CHENNAI: Members of India’s sporting fraternity will have woken up on Friday morning to a new reality. They have, for a long time, had visions of hosting the Olympics. In fact, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), expressed their interest in hosting the 2032 Summer Games. Those plans will have to be shelved for the time being. That’s because the International Olympic Committee (IOC) threw the book at India after a three-member Pakistan contingent were denied visas for the shooting World Cup beginning on Saturday in New Delhi.
As the denial of visas violated the ‘Olympic Charter’, the IOC Executive Board, which met in Lausanne on Thursday, reacted strongly. “(...) the IOC Executive Board also decided to suspend all discussions with the Indian NOC (IOA) and government regarding the potential applications for hosting future sports and Olympic-related events in India, until clear written guarantees are obtained from the Indian government to ensure the entry of all participants in such events in full compliance with the rules of the Olympic Charter,” an IOC release stated.
More damagingly, it also recommended all International Federations (IFs) to not host events in the country. “(...) to recommend that the IFs neither award to nor hold sports events in India until the above-mentioned guarantees are obtained,” it added. What are the guarantees it seeks from the Indian government? “(...) equal treatment must be guaranteed for all participating athletes and sporting delegations at international sports events, without any form of discrimination or political interference from the host country.”
The short term implications are clear. Talks of bids for the Youth Olympics in 2026, the Asian Games in 2030 and the Olympics in 2032 will not be entertained by the IOC. The IOA have previously stated their desire to bid for all three meets within the next four-five years.
Bids made by National Sports Federations (NSFs) to IFs to host elite events could also face the axe. For example, Hockey India (HI) had made bids to host either the next men’s World Cup or the women’s World Cup in the January 13-29, 2023 window. It’s likely that those bids will not be given consideration until such time that the Indian government gives IOC a surety that all athletes will be treated as equals.
Technically speaking, IOC is well within their rights to even move events that have been already allocated to India. As things stand, the hockey Series Finals, an Olympic qualifier which is slated to be held in Bhubaneswar this June, could be moved out. HI, who have already held informal discussions about the issue, said it wasn’t their place to answer.
The FIH said they would actively engage with the IOC to get clarity on the implications of their decision. “We will engage with the IOC to understand and get clarity on the concrete implications of this decision,” FIH CEO Thierry Weil told this newspaper. “Only thereafter will we be able to provide any further comments on FIH events planned in India or for which India is bidding.”
Other meets could also be under the scanner. The AIFF has designs on bringing the men’s U-20 WC and the women’s U-17 WC to the country within the 2-3 years. Needless to say that FIFA may now not be so keen. These sanctions will come as a big blow to athletes who had finally been used to the idea of taking part in elite events at home. International-class competitions in boxing, athletics, hockey, shooting, badminton, football, squash and tennis apart from South Asian Games have all been hosted by India in the last three years. It may not be the case any longer.
Another pak player denied Visa
Pakistan’s Hamza Akbar, who was scheduled to take part in the India Open, a world-ranking snooker event, beginning in Kochi on Wednesday, will not be travelling for the meet. “He is not there because he did not get a visa,” a source told this newspaper.