Tokyo-bound athletes to get top priority post lockdown: Rijiju

Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju said preference will be given to athletes who have qualified for Tokyo Olympics or those who have to go for the qualifiers.

Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju said all the players and coaches will be looked after and they would not be left to suffer in these difficult times.   -  PTI

Plans are in place to start outdoor training in premier centres in India later this month and Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju said the government had to tread a careful path to ensure that athletes remained free from COVID-19.

Rijiju had already said that his ministry was devising a plan for a phased resumption of national camps for Olympic-bound athletes, starting with the athletes currently based at NIS Patiala and SAI Centre in Bengaluru by the end of this month.

“A roadmap is being prepared. If something happens to top athletes it will be a setback and so we are careful and that’s why there are no positive coronavirus cases for our athletes till now. Players are pride of our country and so we can’t risk anything,” Rijiju said.

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“Medical experts, technical committee are working to start things. We have started preparing, NIS Patiala, Delhi IG Stadium, SAI centres, premier sports centres will be opened after lockdown,” he was quoted as saying by India Today.

The coronavirus-forced nationwide lockdown, which has been extended till May 17, forced the sports ministry to delay the resumption of the training camps at SAI centres.

Rijiju said preference will be given to athletes who have qualified for Tokyo Olympics or those who have to go for Olympic qualifiers. He said other athletes might have to wait till at least September but added that this shouldn’t make them sad as everyone will come back to the field in a planned manner.

“Players request to allow them to play. But everyone can’t be given permission together as it would be risky and so top athletes who have qualified for Olympics or have to go for qualifiers will be given preference.

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“No need to be sad for other athletes. Federations are requesting and I know how boring it is without sports but this challenge is for everyone and we will have to wait. We are planning in that manner and the road map is ready.”

Rijiju also assured that all the players and coaches will be looked after and they would not be left to suffer in these difficult times.

“Foreign coaches are being used in different manners, they are being paid. Nobody should be deprived of salary in these tough situations. The budding players have gone back home and we will call them again, we will do something for the needy ones so that they don’t suffer much.”

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He said the government will also help National Sports Federations.

“Not only sports, life has changed. Sports also will come up in a new way. We will have to plan to make sports more interesting without fans. Stadiums in future will not be filled with fans. IPL is rich and gets revenue from TV but there are others which need help. We will help those sports and federations.

“Sports is an industry and a large employment sector. There is going to be losses because of the lockdown but we are taking calculated measures. We have big aims and want India to be among top 10 nations in terms of winning medals,” he said.