Indian Olympic Association will bid for three major multi-sport events to be held over the next decade and a half—the 2026 Youth Olympics, the 2030 Asian Games and the 2032 Olympics. IOA president Narinder Batra has never made a secret of his ambition of staging big-ticket events in India, and even on assuming office late last year, he had mentioned it as one of his goals. On Thursday, in the presence of International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, Batra said the three events were very much part of the IOA’s long-term plans.
“We are actually going to bid for three events. Whether it comes to us or not, the IOC will decide. We will present bids for hosting the 2026 Youth Olympic Games, the 2030 Asian Games and the 2036 Olympic Games. We might not get to host it, but we will get a taste of what kind of competition there is,” Batra said on Thursday.
Bach, on his part, did not offer any assurances and said it was too early to talk about the hosting rights of such events. “I just want to say that India has a lot of potential and one day India will host the Olympics but at the moment, the procedure for claiming the 2026 Youth Olympic Games or the 2032 Olympic Games have not yet opened. So, it will not be appropriate to say anything right now,” the German said, adding that seven cities/national Olympic committees, have already expressed interest in hosting the 2032 edition. Germany and Australia are two of the interested parties. Tokyo will host the 2020 Olympics with the next two editions to be staged in Paris and Los Angeles.
Interestingly, union sports minister Rajyavardhan Rathore has made it clear that the present government is not in favour of hosting huge international events, and prefers to focus on providing sporting infrastructure and opportunities at the grassroots.
“The bottom line for doing anything, taking such decisions (like hosting big-ticket events), needs to be what good is that tournament going to be for our country? Is it going to be beneficial for us? And anything that comes our way, where we have to even consider hosting a big tournament, these are the essentials that we would answer. Right now we don’t foresee us hosting big tournaments in the immediate future,” said Rathore.
“I think what is important is that instead of mammoth stadiums, I would rather have small practical play fields available to a larger section of the public,” he said.
It is not clear whether Batra has taken the sports ministry into confidence before making the announcement. While the hosts for the 2032 Olympics will not be announced before 2025, it takes years for a bid document to be finalised and submitted to the IOC, considering the financial commitment and involvement of multiple agencies.
Hosting a Youth Olympics does not involve such a mammoth investment as the cost is borne jointly by the host country and the IOC. Thailand is said to be one of the contenders.
IOC offers assistance
India may get a helping hand from the IOC as it seeks to improve its medal tally at the Tokyo Games in two years’ time.
Buoyed by an impressive medal haul at the recent Gold Coast Commonwealth Games were a large number of younger competitors climbed the podium, the Indian Olympic Association is hopeful of making a bigger splash than it did at Rio, where the country had to be satisfied with just two medals. Bach, on his second visit to India after assuming office, met top officials of the IOA and sports ministry on Thursday. He offered assistance in training Indian medal hopefuls for the Tokyo Olympics.
“The meeting with the Indian Olympic Association and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports was a fruiful one as we agreed on devising a roadmap where the most hopeful athletes from India will be prepared for the Olympic Games 2020 with the help of international expertise provided by IOC and Olympic Council of Asia. We have offered assistance and co-operation to the IOA to help in matters of sports science, coaching, sports for all, and the role of sports in the society at large,” Bach said.
The Tokyo Olympics will be held in July-August 2020 and the finer points of any such agreement need to be worked out quickly if India is to benefit from IOC’s help. According to the ministry,
Bach proposed a four-member group comprising representatives of the government, IOC, IOA and OCA be formed which could suggest the roadmap for sports development in India.
Zero tolerance for doping
India has had an unenviable record when it comes to doping, and sports minister Rathore emphasised that the government had zero tolerance for substance abuse and cheating. According to a government release, Bach expressed happiness that the Indian government had categorical views on ‘clean sports’. “…government with the help of Indian Olympic Association has prepared a Sports Code to bring transparency in functioning of the National Sports Federations (NSFs), fair selection of players for competitions and accountability for proper utilisation of funding to sports bodies by the government,” the sports ministry said in a statement.