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Shooting silenced at the Commonwealth

Mahavir Rawat

Imagine India in place of New Zealand in the recently concluded controversial ICC World Cup final. One thing is for sure; we would not have taken that decision the way the New Zealand cricket team took it. Another thing that is for sure, in my opinion, is that ICC would have found a reason or a rule to declare us as the joint winner. But that’s not the point. The point here is that the dominance of power that we have in cricket on and off the field is misleading officials of other sports into believing that they are as important to that game as India is to cricket. Now shooting is the first sport that comes to mind when we think of a medal either in the Commonwealth Games or the Olympics. Rajyavardhan Rathore caught the nation’s attention, Abhinav Bindra, Vijay Kumar, Apoorvi Chandela, Heena Sidhu, Ranjan Sodhi and Gagan Narang took it to new heights and the result of continuous growth of the game is such that today the new crop of India’s shooters are at par with, if not better than, the best in the world.

If we go by the performance of our shooters in the recently concluded key events, it won’t be an exaggeration to say that Tokyo 2020 can be our best Olympic medal tally in shooting. Hence everyone was shocked and baffled at the recent decision of dropping the sport of shooting from Commonwealth Games 2022 to be held in Birmingham (England). In the last edition of the games held at Gold Coast in 2018, our shooters won 16 medals out of the total tally of 66 medals that the contingent won. Obviously, the decision to scrap a sport which has contributed nearly 25 per cent of your medals in the last edition has not gone well with the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). But what is equally baffling is the knee jerk reaction of the Indian Olympic Association which has threatened to boycott the games.

Everyone in the CWG federation believes this to be an arm-twisting technique of the IOA, but what if it turned out to be true? How many of our athletes are going to stand with the IOA? And why is there such a partial attitude towards shooting, is another question. How many of us know that archery has been kept out of the Glasgow (2014) and Gold Coast (2018) games? In the 2010 edition of the Delhi Games, our archers had won a total of eight medals including three golds. Why was such a stand not taken by IOA at that point of time? Is a medal in archery any less than in shooting?

But then considering the way IOA is run, I guess these are very trivial questions for it. So let’s see what our sports-persons have to say about the threat of boycott.

Shooter Abhinav Bindra said: “Boycotts don’t win you influence. They just make you irrelevant and punish other athletes. Would be far better if IOA did a campaign to load the CWG committees with their people and allies and push for the inclusion of shooting onto the core list of sports for the future.”

Wrestler Sakshi Mallik said: “Let us not talk about a boycott. It is obvious that with one sport being chucked out – that too shooting, where we have done so well not just in the CWG but also Olympics – will affect the entire contingent’s medal hopes. I pray that there is no boycott and that shooting is included in the games.”

Shooter Heena Sidhu said: “I know boycott is a very strong word to use because for one sport we cannot let others suffer. But at the same time, if we do not stand with shooting now, it could happen to some other sport. ”

Wrestler Sushil Kumar said: “I think athletes will suffer and other sports will suffer. It’s true we win medals in shooting in CWG, but we are also doing well in other sports. I urge the sports ministry and the IOA to look into the matter and review the decision.”

In between all this, IOA has already written a letter to the sports ministry to boycott the Birmingham 2022 games and criticised that the CWG federation always targeted the sport that India had chances to do well.

On the other hand, chief executive officer for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Ian Reid defended the organisers’ decision to not include shooting in the sports roster. Reid revealed that Birmingham Games organisers offered an alternative to the shooting federation wherein they could host just two disciplines – rifle and pistol, but it was rejected by the federation. Although this claim was vehemently denied by the ISSF who said that the shooting body did not get any such proposal from the organisers.

In the statement, Reid asserted that shooting is not a core Commonwealth Games Federation sport and was not included in Birmingham’s bid to host the 2022 Games.

“In September 2018, five sports that were not included in the original bid – shooting, archery, beach volleyball, para table tennis and cricket – expressed their desire to be part of the Games. So the Birmingham 2022 board committed to conducting a review, offering each sport a chance to be included,” read the statement. The federation clarified that here was an assessment panel formed to review the position of each sport based on criteria such as financial considerations, suitable venues and additional revenue factors. While shooting scored well on some of these factors, the big problem, facing the sport was the availability of venues.

At the onset, it seems that IOA has taken this strong stand to not being left embarrassed of the entire situation. On the other hand, it will soon face pressure from other federations who have been active members of IOA. After seeing all the initial drama, one is for sure that “picture abhi baaki hai mere dost (a lot is expected on this issue)”.

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