New Delhi: Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju has played down the calls to boycott the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games over shooting's exclusion, saying it is too early to take a decision of such magnitude.
Shooting has been axed from the 2022 edition by Birmingham Organising Committee, citing logistical issues. The move triggered angry reactions from the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the national shooting federation (NRAI).
The IOA went to the extent of suggesting a boycott to protest the sport's dropping.
"The officials of IOA met me and apprised me about the ongoing issues in the 2022 Commonwealth Games, where shooting has been dropped. The possibility of India's boycott was also raised before me," Rijiju told PTI in an interview.
"I told them to speak to the Commonwealth Games Federation officials and the organising committee of the Birmingham Games and apprise them about our deep concerns.
"If it (the decision) is not reviewed, we will see but the call for boycott at this point of time is too early. Certainly, boycott is not the solution but I will not give an opinion till I get the final outcome from the meeting between IOA and CGF officials, he added.
Shooting has featured in every Commonwealth Games since 1966 with the exception of Edinburgh 1970. But in its Executive Board meeting in June, the CGF recommended the inclusion of three new sports while dropping shooting.
The decision was a shock for India as the country's shooters claimed 16 medals, including seven gold at last year's Gold Coast Games. The country had finished third in the medals table with a tally of 66.
On to the more immediate concerns, like the 2020 Olympic Games, the minister was hopeful that the athletes are going to bring back a lot more than just the one silver and a bronze attained in the 2016 Rio Games.
Rijiju, however, said the 2024 and 2028 editions are his long-term goals.
"I have just assumed sports ministry (charge) three months back and we are about 10 months away from 2020 Tokyo Olympics, so now we will have to go with the existing talent."
"In 10 months, we cannot produce new talents. We have identified existing talents and we have extended all technical resources and other support whatever is required," he said.
"...we are expecting better results than previous Olympics. But it is difficult to predict number of medals because of the high standard of competition in Olympics. My long-term preparation is for 2024 Paris and 2028 Los Angeles Olympics," the minister added.
Rijiju also said that the government is open to the idea of hosting multi-sport events despite the bad press India got for alleged corruption in the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
"We are not averse to hosting any international event. Definitely, it's a matter of pride for any country to host the Olympics or Asian Games. We would be encouraging more international events because our dream is to host the Olympics someday," he said.
"But before that we should be ready, we should be able to make the whole world understand that India is capable of hosting. It must be done at an appropriate time," Rijiju asserted.
Asked about the contentious issue of bilateral sporting ties between India and Pakistan, Rijiju said that is completely dependent on the government's position.
"Without the government's sanction, there cannot be any bilateral series between India and Pakistan. But when it comes to international multi-sport events, the government has no say on that," Rijiju said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch the 'Fit India Movement', a nation-wide fitness programme to motivate citizens to take up at least one fitness activity on August 29 and Rijiju said fitness is key to the overall development of a country.
"The basic philosophy of this movement is that every Indian should be fit," he said.
"If India has to become a powerful, prosperous nation, a resurgent India will be possible only if the Indians are fit. It will be a big movement in which all sections of the society will be associated," he added....