By Amlan Chakraborty
NEWDELHI (Reuters) – The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) will meet Indian officials to try and talk them out of their plans to boycott the 2022 Birmingham Games over shooting’s absence in the programme, the governing body has said.
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Narinder Batra wrote to sports minister Kiren Rijiju this week, seeking a meeting to explain the proposed boycott.
The IOA have decided to boycott the CGF General Assembly in Rwanda, also withdrawing candidatures of two of its officials from the September elections there.
The CGF said it was “naturally disappointed” that India had chosen not to join the assembly.
“We absolutely want India to participate wholeheartedly in Birmingham 2022 and look forward to meeting our colleagues in India over the coming months to discuss their concerns and future ambitions,” a spokesperson said.
Indian shooters accounted for 16 of their 66 medals, including seven golds, at last year’s Gold Coast Games where they finished third in the medals table.
In absence of shooting, which is an optional sport for host cities, India could slip to anywhere between fifth and eighth place in 2022, according to IOA estimates.
Shooting federations, including the sport’s global governing body, wanted four disciplines in a single Bisley-based venue in Surrey and turned down the offer to have fewer disciplines in one Birmingham venue.
Ian Reid, Chief Executive Officer of Birmingham 2022, hoped CGF would be able to convince India to participate in the Games.
“As the organisers of the Games we do, of course, want every nation and territory eligible to compete to take part in our event,” he said.
“We know that the Commonwealth Games Federation is hoping to meet with the IOA soon, to discuss their concerns and we hope that this meeting goes well.”
While a number of Indian sports federations have backed the IOA’s proposed boycott of the Games and the CGF General Assembly, the country’s only Olympic gold medallist shooter Abhinav Bindra questioned such moves.
“Boycotts don’t win you influence. They just make you irrelevant and punish other athletes,” the 36-year-old, who won the 10 metre air rifle gold in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, wrote on Twitter.
“Would be far better if IOA did a campaign to load the CWG committees with their people and allies and push for the inclusion of shooting onto the core list of sports for the future.”
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Ian Ransom)