Narinder Batra: Competitions may begin from October

The Indian Olympic Association president says sports in India could resume soon, says “there is a lot of excitement” about it among its stakeholders.

IOA president Narinder Batra said different centres were being assigned for different sports.   -  GETTY IMAGES

If the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t accentuate further, National Championships for Olympic sports in India could resume from October, 2020, Indian Olympic Association president Narinder Batra has said.

Training at some venues around the country has resumed after the Home Ministry allowed sportspersons to train without the presence of spectators. Batra, in a webinar organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), said he didn’t see “much of a problem” in the quick resumption of sporting activity because there was excitement about it among sportspersons, administrators, officials and the government.  “If I’m not wrong, we should be seeing competitions or national championships coming up maybe from October onwards, that’s the plan, providing things don’t go bad (sic),” he said in the discussion titled 'Sporting Events: Embracing The New Normal'.

“Depending on the situation, all the championships which were to happen in January-March, are now shifted to October-December. Things are moving in that direction,” he stated.

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Batra said different centres were being assigned for different sports. “We’ve said Bangalore should be made the centre for hockey; Patiala centre for athletics; Kolkata centre for weightlifting; maybe Hyderabad for badminton; this way, all the Olympic sports we’re dividing. Odisha is definitely going to take more of the chunk because I call it as the sporting capital of India, the kind of infrastructure they’ve put. We’ll be talking to them. They may take three or four sports. Shooting is coming to Delhi. We’ll have to be in touch with everyone, we’ll divide it sport by sport,” he said.

However, he clarified he did have reservations about kickstarting training and competition in contact sports, for the fear of contracting COVID-19. “Contact sports is still a concern. I have no solution for it,” he said.

Although not a contact sport, cricket has also had to deal with safety concerns surrounding the use of saliva for shining the ball. ICC Cricket Committee chairman Anil Kumble said his panel had deliberated upon finalising an artificial substance by which to shine the cricket ball in the absence of saliva, but he said the idea was soon discarded.

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“Using an artificial substance on the ball is something we haven’t really looked at at all [before the pandemic]. To do that now because of COVID-19, is something we did discuss, but we unanimously agreed not to go in that direction. Cricket is very different from other sports. You can still leave grass on the surface, or even have two spinners, in a Test match, because in a one-day game or a T20, you’re not really worried about shining the ball, sweat can take care of that,” he reasoned.

A template for the resumption of sports has been provided by Germany as its Bundesliga, the football league, re-started after making adjustments to deal with the threat of the virus. Peer Naubert, head of Global Marketing, Bundesliga, clarified his team would be happy to share with other countries its blueprint to manage sports without compromising on the safety of anyone. He admitted there had been a few hiccups, but overall, there hadn’t been any complains by anyone with regard to the Bundesliga.

Vishal Kumar Dev, Commissioner-cum-Secretary, Sports and Tourism, Government of Odisha, said the Standard Operating Procedures to ensure safety for sportspersons when they return to training will be difficult to implement, and that its feasibility should also be taken into consideration when deciding whether to resume training.

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Other panelists in the discussions were Venky Mysore, Managing Director, Kolkata Knight Riders; and Mustafa Ghouse, CEO, JSW Sports.

Besides the safety aspect, the panelists also discussed other issues related to it. Kumble and Ghouse pointed to the need to make athletes ease into training as abrupt activity could injure them.

The panelists also discussed, among other things, technical innovations that could come into sports broadcasting to deal with the absence of spectators in stadiums.

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