To shoot or not – That’s the question

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Kolkata: There are occasions when authorities in positions of power baffle you with actions that are bereft of sagacity. It may sound rude but the threat of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to not send the Indian contingent to the Birmingham Commonwealth Games (2022) as a reaction to the organisers’ decision to exclude shooting, smacks of apathy towards other sports. The IOA has also threatened to withdraw from hosting the Games in 2026. You are left looking for any judicious reason to support this high-handedness that completely undermines the potential of other sportspersons. Let me explain why.

Even at the cost of incurring animosity, exclusion of one sport should not lead to complete withdrawal especially from a prestigious event like the CWC. If we go by rules then there is no loophole in the games committee’s decision. It is well within its jurisdiction to choose from a list of optional disciplines that also includes shooting.

According to CWC rules, 16 disciplines are a must at the games and entry of the rest (optional sports) is left to the discretion of the hosts. The Birmingham committee has included archery, women’s cricket, para table tennis and beach volleyball which have been approved by the executive board of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF). According to reports, absence of infrastructure is the reason behind exclusion of shooting which has been part of the CWC since the Kingston Games in 1960 except at Edinburgh (1970).

In view of this, you cannot pillory the Birmingham Games committee for leaving out shooting. But the IOA seems firm on its threat and hasn’t shown any signs to soften the stance.

Though Union sports minister Kiren Rijiju has expressed confidence that the CWC members have taken their concern seriously, it remains to be seen how things unfold in the days to come. The CGF meanwhile issued a statement, “The CGF appreciates the concerns expressed by India about the non-inclusion of shooting as a competitive event at Birmingham 2022 and we are committed to working together for finding a solution to this.”

The recent meeting between CWC delegates (CGF head Louise Martin and CEO David Grevemberg) and IOA members hasn’t set the ball rolling as Narinder Batra, president, IOA is in no mood to budge. Interestingly, not just India, according to BBC, some 30,000 shooting fans have requested the CGF to have a re-look at the decision of leaving out shooting.

Though Union sports minister Kiren Rijiju has expressed confidence that the CWC members have taken their concern seriously, it remains to be seen how things unfold in the days to come. The CGF meanwhile issued a statement, “The CGF appreciates the concerns expressed by India about the non-inclusion of shooting as a competitive event at Birmingham 2022 and we are committed to working together for finding a solution to this.”

It is true that shooting has been a lucrative discipline for India at the CWC. The last games at Gold Coast had our shooters bagging 16 medals. But are non-shooters so incapable of winning laurels that earth crumbles if shooting does not make the cut in one edition of the games? The IOA’s stance is a blatant expression of lack or absence of trust and confidence in representatives of other disciplines. It also amounts to depriving the rest of an attempt to glory. It is sheer obstinacy that does not augur well for the future of sports in our country.

At the Gold Coast Games last year, India ranked third with 66 medals (including 16 in shooting). So, the majority have been bagged by our non-shooters. Indian cricketers have been at the receiving end for enjoying a demi-God status while other sporting personalities are relegated to the background. If ignoring our non-cricketing stars is not condoned, neither should be the obsession with one sport at the expense of several others in which our country has had commendable performances.

However, Olympic bronze-winner Gagan Narang doesn’t see any rationale behind the hue and cry over the removal of shooting. “I don’t see it as a setback, it’s not a negative thing. If you look at cricket, it’s not there in the Olympics, not even in the Commonwealth Games, but the sport is thriving on its own. Even squash, for that matter, that is also doing well on its own,” Narang was quoted by Sportstar.

Batra doesn’t endorse the word boycott though. He is keen on complete withdrawal. “I’m not in favour of the word boycott. In sports, you never use the word boycott. My fundamental principle is either we withdraw permanently or go and compete,” Batra was quoted in the media. According to him, CWC overall is a waste of money also questioning the standards of CWC.

Reactions in general have been of pique and disappointment. For example, shooter Anjum Modgil expressing her dismay, told IANS, “This issue has been going on for quite some time. It is not good because this is a very big event for Indian shooting. We have no choice but to go with (the CGF’s) decision. The NRAI (National Rifle Association of India) did whatever they could to prevent this but there is little one can do once the higher authorities have made their minds. They have their reasons which is why this decision has been made.”

However, Olympic bronze-winner Gagan Narang doesn’t see any rationale behind the hue and cry over the removal of shooting. “I don’t see it as a setback, it’s not a negative thing. If you look at cricket, it’s not there in the Olympics, not even in the Commonwealth Games, but the sport is thriving on its own. Even squash, for that matter, that is also doing well on its own,” Narang was quoted by Sportstar.

The executive committee meeting of the IOA on November 23 is crucial where the withdrawal will be discussed and debated. But the final call rests with the Union government. Hopefully, our powers that be would respect the sentiments of all sides before giving their verdict and that should be in favour of India’s participation at the Birmingham Games. Won’t that be a cogent one?

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