Athletes stranded at Delhi airport

A large group of athletes were left stranded at the Delhi Airport en-route to the fifth Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Games. They failed to board the flight in the absence of an authority letter from the Ministry.

The athletes failed to board the flight since their request for visas was not entertained in the absence of an authority letter from the Ministry. (Representative Image)   -  V.V. Krishnan

A large group of athletes were caught in the cross fire between Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the Union Sports Ministry only to be left stranded at the Delhi Airport en-route to the fifth Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Games.

The athletes failed to board the flight in the absence of an authority letter from the Ministry. The athletes who were left disappointed represented Dance Sports, Ju Jitsu, Sambo, Kurash and Traditional and Belt Wrestling.

The Ministry held back its clearance, which was at no cost to the government in any case, on account of these disciplines not having the required recognition from the IOA. According to a Ministry official, it was a piquant situation for the Government because these disciplines do not have the norms to be granted recognition.

“These athletes can’t represent India because they don’t have the recognition from the IOA. The government is in a difficult spot because without official recognition how can he clear their participation as India. It is for the IOA to look into this matter,” a Sports Ministry source said.

The IOA, on its behalf, does not subscribe to the government stands in this matter. An official from the IOA confirmed, “They had applied for recognition well in advance and they have also not made any request for funding for the trip. I fail to understand why the government can’t give them recognition when it does not even fund them. If they were not to be given the permission, why did the Ministry allow things to reach this stage where athletes have reached Delhi after extensive training?”

The athletes from these five disciplines had trained hard for the Games and their entries too had been sent in good time to the organisers. The IOA, on its behalf, had invited tenders to obtain the ceremonial/casual, playing kits for the contingent which also included athletes from the following disciplines: Athletics, Billiards and Snooker, Chess, Cycling, Tennis, Tenpin Bowling, Swimming and Wrestling.

The issue had cropped a week back but efforts have to resolve it had failed. Some team officials and IOA officials had met Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore as well.

It is learnt that Rathore has issued instructions to inquire into the developments but it may be too late for those who had their events scheduled for Thursday. A source said that two of the five sports, Ju Jitsu and Sambo, have been cleared in the day and efforts are on to accord necessary approval to the other sports as well.