India says it could boycott Commonwealth Games after 'local' sports chosen over shooting
By Euan Cunningham
The Indian Olympic Association has not ruled out boycotting the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, after the local organising committee, and subsequently the Commonwealth Games Federation, declined to recommend shooting as an additional sport on the programme.
Shooting is one of India's most successful sports, and has been a mainstay of the games since 1974, but is out of the next edition in large part because none of the events would have been held in the Birmingham area, in the West Midlands of England, and therefore would not have been able to "engage with the local community," according to the organisers.
Archery was also rejected, but women's Twenty20 cricket, para-table tennis and beach volleyball have all been recommended for inclusion by the CGF executive board.
Rajeev Mehta, the general secretary of the IOA, told PTI today: "Shooting is a big sport in India and for many shooters CWG is a stepping stone to Olympics two years later. It is a big setback for shooting as well as Indian sport as a whole. We have made representations to the CGF, and the government has also done that, but still shooting has been left out."
He added: "We know it is difficult now to overturn the CGF decision but all is not lost still. We have one month’s time [before the final vote on the additional sports]. The IOA executive council will take a decision within the next two weeks and we are not averse to taking a major decision."
Asked if India was contemplating withdrawing from the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Mehta said: "That cannot be ruled out. We can even go to that extent.”
He pledged that the IOA would again write to the CGF seeking a review of the decision to exclude shooting, and, in the meantime, will make a decision on its own stance following next week's International Olympic Committee session in Lausanne.
While pulling out of the Commonwealth Games would be a dramatic step, it indicates the seriousness with which the omission of shooting is being treated in India, which won 16 of the 66 medals available in the sport at the 2018 edition in Gold Coast, Australia.
The threat comes after what had been a positive 24 hours for Indian sport with the International Olympic Committee having yesterday lifted its ban on the country hosting events, after finally receiving guarantees from the government that it would not discriminate against athletes based on their nationality, in the wake of some previous controversies.
Explaining the decision to exclude shooting from the Birmingham 2022 games, Ian Reid, the chief executive of the organising committee, had told Sportcal: "Shooting’s proposal was to hold all four disciplines down in Surrey [in south-east England], which meant it would have been much harder to engage with the local community.
“The challenge with shooting in particular, and the primary reason we didn’t recommend it for inclusion, was that a lot of our selection criteria were based around sports we thought could benefit the local area.”
He added that the fact that track cycling is also being held away from Birmingham (in London) was not taken into consideration when assessing shooting's potential as the latter is presently one of the mandatory sports at the Commonwealth Games, and had to be on the programme.
Reid said that, after a thorough assessment, the organising committee tried to select additional sports which would “tick boxes in terms of our desire to engage with the local community, and ensure the local investment in the games was maximised by the sports.”
He explained that beach volleyball was chosen because of its popularity at the London 2012 Olympic Games, especially with a younger demographic, saying it can engage with that generation in a way that “some of the more traditional sports can’t quite do.”
The Birmingham 2022 chief added that while “we’ve done some work” on the potential venue, “we’re still looking for that right place, we’re not quite there yet."
Reid confirmed that the existing venue for table tennis, the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, would also host the sport's para event.
While the three additional sports have been approved by the CGF executive board, they still have to be voted on by the federation's general assembly. This is due to the proposed sports, if included, taking the number of athletes participating in optional sports over the numerical limit. Approval would also mean the inclusion of six team sports at the games – the CGF’s existing limit is four.
However, Reid is not overly concerned about the process, saying: "We’ve asked for dispensation from those rules – the main reason they’re in place is to ensure that events don’t become unaffordable or unsustainable... we’ve given the assurances around accommodating these extra athletes and sports to the CGF, so we believe they’re comfortable.”
He also insisted that uncertainty over the sports at the 2022 Commonwealth Games was not the reason why the official budget for the event had not been announced yet, saying it would hopefully be revealed "very soon."
Reid added it was his understanding that once the proposed additional sports have been sent to the CGF general assembly for approval, the result of the voting should be known in around a month's time.
The International Cricket Council joined forces with the England and Wales Cricket Board in a joint bid to get the sport on the Birmingham 2022 programme, and have both welcomed the decision
Manu Sawhney, the chief executive of the ICC, said: "We are absolutely delighted that women’s cricket has been nominated for inclusion in Birmingham 2022. We share our ambition to deliver greater equality, fairness and opportunity in sport with the Commonwealth Games Federation.”
Tom Harrison, the chief executive of the ECB, added: “The inclusion of women’s cricket in the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games would be a landmark moment in the development of the sport. We are extremely grateful to the teams at Birmingham 2022 and CGF for providing us with this opportunity and for sharing our vision for the future of women’s cricket.”
Cricket is the most popular sport in India, and the IOA supports its elevation to the Commonwealth Games, with Mehta saying: "We welcome the inclusion of women's T20 cricket as we can expect a medal from it. But we have to deal with the BCCI [Board of Control for Cricket in India] first as sending cricket teams has been an issue in the Asian Games."
It was confirmed yesterday that the cricket competition at Birmingham 2022 will take place at Edgbaston, a ground in the city which regularly hosts international matches.
Cricket has not appeared at a Commonwealth Games since 1998, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when there was a men's competition only.
• Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean has been chosen by the CGF to host the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2021.
The island was competing against Gibraltar for the right to stage the games. The CGF's evaluation commission visited both countries earlier this year.
The decision means that consecutive Youth Games will be held in the Caribbean, after Nassau in the Bahamas hosted the 2017 edition.
Louise Martin, the CGF president, said: “We had a very strong bid process and the Board felt... the Caribbean offers a fantastic platform for the Commonwealth Sports Movement to build upon. We look forward to working closely with Trinidad and Tobago in the lead up to the Games."
Martin had said earlier this month that both Trinidad and Tobago and Gibraltar, had submitted "excellent bids."
The 2021 games were originally due to be held in Belfast in Northern Ireland, but the city was dropped as host after failing to reach a funding agreement. The bidding process was therefore reopened in June 2018.
Trinidad and Tobago will host the Commonwealth Youth Games from 1 to 7 August, 2021.