After denying Pakistan shooters visas, India’s hosting chances in jeopardy

The IOC wants the IOA to give it in writing that visas will be issued to every participant in the future.

India still faces the threat of forthcoming meets being cancelled because of the IOC directive: the India Open badminton tournament in March, the Hockey Series Finals in June and the Commonwealth Table Tennis Championship in July.   -  PTI

The gloom at the Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range was palpable. The International Shooting Sport Federation was quick in reacting to India’s decision not to issue visas to two Pakistani shooters for the World Cup, informing the organisers that the quota places had been withdrawn. The ISSF was only following International Olympic Committee policy, which does not condone discrimination at international meets.

“The IOC noted that it was not the first time that such incidents of challenges of entry of international sports delegations have happened in India; the latest of which was the women’s boxing team from Kosovo not being able to attend the AIBA Women’s World Championships in November 2018,” IOC sports director Kit McConnell said in a letter to ISSF president Vladimir Lisin.

The IOC maintained that India had violated the Olympic Charter and, as McConnell pointed out, “the Fundamental Principles of the Olympic Charter, in particular the principles of non-discrimination and the IOC/Olympic Movement’s position, reiterated on many occasions over the past few years, i.e. that 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.”

Beginning with former IOC member Randhir Singh, the organisers and veteran sports officials made frantic efforts to save the World Cup. “There was little the NRAI (National Rifle Association of India) could have done since the IOC rules are very clear and very strict. You can’t discriminate and this was known to everyone that denying visas would spell trouble,” Singh said.

Backroom efforts by Singh, India’s IOC member Nita Ambani, Indian Olympic Association president Narinder Batra and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, the minister of state for youth affairs and sports with independent charge, led to the ISSF deciding to scrap the quotas only in the 25m rapid fire pistol event in which the Pakistanis were to participate.

India still faces the threat of forthcoming meets being cancelled because of the IOC directive: the India Open badminton tournament in March, the Hockey Series Finals in June and the Commonwealth Table Tennis Championship in July. India is also bidding for the 2022-23 hockey World Cup, the 2026 Youth Olympics, the 2030 Asian Games and the 2032 Olympics, which has also been jeopardised.

Randhir and Batra managed to convince the ISSF and the IOC that the situation was beyond the control of India’s sports officials. “The situation on the border was tense. There had been a terrorist attack. This was the case when the Kosovo boxer was denied a visa. But there was little the organisers could have done since the visas had been denied because of the unprecedented situation,” said Singh.

The NRAI got temporary relief and the shooting World Cup was conducted successfully. “But the IOA will have to ensure in writing that this would not happen again. The IOC is clear. It wants in writing that visas will be issued to every participant in the future,” said Singh.