Liquor stores have been closed down and alcoholic products taken off the shelves of food stores in the capital of Turkmenistan ahead of a major international athletic completion next month.

Merchants at several stores told The Associated Press on Saturday that authorities had ordered alcohol sales be halted until October, after the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games conclude. The competition in Ashgabat, the capital, takes place Sept. 17-27.

There has been no announcement from the government of a ban. The merchants did not give their names, reflecting concern about the authoritarian country's intolerance of criticism.

Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has made sports and physical fitness a top initiative and has launched a program to make the country tobacco-free by 2025.


Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this story.