The failure to grant visas to the Pakistani team has resulted in India staring at international isolation in sport. The fate of a few high-profile tournaments that India is scheduled to host hangs in the balance after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommended to all global federations that they ‘neither award nor hold’ sports events in the country until they receive written assurances from the government that participants from all nations will be guaranteed entry.
The India Open badminton tournament in March, the Hockey Series Finals in June and the Commonwealth Table Tennis Championship in July are some of the tournaments in the short term that look likely to be impacted by the advisory. India’s bid for the 2022/23 Hockey World Cup along with the intention to host the 2026 Youth Olympics, the 2030 Asian Games and the 2032 Olympics have also suffered a setback following the IOC’s ruling, which comes after the Indian government denied visas to Pakistani shooters for the ISSF World Cup in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack.
International Hockey Federation (FIH) CEO Thierry Weil said they will seek further clarity from the IOC before deciding on the future of tournaments scheduled to be held in India.
“We have taken good note of and totally respect the decision of the IOC taken in full compliance with the principles of the Olympic Charter,” Weil said. “We will engage with the IOC to understand and get clarity on the concrete implications of this decision. Only thereafter will we be able to provide any further comments on FIH events planned in India, or for which India is bidding.”
The IOC announced late Thursday night that it has suspended talks with the Indian government and country’s Olympic Association (IOA) for hosting sports events in the future after it accused the country of violating principles of ‘non-discrimination.’
A three-member Pakistani team, comprising two pistol shooters and a manager, was scheduled to arrive in Delhi on Wednesday for the World Cup, which is also a qualifying event for next year’s Tokyo Olympics. However, the Pakistani team withdrew after they were not granted visas despite “intense last-minute attempts”, according to the IOC.
While there has been no official statement from the Indian government, the International Shooting Sport Federation and National Rifle Association of Pakistan (NRAP) have claimed the visas have not been granted so far because of the terror strikes in Pulwama last week.
The IOC said they also took into consideration the recent incident where India did not grant visa to a boxer from Kosovo for the World Championship in Delhi last November.
“The IOC noted that it was not the first time that such incidents of challenges of entry of international sports delegations have happened in India; the latest of which was the women’s boxing team from Kosovo not being able to attend the AIBA Women’s World Championships in November 2018,” IOC sports director Kit McConnell wrote in a letter to ISSF president Vladimir Lissin.
Consequently, India have been found guilty of violating the Olympic Charter. McConnell, in his letter, said the situation goes against: “the Fundamental Principles of the Olympic Charter, in particular the principles of non-discrimination and the IOC/Olympic Movement’s position, reiterated on many occasions over the past few years, i.e. that equal treatment must be guaranteed for all participating athletes and sporting delegations at international sports events, without any form of discrimination or political interference from the host country.”
As a consequence, the IOC was considering revoking all quotas on offer at the Delhi World Cup. But after intervention by India’s IOC member Nita Ambani, Olympic Council of Asia honourary life vice-president Randhir Singh, Indian Olympic Association president Narinder Batra and sports minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, the IOC decided to scrap quotas in only that event where the Pakistanis were competing (25m rapid fire pistol).
While India survived an embarrassment at the World Cup, whether the country is allowed to host other events remains to be seen.