Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Tuesday said tournaments can start without spectators from August even as the Indian Olympic Association urged flexibility in calendars depending on the situation.
The minister conducted a virtual meeting with representatives of IOA and 15 national federations, including wrestling, hockey, boxing and shooting to discuss the way forward in terms of training of athletes, participation in national and international competitions and organising sporting events in India.
“After today’s meeting, the Sports Ministry will review all the ideas and work in tandem with federations to open up sports. I feel, from August onwards, we should be able to start some sporting events as well,” Rijiju said.
Given the uncertainty arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic, IOA president Narinder Batra pushed for flexibility with the annual calendars.
“The ACTC [Annual Competition and Training Calendar] has to be kept flexible this year so that decisions can be taken depending on the changing scenario,” Batra, who was present in the meeting, said.
Among the key points discussed in the meeting, it was suggested by the ministry that federations submit an interim ACTC to kick start training of Olympic bound athletes in a phased manner. The same could be reviewed later when the international competitions calendar are published by the respective international federations.
“We are in the first phase of unlock and as a country we are slowly adapting to the present situation, and therefore, the time is right to slowly open up sports, while following safety protocols,” Rijiju said.
“Since federations are best qualified to decide the way forward for each sport, the ministry would like to get ideas from federations. Their ideas will be the key in planning India’s post-Covid strategy in sports,” he added.
The minister urged all federations to speak to league managers and propose a few events that can be organised in each sport in the coming months.
“Given the situation, we have to be innovative about events. We may need to hold smaller events in stadias and not have spectators. But we can surely try and beam the sports on television channels and social media platforms.”
“The resumption of sporting events will boost the confidence of our athletes and also create an atmosphere of normalcy in these trying times. We can plan some events August onwards,” Rijiju added.
The meeting was attended by presidents and secretary generals of archery, athletics, badminton, boxing, cycling, fencing, football, hockey, judo, shooting, swimming, table tennis, weightlifting and wrestling.
Sports secretary Ravi Mittal, SAI’s director general Sandip Pradhan, IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta were also present in the meeting.