CHENNAI: One of the first policy changes of the newly-elected government vis-a-vis sports will bring a smile to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). No athlete will be barred from entering the country to take part in international events. Though carefully-worded, this written assurance was sent by sports secretary, Radhey Shyam Julaniya, to Narinder Batra, IOA president and International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach on Tuesday. The letter was necessitated due to the IOC’s threat of not allowing India to host international events.
“It is the policy of the Government that India will hold international sporting events and will permit all qualified athletes belonging to any National Olympic Committee recognised by IOC or any national federation (...).” The letter further states that “such participation of athletes shall be without prejudice to our principled positions and policies on other political matters including issues such as international recognition or otherwise of the country of origin of the athletes.”
This has been an IOA demand because the practice of denying visas to sportspersons based on country is against the Olympic Movement. This issue reared its head twice in the last eight months after visas were refused to a Kosovar boxer in November and two Pakistani shooters after the Pulwama attacks. While the letter did not explicitly name ‘Pakistan’, the IOA needed this letter if their stated aims of bidding for a number of events - Asian Games, Youth Olympics as well as the Summer Games over the next decade - is to see the light of day.