Rijiju says government to take final call on CWG pull-out

Union sports minister Kiren Rijiju said the final decision on India's participation in the upcoming CWG will be taken at an appropriate time by the government.

Union sports minister Kiren Rijiju inaugurated the new artificial football turf at the Sports Authority of India.   -  k. murali kumar

Two days after Indian Olympic Association president Narinder Batra called for India's withdrawal from the Commonwealth Games, Union sports minister Kiren Rijiju steered clear of any pronouncement on the matter, instead stating that the final decision would be taken "at an appropriate time at an appropriate level."

Rijiju was speaking at the Anju Bobby Sports Foundation here on Friday, having previously announced a grant of Rs.5 crore to the academy.

"Any international games has a larger message besides the games itself. Earlier, the Eastern Bloc has boycotted the Olympics. Now there is no bloc or 'groupism' in international sport, but there are times when a boycott becomes symbolically important," he said.

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"At this point of time, it is difficult for me to make a further comment [on boycotting the CWG] because it is a political issue. We will take a final call. If it has to be boycotted, the government has to take a final call but we have not made any decision because we have to see the pros and cons.

New football turf inaugurated

Union sports minister Kiren Rijiju on Friday inaugurated the new artificial football turf at the Sports Authority of India campus here. The surface has been installed at an estimated cost of Rs.7.5 crore, with new floodlights erected and changing rooms built. "We need a turf-maintenance machine for grooming and brushing the turf. We have asked the minister for it, and he has agreed to look into it," said football coach S. Padmapriya.

Rijiju spent two hours at the SAI campus, inspecting facilities, interacting with athletes, and even trying his hand at shooting at the range. "Ask any of the top shooters of India and they will tell you it's not easy to shoot 10.8 and 10.5, which I shot at the beginning itself," he posted on Twitter later. "I'm happy with the shooting range facilities at Bengaluru but requires some improvements."

"If we withdraw the whole participation, then what will happen? These are important calls. The IOA has made their point. And I stand with their sentiment, but the final decision will be taken at an appropriate time at an appropriate level."

Rijiju was asked about the suspension of the National Dope-Testing Laboratory by the World Anti-Doping Agency. "WADA sent a team over and they listed some 42 protocol issues and procedural lapses," he said.

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"We have already taken corrective steps. Most of the issues are resolved. The few remaining will also be sorted out. NDTL is one of the top testing laboratories in the world. And we are going to double our capacity, we will test 12,000 athletes this time. Rest assured, we don't want to send our samples to foreign countries. Many foreign countries, including European countries, come to us because we have top-class scientists and our charges are cheap."

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Rijiju also made it clear that the sports ministry would not hesitate to intervene if national sports federations were not functioning efficiently. "Simply having a faction is not bad," he said.

"But these divisions should not be detrimental to the athletes and lead to malfunctioning of the federation. Some of the federations like archery, gymnastics, equestrian, golf...there are many problems. Whenever there is a problem, we have to intervene."

Rijiju declared that his target for Tokyo 2020 was for India to produce its best-ever performance at an Olympic Games. "We can't produce any extra talent in 10 months time, but we have to make the most of whatever we have. Our target is to do our best-ever performance at Tokyo 2020," he said.

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