CHENNAI: The visa denial to a three-member Pakistan contingent for the shooting World Cup in New Delhi following the Pulwama terror attacks last week has led to immediate ‘sanctions’. For starters, the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF), acting on instructions given to them by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), has withdrawn all 16 Olympic quota places that were originally on offer in the meet beginning from Saturday.
The IOC was forced to act in this manner as ‘the denial of a visa is against the non-discrimination principle of the Olympic Charter. The Olympic Charter must apply for all Olympic Qualifying competitions’. The decision to withdraw quota places was conveyed in a press conference by ISSF president Vladimir Lisin. “IOC inform us that this World Cup not be included from (sic) competition for Olympic quotas,” said Lisin. “In this case, the quotas will be distributed across other World Cups. We will have to follow the IOC decision as we are members of the Olympic family.” The IOC is strict about following the Charter. In 2015, they revoked the Olympic qualifying status of a shooting meet in Kuwait after the country refused to give visa to an Israeli official.
However, there has been hectic lobbying by the Indian side to try and get back the competition’s original status. Union sports minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore even met Lisin on Thursday evening to find a solution. Meanwhile, National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) president, Raninder Singh, tried to firefight the issue. “As of now nothing is cancelled,” he said. “The status as of now... we do not know. We are hoping to find some resolution and we are working hard.” Raninder said that Lisin had used the word ‘may’. “(...) he said we (ISSF) may not be able to give quota places, he didn’t say it is withdrawn.”
The IOC, for their part, was expected to arrive at a final and binding decision by around 10.00 pm Lausanne time (2.30 am IST). “The IOC is aware of the case and the Executive Board (EB) is deliberating on it. The decision of the EB will be issued at 10pm Lausanne time this evening.” This is where the issue stood at the time of going to press — the IOC EB will decide whether this event will go ahead with quota places or not. India also might face hosting sanctions.
If the IOC decides to cull all Olympic quotas, that would be a blow to Indian shooters who spent their last few months preparing. “It would be heart-breaking,” was how Joydeep Karmakar put it. “Disheartening to say the least... an opportunity to seal a quota place at home in the first World Cup of the year...” added Mehuli Ghosh’s personal coach.
Jaspal Rana said it was ‘tricky situation’. “NRAI may not get the chance to host another World Cup after this... but it’s a time that our athletes should stand with the nation because the nation has stood with our athletes on a number of occasions.” But he wasn’t of the opinion that Manu Bhaker, his ward and CWG champ, will get affected if ISSF decides to revoke quota places. “I think our athletes are strong enough to handle this. They will be ready for the next event.”
The situation developed rapidly after the National Rifle Association of Pakistan (NRAP) wrote to the ISSF asking them to cancel quota places in the 25m rapid fire pistol event as their athletes weren’t given visas to travel to Delhi.