India gears up for resumption of meets in Olympic sports, govt guidelines released

The Sports Ministry has released guidelines for resumption of competition in the country, paving the way for federations to organise domestic and international meets after nearly a year due to the pandemic.

National Sports Federations (NSFs) have waited to get the go ahead from the government to organise domestic meets, which will be vital for athletes starved of competition in the build-up to the Olympics. The pandemic wiped out the season and many top athletes will be using the domestic competitions to test their preparedness for the Tokyo qualifiers that will start from early 2021.

“The sports competitions may resume, provided no orders of the local authorities prohibit such facilities to resume operation i.e. micro-containment zones and are meant to serve as safety guidelines for organising the sports competition in consonance with any other guidelines issued by state government while granting such permission,” the Standard Operating Procedure says.

“Depending on the risk perception and scale of events, the organising committee may consider making RT-PCR testing of athletes and ASPs carried out within 72 hours prior to the event and its uploading on the website of the organising committee mandatory,” it says.

Spectators will also be allowed. “For outdoor events, spectators will be allowed up to a maximum of 50% of the total capacity of the stadium,” it adds.

A COVID task force formed by the organising committee must monitor the implementation of protocols.

Athletics, shooting and wrestling federations have announced the start of competitions while other federations are expected to firm up their calendars in the next few weeks.

“We started our zonal competition (East Zone) in Guwahati from today,” Adille Sumariwalla, Athletics Federation of India president, said. “We are hopeful of starting our revised national calendar. We have our SOP ready. The event will be spread out and all measures will be taken for the safety of the athletes.”

AFI is also planning to conduct its junior meet in Guwahati in February.

As per the revised athletics calendar for 2021, the first two Indian Grand Prix legs are scheduled in Kerala. The first leg will be held on February 12. The national race walk championships are scheduled in Ranchi on February 13. The first athletics meet of 2021 is scheduled for March 10 in Patiala. The Inter-State scheduled in Bengaluru in June will be the last event before the Olympics.

“We were ready to hold competition in September but it never happened. Since the government is also keen to start competition to give a good start to the Olympic hopefuls, we expect things to move in the right direction,” Sumariwalla said.

In shooting, the domestic selection trials at the Karni Singh shooting range here from January 5 will be the first competition after 11 months. It will help select the national squad for the 2021 international fixtures, including the ISSF World Cup here in March. India’s 15 shooters who have won quota spots for the Olympics and other top shooters will compete.

The Wrestling Federation of India has announced nationals across three cities in January-February. The men’s freestyle competition will be held in Noida (Jan 23-24), the women’s tournament will take place in Agra (Jan 30-31) and the Greco-Roman national is likely to be held in Jalandhar (Feb 20-21).

“The SOP is the green signal to hold competitions. We will be strictly following the guidelines. The players need to prepare for international events and Olympic qualifiers,” said WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar.

WFI has asked the participants to carry RT-PCR COVID negative certificates. Only two coaches can accompany a team. “We will follow all the norms. There will be a limited number of participants at one time and rest will have to wear masks.”

The entries for domestic shooting trials have been restricted. “We have entries of nearly 200 shooters for pistol, rifle and shotgun and we have finalised an SOP for the tournament. We will stagger the timings for the events. We will allow only one person (coach/physio) to accompany a shooter,” said National Rifle Association of India secretary, Rajeev Bhatia.

The Badminton Association of India (BAI) will decide its competition schedule at its AGM in New Delhi on Wednesday. “We will also be discussing the cities which are safe to hold tournaments,” BAI general secretary, Ajay Singhania, said.

There will still be hiccups in organising events as the consent of the respective state is required. “Not every state is allowing competition at this time. So, permission of the state government is crucial,” said a federation official.

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