The Indian shooting fraternity and the Indian Olympic Association officials are perhaps rejoicing at the endorsement provided by Britain’s House of Lords to their proposal of hosting shooting and archery in India as part of the 2022 Commonwealth Games. This was after the Birmingham organising committee for CWG 2022 did not include the two disciplines in their official program.
Ever since it was clear that the Birmingham organising committee was reluctant to add shooting to the Games roster, the National Rifle Association of India and International Shooting Sports Federation had been trying to convince them to host the event in Bisley in Surrey, which also hosted the shooting events in the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games. They even proposed to bear the cost of hosting the event and argued that the venue was closer to Birmingham than the Velodrome on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, where track cycling will take place.
But once those options fell on deaf ears, the IOA threatened to boycott the Games if shooting wasn’t included. It’s another matter that they withdrew the threat soon after and needed little coaxing.
There is no doubt that shooting has been one of the most regular sports discipline in Commonwealth Games since 1966 with only the 1970 Games in Scotland giving it a miss. India’s desperation in having shooting in the Commonwealth Games is also understandable since the country’s shooters have topped the medal tally in that discipline in four of the last five editions.
But the way the Commonwealth Games are structured, shooting isn’t included in the 10 core sports that are mandatory in every edition and the blame has to fall on the world shooting body and to a large extend IOA for failing to get the sport nominated as a compulsory discipline.
Even NRAI president Raninder Singh has admitted the failure of the administrators but the solution he and IOA have suggested can lead to a bigger problem.
IOA has now proposed that India will host the Commonwealth Shooting and Archery competitions during the same period and has requested the CGF to consider the medals won in the two events be added to the overall medals tally. The CGF is expected to take a final decision on the same during their executive board on February 20 and 21 with full 71 members voting.
Is it the right move?
While the NRAI is willing to bear the Rs 10 crore (approximate) budget required for hosting the event apart for paying for the travel and stay of participants equal to the number participated in the last edition of the Games, the Union Sports Ministry will have to bear the cost for Archery.
First of all, hosting Archery along with shooting seems to be an afterthought since there was no pressure from World Archery or Archery Association of India to have the sports discipline in the Games. In fact, Archery has been part of the Games only twice: 1982 (Brisbane) and 2010 (New Delhi).
It’s quite possible that IOA officials would have thought that adding another sport in which India is a dominant force among Commonwealth nations would only give them a chance to bulge the medals count and thus have more bragging rights.
The other point could be that just pushing for one sport was already beginning to get them negative publicity.
But be it one sports discipline or two, IOA’s proposal to host these events in India and add them to the official medals tally is in a way an attempt to undermine the authority of the hosts to select the disciplines they want.
There is a reason why these Games are given to a particular country, more specifically to a particular city, with the organising committee given the freedom to select the optional sports depending on the local interest and the finances involved.
By hosting the two disciplines over 6000 kms from the actual host city, neither the players nor the spectators are going to get a feel of being part of the Games even if the organisers manage to replicate the branding and looks of the venues to the one in Birmingham.
It is also quite possible that even if the CGF executive committee approves IOA’s proposal, most nations won’t even send their top athletes to these events for the above mentioned reason.
But it seems that NRAI and IOA are more bothered about their domestic audience (read: players and state associations0, than the sanctity of the Games.
For all the success Indian shooting has had in the last few years, Commonwealth Games have provided NRAI and IOA with the highest success rate after the South Asian Games. With medal winners getting almost the same amount of prize money from the state and national government as Asian Games despite the competition level being inferior is another contributing factor. After all, the 16 shooting medallists from Gold Coast got over Rs 3 crore collectively in cash rewards from the union government while even their state governments honoured them with hefty amounts.
The success in these Games also helps the federation push for more funds from the Government for preparations and hence the desperation from NRAI and IOA.
It is quite possible that both IOA president Batra and NRAI’s Singh are targeting bigger roles on the world stage; and are, perhaps, using this opportunity to push their respective case as future leaders.
Whatever their reasons behind the move, the proposed move will only end up setting the wrong precedent and it will be interesting to see whether the CGF executive council shows the resolve to stick to their original decision or opens a Pandora’s box by giving in to the pressure from the IOA and their own political masters.