Sporting community favours resumption in IOA study, Batra says disappointed with low response

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NEW DELHI, June 24 (PTI): India’s sporting community, including athletes, favours a resumption of training as soon as the COVID-19 lockdown ends completely, according to a survey conducted by the Indian Olympic Association which said it was disappointing that many stakeholders did not contribute to the exercise.

The IOA President Narinder Batra last month asked athletes, support staff, National Sports Federations (NSFs), State Olympic Associations (SOAs), to respond to a set of questions on the way forward in the wake of the pandemic which has brought sporting activities to a grinding halt worldwide.

More than 75 per cent of the 450 respondents said it would be appropriate to resume training as soon as the lockdown ends, but with strict protocols on social distancing and personal hygiene. The government imposed the lockdown in March and began offering relaxations on the restrictions at the end of last month.

“Training for national campers should be allowed immediately upon lifting of lockdown while other training should be put on hold until later in the year,” the White Paper said.

Batra expressed disappointment at the lukewarm response from majority of NSFs and State Olympic Associations. Those who responded included national federations of hockey, athletics, boxing and weightlifting among others.

“I am disappointed that most of NSFs or SOAs have not contributed to the study in any way, not even indirectly by sharing the survey with their constituents. In fact, I gathered from a number of athletes that their respective NSFs did not share the survey with them at all,” he said.

“The survey was an opportunity for the key stakeholders in the Olympic Movement in the country to contribute to the decision-making process by government officials. Many NSFs chose to not embrace the opportunity,” he added.

The White Paper said “more work needs to be done for a deeper understanding of the precautionary steps to be taken before training and

competition can be resumed at all levels”.

The athletes formed the largest number of respondents at 178, followed by match officials (145), NSF/SS/SOA (79), high performance support staff (34).

Some have suggested that training should resume in August or later, with a “negligible percentage suggesting that India must wait till a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.”

There was widespread agreement among the respondents that some form of competition would be possible in or after September.

“However, it would depend on government guidelines,” the paper said.

It said the training centres must ensure that medical precautions like thermal checks and sanitisers are adhered to for each individual before allowing them back at the traning facilities.

On whether spectators should be allowed in stadia when competitions resume, the responses “varied from an outright yes to a vehement no, with some suggesting restrictions on the number of people allowed into stadia”.

Nearly all the respondents acknowledged that indoor training at home or inside hostels can only maintain a certain level of fitness and could not be sports specific training, especially the kind needed for elite athletes.

The study also mentioned the need for putting in some effort to understand whether swimming practice can be restarted for the country’s top swimmers who are seeking to move from ‘B’ standard qualification to ‘A’ qualification for the Olympic Games.

“There has to be a deeper and more nuanced study on the resumption of contract sport like boxing, wrestling, taekwondo, karate etc,” it said.

It said “even now, the future remains uncertain … and the risk of athletes and coaches losing motivation is real.”

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