Every time a big multi-sport event comes, the Indian Olympic Association manages to complicate things. It’s an uncanny knack that has manifested itself multiple times in the past. At the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Indian athletes were left waiting in Scotland for the kits to arrive. Two years later at the Rio Olympics, the kits given did not have ‘India’ written on them. Hasty course corrections were made after much embarrassment in both cases.
Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju has stated India’s ambition to become a sporting powerhouse, especially on the Olympic stage, on multiple occasions. His dreams include breaking into the top 10 on the medal tally at the 2028 Olympics. For this, our athletes need to be backed by professional management at every level. If the IOA doesn’t get its act together and introduce some professionalism into how it goes about things, our contingent will be left waiting for kits to arrive in 2028 as well.
Hardly the hallmark of an Olympic powerhouse. The South Asian Games might not be at the level of the Commonwealth or Olympic Games, but the IOA has still ensured that controversy preceded the contingent’s departure to Nepal. The kits for the SAG, which starts in Kathmandu on December 1, should ideally have been distributed well ahead of time. However, the IOA waited until November 16 to call tenders for the same and opened the submitted ones only at its executive committee meeting on November 23. The volleyball team, the first to leave for Kathmandu, collected its kits just hours before departure. Even sports ministry clearances were sought at the last minute. It is the same lackadaisical attitude we saw prior to Glasgow and Rio.
Curiously, none of the associations, except for the volleyball team which left on Wednesday, has named the athletes who will represent India at the Games. This, despite there being only a few days left for the opening ceremony. Such unprofessionalism from multiple quarters is baffling and worrying, especially with the Tokyo Olympic Games only a few months away.