India is in the grip of the second wave of the coronavirus. New confirmed cases have risen to over a lakh and the seven-day moving average is also showing signs of an upward trajectory. Sports once again is facing its wrath. There are cases of Covid positives in teams and training camps; even officials are not being spared. Just when nationals were being organised or planned, Covid struck again. Scheduled domestic sporting events have been indefinitely postponed.
The Badminton Association of India pushed back all domestic ranking events to be held in the months of April and May. Archery and swimming nationals were postponed. Elsewhere, some of the country’s elite swimmers were forced out of water, at least until Monday, as the Karnataka government decided to close swimming pools. As it stands, the Indian Premier League (IPL) is going ahead but more than a dozen people associated with the tournament have tested positive for the virus in less than a week. Athletes staying in National Centres of Excellence in Patiala and Bengaluru have also tested positive. All this indicates that the pandemic could yet derail the Indian sporting ecosystem for a second year in a row. A lot of the National Sports Federation (NSFs) had to postpone or cancel events in 2020. This has had a disastrous effect on the age-group athletes. One year has already been lost and one just hopes this year too doesn’t get wasted.
There is also the lingering fear of what an uptick in new cases could mean for the Olympic probables. A few of them could test positive and at the very least be forced to quarantine for two weeks. With the Tokyo Games just three months away, they can ill afford any virus-enforced breaks. To prevent such a situation, the sports ministry and the NSFs should either initiate vaccinations for all Olympic-bound athletes or station them in bases outside India where the threat of the virus is low. Interestingly, some of the Olympic-bound athletes have already been vaccinated. With very little time left for the Games, one cannot afford to be lax.