Securing visas for the US (World Championships) and the United Kingdom (Commonwealth Games) seems to have turned into a concern for athletes and officials. Athletes like shot putter Tajinder Pal Singh Toor and javelin thrower Annu Rani had to come back without competing to attend an interview at the US Embassy, while some like long jumper M Sreeshankar had to miss events.
One batch of athletes had their interview session on Monday while another would be getting their visa formalities sorted on Wednesday. According to the Athletes Federation of India (AFI), they had been struggling to get a slot for interview and they had to approach the ministry of External Affairs, the sports ministry and World Athletics for help. They also had to approach the organisers of the Worlds and local officials to expedite the visa process with less than three weeks to go for the Worlds (July 15-24).
The AFI was planning to send the athletes who have qualified for the Worlds by mid-June after the inter-state. They had booked Chula Vista training centre. However, they could not secure visas for the athletes. The AFI is planning to send the athletes as early as possible so that they get enough time to acclimatise.
Because of all this, Sreeshankar is not going to participate at the Stockholm Diamond League on June 30. Though they have a Schengen Visa, it is understood that he and his coach had to submit their passport at the US Embassy for visa and their bio-metric and interview were on Monday in New Delhi. They are training at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium as of now. With no time left to travel, they are skipping the Diamond League. In fact, he was to compete against Olympic champion Miltiadis Tentoglou. The two have jumped 8.36m this year.
If securing US visa has upset plans of athletes, wrestlers and judokas had to change their preparation schedule to secure UK visa. Wrestlers were planning to compete at the Rome Ranking series. However, they have to be present to give biometrics at the UK high commission to secure their entry to the country. It is not part of the accreditation card as is the usual norm with multi-discipline Games, including the Olympics, and some athletes and officials were saying that with less than a month left for the Commonwealth Games (July 28-August 8), it was unfair on the athletes.
The judokas who are participating in an event in Spain would have liked to continue with some more competition in Europe but they are coming back for visa formalities. It is learnt that visa formalities would be begin by next week.
That the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is also in mess doesn’t help. Things are not easy for National Sports Federations too after Delhi High Court asked IOA president Narinder Batra to vacate office and Anil Khanna to continue to discharge duties of the president. The fight between its secretary-general Rajeev Mehta and Batra has turned ugly.
In a communication to this newspaper on Monday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said that it is watching the situation. When asked about IOC’s position on whether it would recognise the current IOA dispensation after the HC order, it said, “The IOC takes note that Dr Batra has appealed the court decision. We will wait for the outcome of the legal procedure.” Despite Khanna assuming the charge of acting-president, the IOC had earlier said that they continue to recognise Batra.