CHENNAI: With less than a week left and after selections for the Commonwealth Youth Games are over, it is understood that the government has refused to fund the teams. This, if Indian Olympic Association (IOA) officials are to be believed, is after the government had agreed in principle to send the teams. What seems interesting is that this comes within days of clearing teams that did not meet sports ministry criteria for the Asian Games.
This is the first time the newly-elected body of the IOA was sending athletes to a multi-discipline event. The teams were selected for four disciplines (aquatics, athletics, cycling and triathlon) and were supposed to leave for Trinidad and Tobago on August 1. The Games are to be held between August 4 and 11. The IOA is caught by surprise by the sports ministry's letter and IOA president PT Usha has sent a reply to the ministry, requesting it to reconsider its decision.
According to IOA, the sports ministry in April had given in-principle approval to the participation of Indian athletes at the Commonwealth Youth Games. At that time the letter mentioned 33 participants and also said that financial assistance will be provided as per the norms of the ministry and could be under scheme of assistance to national sports federations (NSFs). The IOA had named a 35-member team that included 24 athletes and 11 officials in four disciplines. The sports ministry, through a letter dated July 28 and addressed to the CEO-cum-joint secretary, conveyed its decision to approve the tour but without funding.
The IOA, in the reply, said that it would affect the morale of the young players and might deprive them of an essential growth opportunity. The budget too was not too much. It is understood that the IOA had quoted around `2.5 crores for the entire trip with the majority of the fund to be utilised in ticketing. Since they are going to Trinidad and Tobago, they are planning to take flights via Amsterdam and Mexico. Some of the payments including subsidised accommodation had already been settled and even ceremonial and other kitting too had been done.
Since part payment has already been done, cancellation could lead to hefty charges. Each discipline has equal representation for men and women. In aquatics, there are six swimmers (3 male and 3 female; two officials), eight in athletics (four male and four female; two officials), six in cycling (three male and three female; three officials) and four in triathlon (two male and two female; two officials). The Commonwealth Games Association has two representatives. The IOA felt this could be a setback for Indian sports.
India had hosted Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune in 2008 and had been participating in those Games. The Games are being held after a gap of almost six years. The IOA, though, would not allow the athletes to suffer. It is understood that the teams' expenditure will be borne by them. Earlier too there have been occasions when IOA had funded such competitions.