Suhl: Shooting legend and the current chief coach of India’s junior pistol shooting team, Jaspal Rana, has joined the chorus of voices calling for India to boycott the Birmingham Commonwealth Games after the Commonwealth Games Federation dropped the discipline from the 2022 edition at an Executive Board meeting last month.
Not just shooting, archery was also overlooked by Birmingham 2022, which instead proposed women's cricket, beach volleyball and Para table tennis to CGF's 71 member associations.
"This is ridiculous. The government should take a call (on boycotting the 2022 edition)," Rana told Firstpost on the sidelines of the Junior Shooting World Cup in Suhl. "Why can’t the Government of India just say that we won’t send an Indian contingent! To hell with them (2022 Games)! If we don’t play one Commonwealth Games, nothing's going to happen! This edition they’ll remove shooting, next edition they’ll remove weightlifting, then after that will say take out badminton! The Prime Minister of our country is one of the strongest persons in the world, he needs to take a call! If we don’t play one Commonwealth Games, we’re not going to die! The government should take action!"
The presence of shooting ― which has been in every Commonwealth Games since 1966 barring the 1970 edition ― in the Birmingham 2022 program had been in jeopardy for over a year with the organisers citing logistical issues for hosting the event. The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) and the ISSF, the governing body for shooting in the world, had been lobbying for the past few months to get the Birmingham organisers to change their mind.
The decision to keep shooting out will hurt India majorly since they won 16 out of their 66 medals at the Gold Coast Games in the discipline ― almost one fourth of their medals tally.
NRAI President Raninder Singh and Olympians like Heena Sidhu had previously called for India to boycott the 2022 edition. Recently, Indian Olympic Association Secretary General Rajeev Mehta had said the Indian Olympic Association would contemplate a boycott.
Rana, while likening the move to the hockey’s change from natural grass to astro turf, branded the move as a purely political one.
"They’re doing the same thing with shooting now as what happened in hockey. And let's not forget, how first 50m rifle prone, and double trap, both events where Indians were strong, were removed from Olympics. And now the Birmingham Commonwealth Games organisers have removed shooting where we know that we will clean sweep everything," he said.
"If they’re talking about lack of funds, that’s bullshit! How much money is required to build a range? How many shooters come to the Commonwealth Games? You don’t need a range with 60 or 80 lanes! You can hire equipment for the Games and send it back! A lot of countries are doing that. We did it during the ISSF New Delhi World Cup. Why can’t they do it? They just can’t beat us so they’re playing politics. And British companies are selling ammunition around the world, so why are they decrying things like safety?" he asked.
As reported by Firstpost in December 2018, the ISSF had even offered to bear the financial burden of all the 'field of play' expenditures at the 2022 Games since one of the reasons cited by the organisers was the paucity of funds.
"Essentially, we were offering to organise ammunition, targets and all the other things needed for the event at our cost. The only cost to the organisers for having the shooting competition would be transportation besides accommodation for athletes and staff," NRAI chief Raninder Singh, who is also a VP in the ISSF, had told Firstpost.
The ISSF reportedly had also told organisers that it could use the Bisley Shooting Centre in Surrey to host the Commonwealth Games, which hosted the Manchester edition in 2002.
However, now that it is more or less certain the discipline will not feature at Birmingham 2022, calls for India to not send a contingent are expected to grow stronger.
The writer is in Germany as part of the Robert Bosch Media Ambassadors Program.
Updated Date: Jul 19, 2019 15:54:46 IST