When International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach begins his official visit to India on Monday, he will meet two sets of people with contrasting agendas.
Bach will start the day with a meeting with the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) members, who will press for additional funds from the world governing body. That will be followed by a courtesy call to sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal before his crucial meeting with prime minister Narendra Modi over tea.
Bach and the prime minister are expected to discuss the possibility of India bidding for the 2024 Olympics. To jog back memory, sports secretary Ajit Sharan and IOA president N Ramachandran met Bach in Lausanne last month, where they had ‘expressed interest’ in bidding for the Games.
While there has been no major groundwork since, the sports ministry has submitted a 20-odd page dossier to the prime minister’s office (PMO), highlighting the pros and cons of hosting the Games.
It is learnt that the ministry has projected a budget of $12 billion to $15 billion, not counting inflation. And while they haven’t suggested a city, the sports ministry has hinted at Delhi as an ideal venue.
In the last couple of weeks, Bach has met the French president and the Hungarian prime minister. Both countries decided to throw their hats in the Olympic ring following the meetings. Bach is expected to urge India to bid for the Games as well.
“The decision to bid will completely depend on the PMO. The sports ministry or the IOA will have little role to play. There has been no deliberation over it yet but just for the prime minister’s perusal, we have prepared a draft that includes all the details – from the procedure to bid to the estimated budget,” a sports ministry official said.
If India does decide, the country has time till September to submit the bid. Paris, Hamburg, Rome and Budapest have confirmed their entries while Boston too is likely to join the race. Several factors will have to be considered before India does decide to bid. Japan is hosting the 2020 Summer Games and China is the front-runner for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Whether Asia will get three back-to-back major events is doubtful.
Besides, the sheer cost of the event, getting the public’s backing and the general indifference within the IOA have led several parties involved in the process to believe that the country is not seriously considering the possibility of bidding. At best, observers say, India might be testing waters for future bids.
The IOA, in fact, does not even have the issue on its agenda. They will request for more funds from the IOC for the disciplines that feature in the Games. The IOC distributes approximately 20 per cent of its revenues generated from sponsorships and media rights to recognised National Olympic Federations. The IOA too receives funding from its parent body, an amount which is reported to be in the range of Rs 1 to Rs 1.5 crore annually. In addition, the IOC also provides additional resources to countries that need it the most.
Ramachandran, who will be involved in the talks between Bach and Modi, refrained from commenting on the prospect of bidding for the Games. “What they will discuss is something I cannot comment on. From the IOA’s point of view, we are looking to get extra funds from the IOC,” he said.