appropriate time to adjust their existing travel arrangements to arrive in Birmingham in time for appropriate general and podium training before competition.”

Airports in Britain and many in continental Europe have been closed since Thursday to avoid jet aircraft having their engines damaged by grit in a vast cloud of dust from a volcanic eruption at Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland.

Restrictions in Scotland and Northern Ireland are being lifted at 7pm on Friday, while airports in the rest of the UK remain ordered closed at least until 7am Saturday. Trains and ferry services have been overwhelmed with extra demand for transport.

Eruptions in Iceland continue, so that aviation authorities have advised that restrictions may continue until there is a significant change in wind direction or heavy rain to disperse the dust cloud.

“We have made a positive and immediate response to the airport closure crisis to ensure that the 2010 European Championships can proceed without detriment to the participating countries and their gymnasts,” Paul Garber, the UEG vice-president, said.

The gymnastics organisers have made some arrangements for the disruption, including an email helpline for accommodation enquiries, including from the media, though contacting Barbara Stephan at

Any tickets purchased for the championships on the days affected by the changes will be honoured and should be presented to the box office on arrival at the venue, while TV coverage remains unaffected.

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