By Duncan Mackay at the Main Press Centre on the Olympic Park in London

Africa Village_outsideAugust 9 - A decision to close Africa Village because of unpaid bills is nothing to do with the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA), the continental governing body claimed today and threatened to take legal action against the French company responsible for managing it.

The Village, in Kensington Gardens, was hosting regular music concerts and African medallists were visiting to share their triumphs with fans.

But it closed yesterday when the company in charge of security withdrew its support as it was among several suppliers owed a total of £395,000 ($620,000/€500,000). 

ANOCA claimed it was because Pixcom, the French-company responsible for its management, had failed to pay its bills on time. 

"The closure, which is consequent on a dispute between a French enterprise and some English companies, has impacted our continent most adversely, especially as our only desire, when we initiated this project, was to exhibit Africa's rich cultural diversity to the English public and visitors from other countries," ANOCA said in a statement.

"We think that this closure was an arbitrary action, taken without even notifying ANOCA and those who had set up stands, or producing any official document issued by an English court or Administrative authorities.

"It goes without saying that ANOCA has demonstrated all necessary goodwill by making payments for transactions in which we were not at all involved and in doing our possible best to assist the English companies."

The Mar-Key group, which provided tents for the Village, said it had been forced to prevent access to them until it received payment.

Africa Village_and_PoliceThe Metropolitan Police were today guarding the entrance to Africa Village

Officers from the Metropolitan Police were guarding the front of the Village today.

"Significant promised funds have not been forthcoming and the company has no option but to use legal force as required to ensure the correct outcome for the company and its employees," said Mar-key chairman David Tabb.

Pixcom's chief executive, Alain Barbier, admitted that there were some outstanding debts but claimed that the companies awaiting payment had overreacted.

"Following a dispute settling the balance of bills due between some local suppliers of Africa Village this group of suppliers decided unilaterally, and after unacceptable haggling, to suspend its services," he said in a statement posted on Africa Village's website.

"This suspension has forced the closure of the site."

Barbier claimed that the amount of money owed was a relatively minor small sum compared to the overall budget of €3 million (£2.4 million/$3.7 million).

"The balance of the sums claimed a minor part of the budget," he said.

"This situation did not warrant such a measure excessive and serious consequences for African exhibitors, who were deserving of respect and consideration with four days left until the end of the event."

Both ANOCA and Pixcom are now threatening legal action, although against different parties.

"We wish to make it clear that ANOCA reserves the right to seek redress for damages caused to our public image," they said.

Barbier, meanwhile, threatened he would sue the English companies whose decision to withdraw their services led to the closure of the Village.

"Clearly this premature closure causes a real injury that will require appropriate action against those who have taken such a heavy responsibility to close the site," he said.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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August 2012: Exclusive - Africa Village in London closed amid claims of unpaid bills
October 2011: Kensington Gardens to host Africa House during London 2012