The Union Minister also talked about the breach of protocol at NIS Patiala.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic had stopped sporting activities all over the world, including India. Whereas some of the events are already starting to take place in other countries, the scenario in India has been very different from the rest. With the Olympic being postponed to 2021, the training of athletes participating in the quadrennial event have been a challenge for the country and Union Minister of Sports, Kiren Rijiju, agreed to it in a recent interview with TOI.
According to the Union Minister, the Indian ministry plans to continue training camps ahead of the Olympic Games for the interest of athletes. He also broke his silence regarding the recent breach of protocol by three boxers and a team doctor who returned COVID-19 positive to the National Institute of Sports, Patiala.
“We are passing through an extraordinary situation due to the pandemic and therefore, the government’s approach to commencement of training for our Olympics-bound-athletes would be to tread with caution, keeping their health and safety in mind,” Kiren Rijiju said.
“However, we cannot put them at a disadvantage by delaying their training. Therefore, camps will have to be held, while making a thorough situation appraisal. Decisions will be made on a case-to-case basis. The lockdown in many states is an added challenge, like in Bengaluru, where our athletes have not been able to join the camp. We have to work keeping all these factors in mind,” he added.
Kiren Rijiju also provided brief updates regarding the status of different camps. “The camps are being resumed in phases as per the situation in the states. The boxers are already in Patiala, but are going through an extended quaratine. Once the quarantine is over, they will resume training as per the SOP laid down,” he revealed.
“The shooting facility has been opened up and all Olympic bound shooters are free to resume their training. The other camps will surely start but the training of athletes bound for Tokyo is our priority at this juncture,” Kiren Rijiju added.
Speaking about whether SAI will revisit its Standard Operating Policy (SOP) and Quarantine Policy – considering the recent incident of protocol breach at NIS, Kiren Rijiju answered, “Due care is being taken of athletes at Patiala and Bengaluru centres. I had personally interacted with athletes and coaches of hockey, athletics and weightlifting while they were in the camps. They were very happy with the steps taken by SAI to maintain a sanitised atmosphere in the camps.”
“The breach of protocol by someone and the doctor contracting COVID-19 while in quarantine shouldn’t deter us, nor should these be seen as a shortcoming of the SOP document prepared for the camps. At the same time, all elite athletes are our national assets and role models for the nation. Athletes are conscious of the fact that they are setting an example for others. SAI will do whatever is best for athletes. The comfort and feedback from athletes is of paramount importance to us,” the minister went on saying.
Kiren Rijiju also made things clearer about the steps that are taken to regain the recognition of NSFs, saying the issue is currently under judiciary procedures. “I am hopeful that in a month or two, the government will be able to recognise the NSFs again. The government has asked the federations concerned to take corrective measures immediately,” he signed off.