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India must act promptly to restore hosting rights of global sporting events

India must act promptly to restore hosting rights of global sporting events

Suhrid Barua

Published: 8 Jun 2019 7:55 AM GMT
There is a great deal of buzz and excitement across the country’s sports fraternity over Kiren Rijiju taking charge as the new Sports Minister. For a country that is striving to be a ‘serious’ sporting nation, the new Sports Minister will surely have massive aspirations to fulfil. And when there are aspirations at play challenges are bound to be there.

Without a shadow of doubt, Rijiju’s first task will be to ensure the International Olympic Committee (IOC) lifts the ban on hosting major sporting events in the country.

The IOC earlier this year (February 2019 to be precise) banned India from hosting global sporting events and asked all international sports federation not to award
‘hosting rights’
to the country after India had denied visas to two Pakistani shooters, who were selected to play in the ISSF World Cup in New Delhi – an event where a lot was at stake (the event had Olympic quota places up for grabs). The IOC was categorical that the denial of visas to two Pakistani shooters was against the principles of the Olympic Charter and made it amply clear that the ban won’t be lifted unless the Indian government gives written guarantees that going forward no athletes would be denied visas to global sporting events held in the country. It is easy to understand that India acted with a tinge of emotion as the denial of visas to the two Pakistani shooters was close on the heels of the deadly
terror attack. Emotion or no emotion, the IOC was far from giving this incident a ‘royal ignore’ as they clearly wanted to set a precedent so that no host nation cannot even contemplate such a course of action during a global sporting event. The IOC on its part, sent out its message loud and clear – no host nation of a global sporting event can deny visas to athletes. Now, why this ban could mean so much ‘damage’ for Indian sports? Well, the non-hosting of major sporting events in the country is a dampener simply because it deprives our athletes of ‘performing’ in front of their home crowd not to speak of the fast-paced sporting infrastructure upgradation that happens whenever the country wins the hosting rights of a big-ticket international sporting event. One cannot deny the fact that India has earned a good reputation for hosting global sporting events. The country has hosted a slew of global sporting events over the last few years – the most prominent being 2017 FIFA Under-17 World Cup (held across six cities - New Delhi, Mumbai, Margao, Kochi, Guwahati and Kolkata), 2018 AIBA World Women’s Boxing Championship in New Delhi, 2018 FIH Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneshwar, 2016-17 Men's FIH Hockey World League Final in Bhubaneshwar, 2016 Junior Hockey World Cup in Lucknow and 2014-15 Men's FIH Hockey World League Final in Raipur.
The AIBA World Women’s Boxing Championship was held in New Delhi last year. Of course, the IOC’s ban had its ramifications with the United World Wrestling (UWW) shifting the Asian Junior Wrestling Championship that was slated to be held in July, out of India to Thailand. Fortunately, the FIH Men’s Hockey Series Finals somehow stayed in India apparently because IOA President Narinder Batra, who is also the FIH President, did his best to ensure the event was not shifted out of India. But what will be the fate of the upcoming international events for which India have already won the hosting rights such as the Commonwealth Table Tennis Championship that is slated to be in Odisha in July this year, 2020 Combined Shooting World Cup (rifle/pistol/shotgun) and the 2021 AIBA World Men’s Boxing Championship. Clearly, the Sports Ministry and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) must promptly hammer out a roadmap on how to wriggle out of this situation (getting the IOC ban lifted). India is bidding (via the All India Football Federation) for the FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup in 2020 as well as proposed bids for 2026 Youth Olympics, 2020 Asian Games and 2032 Summer Olympics. Indian sports get a ‘big push’ from hosting global events and this should be a ‘big enough reason’ for the government or the Sports Ministry to furnish a written guarantee that no athletes would be denied visas in future global events held in India. There shouldn’t be any egos at play as issuing a guarantee to the IOC is not an apology we have to be embarrassed about – we must not lose sight of the fact that the larger well-being of Indian sports is far bigger than anything else.
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