Four days ago, when the government asked the Swimming Federation of India (SFI) to propose ways to resume aquatic activities in a post-pandemic scenario, they were not expecting a reply within a day. And that too, a meticulous framework with references to the White House’s guidelines for ‘Opening Up America Again’ and advisories issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It turns out the SFI had simply forwarded a set of guidelines USA Swimming had prepared for swimmers in their country. Not copy-pasting bits or borrowing ideas, but passing on the eight-page document titled ‘USA Swimming: Facility re-opening, messaging and planning’ as is.
The Sports Authority of India (SAI) has now asked the SFI to rework the recommendations and make them relevant in India’s context.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Virendra Nanavati, SFI’s executive director, said they could not come up with a more comprehensive plan. “The guidelines issued by USA Swimming are foolproof and, to start with, we can rely on that. They have proper expertise in this area so we have forwarded that to the SAI committee. Let them modify as per the central and state government guidelines for Covid-19,” Nanavati said.
Training in all sports has been halted from the time the lockdown was first imposed on March 24. And while it is unlikely there will be any competitive event held for the foreseeable future, the sports ministry is considering a phase-wise resumption of training at government-run institutes by the end of this month.
As a first step, SAI formed two committees last Sunday to prepare a Standard Operating Procedure — and asked all federations under its watch to submit recommendations to restart sporting activities. One of the two committees was dedicated to swimming, given that the “sport requires athletes to train in water and may have different health risks involved compared to other sport”, according to SAI.
Following this, an online meeting was held between the swimming federation and SAI officials on Tuesday, when its “recommendations” were discussed.
So, his advice to SAI is to do what the Americans — a swimming powerhouse — have recommended.
In their detailed proposal, USA Swimming has urged swimmers to “change clothes and shower at home” and “eliminate the use rooms that prevent social distancing, such as locker rooms”.
They have also illustrated how social distancing can be practised in the pool while training by using staggered starts, opposite ends and limiting the number of swimmers per lane.
The document states that the pool should be disinfected with chlorine and bromine to “inactivate the virus in the water”, citing the Center for Disease Control’s advisory that “there is no evidence the disease spreads through treated water”.
For their Indian counterparts, however, there is still a big question to be answered: “If swimming centres open up based on guidelines we set, and something unfortunate happens, who will take responsibility?”