It was not a decision that was taken arbitrarily or in haste. It was expected. When Birmingham filled in for Durban as the 2022 Commonwealth Games host city, it chose to leave out shooting from its roster (for the time being at least). The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) was flummoxed. The grim picture, however, was painted much before Birmingham was chosen to host the 2022 CWG after Durban pulled out due to financial constraints last week. Top shooters had pointed this out to the sports ministry and the IOA. But the IOA, embroiled in its own political tussle for power ahead of the elections, had little time to pay heed to the ominous indications when Birmingham’s name was doing the rounds.
Birmingham has given unavailability of shooting ranges as the reason. Surprisingly though, it did not have any concern in hosting cycling events—a sport in which England excels—in an arena in London some 125 km away.India has been a traditional powerhouse in shooting. The sport made its debut in 1966 in Kingston and has been part of the Games ever since, Edinburgh in 1970 being the only exception. Out of the 438 medals that India won in the Commonwealth Games, shooting has fetched us 118. The breakup too (56G, 44S, 22B) is second only to Australia. So it’s a matter of huge concern for the country that relied on the sport to propel it to the top five or four on the medals tally. The IOA has officially lodged a complaint and requested the Commonwealth Games Federation but it may be too late. The new sports minister, a CWG gold medallist in shooting, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore too has made a request.
With Birmingham leaving out shooting, can other hosts cities be far behind? Will other Games, where India doesn’t have a strong influence, too follow suit? These are the questions IOA must address right now or else, like this time, it will be too late. All those who picked up the sport after Abhinav Bindra, Rathore or Gagan Narang will be left in the lurch. In the end, the sport in the country will suffer.