By Avril Ormsby
LONDON (Reuters) - The Africa Village, aimed at showcasing the continent's culture during the London Olympics as well as helping promote a potential bid to host the 2024 Games, has closed early.
The village in Kensington Gardens, a plush part of London near the Royal Albert Hall, was officially opened in a ceremony attended by Britain's Olympics minister Hugh Robertson last Saturday.
"Sadly, due to logistical problems Africa Village has had to close early," London and Partners, the city's official promotional body, said in a statement on Thursday.
It had worked with ANOCA - the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa - to set up the village, which cost 2.4 million pounds ($3.76 million) according to British media.
A message on the village's website said: "Sorry. This page is temporarily closed until further notice."
The village occupied a prime spot in central London, next to the Russian tent promoting the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
It was set up to host athletes and visitors during the Games and was the first time the African national Olympic Committees had opened a hospitality house together.
Stands promoted the cultural, artistic and sporting heritage of African nations, with modern and traditional music, fashion, dancing and photographic exhibitions.
However, it began to run into financial difficulties when only 15 of the 40 expected nations turned up, a source close to organizers said.
The news website "Inside the Games" said suppliers were owed 395,000 pounds.
A selection of African NOCs contacted by Reuters had not immediately replied.
It was not clear whether the village will reopen before the end of the Games on Sunday.
An IOC spokesman said it was premature to talk about who would be liable to pay any unpaid bills, if anyone.
"If it is true, it's very sad," he added.
Three African cities are being touted as possible bidders for the 2024 Olympics including Casablanca in Morocco, Durban in South Africa and Alexandria in Egypt. ($1 = 0.6386 British pounds)
(Reporting by Avril Ormsby)