Pains, trains and automobiles: Soccer teams, others forced to improvise with travel plans

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Volcano forces soccer travel by road, rail

The English soccer clubs Liverpool and Fulham began their slow journeys to the Europa League semifinals by road and rail Tuesday, unable to fly directly to Madrid and Hamburg because of volcanic ash blowing across northern Europe.

Some flights took off in Europe following days of delays caused by the eruption of an Icelandic volcano.

The London Marathon, cricket and chess joined the list of events whose competitors are dealing with travel problems. Already ensnared in the chaos are boxing, tennis, motor sports, women’s soccer, diving and gymnastics.

Liverpool and Fulham set off a day early for games that begin Thursday. Fulham scrapped plans to take a private jet to Hamburg and will go by bus after traveling by train through the Channel Tunnel. The journey is expected to take 10 to 12 hours.

Because of air travel restrictions, Fulham added two more buses to take fans to the game to make five in total.

Bayern Munich will have a distinct advantage going into its Champions League semifinal against Lyon — the German host team was spared a long trek. Lyon took a two-day trip in several minivans to Munich.

Liverpool has the longer route to face Atletico Madrid, taking three trains to get to Bordeaux in southern France and flying to the Spanish capital. The players and team officials will make an overnight stop in Paris to break up the ride.

The second leg games are April 29 and the final is May 12 in Hamburg.

Three top Kenyans scheduled to run the London Marathon on Sunday aren’t sure how tired they’ll be if they get there.

Defending champion Sammy Wanjiru, Duncan Kibet and Emmanuel Mutai are dealing with flight cancellations. Marathon organizers had arranged a private jet to fly the Kenyans from Nairobi to Europe on Tuesday, but it was postponed a day. The jet was to fly to Spain, where the athletes are expected to board another jet to Britain.

Wanjiru, the defending champion, said he would prefer to have at least four days to prepare for Sunday, but that transit delays may cut that to three.

“I just hope the weather in London is good,” he said.

Cricket organizers are making plans to fly up to seven teams from Dubai to the World Twenty20 in the West Indies.

The International Cricket Council says the plan calls for Australia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, South Africa and Bangladesh to travel through Dubai on Sunday or Monday before being flown to the West Indies on a charter flight.

Ireland, Zimbabwe and West Indies are already in the Caribbean for the April 30 start of the tournament. New Zealand will fly there via the United States. ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said the ICC is still trying to sort out how to get England to the West Indies.

The chess world championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, may be affected. The match between defending champion Viswanathan Anand of India and Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria is Friday. But Anand has been stranded in Frankfurt since Saturday and has asked the World Chess Federation to postpone the match at least three days.

Anand said in an e-mail to The Associated Press it would take 28 hours to reach Sofia by train and he wouldn’t be “in a mental state to play immediately after traveling such a distance.”

Bulgarian Chess Federation president Stefan Sergiev said the opening ceremony could not be postponed because of commercial contracts.

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