Indian Olympic Association President Narinder Batra feels that there were a lot of challenges the players and the administrators faced due to the pandemic but now is the time to go and excel. He thinks this will be a good Olympics for India. Excerpts:
Postponement. Lockdown. Olympics. What were the main challenges?
This is my first Olympics. I took over in 2017. It was a bit difficult when the pandemic started. We had a difficult period when training and other things had to be cut short or compromised. But we had continuous talks with the sports ministry, the government of India and other stakeholders. From June-July things started getting back on track. As far as training of athletes was concerned, there were no compromises. All the National Sports Federations (NSFs), Sports Authority of India (SAI), Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) or Mission Olympic Cell... everybody stood by the athlete. They had everything they required. The only thing an athlete could say was missing was competitions. At the same time, I would say there would be a level-playing field for everyone. I don’t see athletes lacking in preparations. Now the best event is about to happen from July 23 and we are raring to go. I am confident things will go well for India.
You have been saying that India would come back with a record haul...
Yes, I had been saying this earlier but now I am not using the statement. I agree with the Prime Minister’s statement in Mann ki Baat where he said that we should not put pressure. I would also say that to all the athletes: ‘go and give your best’. You are brand ambassadors of the country and the prestige of the nation is in your hands. So go and give your best shots. I am sure they will come back with a lot of glory.
Without spectators, muted celebrations... that festivity mood will be missing.
Definitely, the mood will be missing. One has to understand that people have been going through difficult times. The purpose of the Olympics will be to shift the mind. Everybody likes to play in a full stadium with a lot of shouting and cheering. Whatever good or bad, the show must go on.
Romance in Indian hockey seems to be back. Do you think we have the best hockey teams?
There has been consistency in both teams. And they have maintained their world ranking. Though it depends on how you play on that particular day. But this team has shown consistency. And it is by far
the fittest Indian teams that will play at the Olympics.
Fitness level of athletes...
Fitness and dietary habits of Indian athletes are now changing. They know the value of a good diet. They also know the value of exercises and training. I think this will go into all levels where fitness and diet do matter and you will be getting good athletes. Those things that died down in the eighties are being rebuilt in the last few years. We will start seeing the results in 2024 and 2028.