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'We had nothing to do with Africa Village closure'

CLOSED: Africa Village

ONE AFRICAN EMBASSY has hit out at rumours that African nations' alleged failure to pay bills caused the early closure of Africa Village.

The Village, Kensington Gardens in London, was expected to remain open until August 12 but closed on Wednesday (AUG 8) amid reports that it owed as much as £395,000 in unpaid bills.

However, an August 10 statement from the Ethiopian Embassy in London rubbished those claims, stating that the closure resulted from a dispute between the organiser and the contractors.

African countries have also been hurt by the closure after investing thousands of pounds, the embassy said.

The statement, sent by email, said: "Some press reports have erroneously implied that the Village was closed because African countries have not paid the bills.

"In fact, African countries have suffered the consequences of this dispute and the result is many African countries have spent tens of thousands of pounds flying in cultural troupes and innumerable related costs, funds that were spent in good faith and which have now gone to waste.

"This is in addition to payment for the stands at the Village and loss of revenue and advertising promotion which has been forfeited since the decision was taken to close the venue on Wednesday morning."

The Embassy said the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) is looking into what happened.

Ethiopian officials also said they have now changed the venue for Ethiopia Day, which is being held tomorrow (AUG 11).

The event will now be held at the Ethiopian Embassy, 17 Princes Gate London SW7 1PZ from 2pm to 6pm.

Africa Village was designed to host 53 African national Olympic Committees in one specially dedicated house.

Laurent Bagnis, Africa Village's communications director, confirmed the closure and told The BBC yesterday (AUG 9) it was due to debt.

A statement on the village's website also read: "Africa Village temporarily closed until further notice. Sorry."

The centre has received 80,000 visitors since it opened on 28 July, Bagnis said.

Since opening, it has hosted regular music concerts and African medallists were also visiting to share their triumphs with fans, organisers claimed.

The aim of the centre was to welcome African sports leaders, the athletes and their sponsors.

It also aimed to help a wider audience discover the cultural and artistic diversity of the African continent through an exhibition area and a restaurant.

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