The Athletics Federation of India (AFI), forced to repeatedly reschedule its calendar and delay competitions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is now gearing up to finally get off the block.
With World Athletics president Sebastian Coe virtually addressing on the second day of the AFI AGM here on Sunday, planning committee chairman Lalit Bhanot admitted it was time to return to competitive mode.
“Offices are all open, trains and other transport is open. The athletes are in training, we cannot sit idle forever and have to get into competitions mode. There is not much time left, we need to learn to live with COVID. We can start at state and district levels and then begin competition at the national level,” Bhanot said.
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The first senior event as per current schedule is expected to be the 1st Indian Grand Prix on February 12 in Trivandrum.
Coe, meanwhile, expressed his optimism over the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and encouraged the AFI to begin preparations.
“I recently returned from Tokyo, the first international federation to do so, and I can safely say there is a cast-iron determination among all officials and stakeholders I met to stage the event next year.
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“There will probably be adaptations, the conditions may be different and demand more of your teams than we have seen at Olympic Games before, but please assure your athletes of the same and tell them to get into final preparations,” he said.
Admitting an uncertain future made planning difficult, Coe nevertheless hoped to use lessons learnt during the pandemic – including hosting events at short notice despite restrictions – going ahead and appreciated the AFI for work on anti-doping and India’s improving performances.
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“None of the bravery of World Athletics would have counted if our federations did not back it up with their support and efforts. I cannot remember a time more challenging for all of us (but) we take comfort that we have managed our way through this difficult year (and) hope to take the lessons learnt into not such a challenging year,” he added.