olympic ban

The International Olympic Committee Feb. 22 suspended all Indian applications to host future Olympic-related events until New Delhi guarantees in writing the entry of all participants. (IOC photo)

NEW DELHI — In a major setback for India, the International Olympic Committee Feb. 22 suspended all Indian applications to host future Olympic-related events until New Delhi guarantees in writing the entry of all participants.

The IOC measure comes after two Pakistani shooters were denied visas to compete in the ISSF Shooting World Cup, starting here Feb. 23, which also resulted in the scrapping of two of the 16 Tokyo Olympic quota places on offer in the marquee tournament.

The denial of visas followed the Feb. 14 Pulwama terror attack that led to the martyrdom of 40 Central Reserve Police Force troopers.

"Since becoming aware of the issue, and in spite of intense last-minute efforts and discussions with the Indian government authorities, no solution has been found to allow the Pakistani delegation to enter India in time to compete," the IOC statement said.

"As a result, the IOC Executive Board also decided to suspend all discussions with the IOA (Indian Olympic Association) and government regarding the potential applications for hosting future sports and Olympic-related events in India," it added.

The global sports governing body also urged all international sports federations not to hold events in India, or grant hosting rights to the country for future competitions, until the government had provided "clear written guarantees" to ensure access for all athletes.

The IOC also stated that the men's 25-metre rapid fire pistol category, in which the two Pakistanis — G.M. Bashir and Khalil Ahmed — were due to take part, is not a part of the Olympic qualifying process.

That particular event had two Olympic quotas on offer, which have been scrapped by the IOC following a written request by the National Rifle Association of Pakistan.

Those quota places will now be included in the other ISSF World Cups scheduled for later this year.

International Shooting Sports Federation President Vladimir Lisin had earlier told the media on the sidelines of the World Cup opening ceremony Feb. 21 evening that all the 16 quota places could be scrapped. The IOC, however, decided to scrap only two quota places, leaving 14 intact.

"The IOC restricted the withdrawal of recognition as an Olympic qualification event to the 25m rapid fire pistol competition in which the two Pakistani athletes were supposed to participate," the IOC said.

"This happened in the interest of the other 500 athletes from 61 countries participating in the other events who are already in India for their competition."

Stating that no solution could be found despite the best efforts of the IOC and the ISSF, the world body said the non-participation of the Pakistani shooters goes against the basic principles of the Olympic charter.

"This situation goes against the fundamental principles of the Olympic charter, in particular the principles of non-discrimination. In view of the above, we wish to inform that the IOC executive board decided to revoke the Olympic qualification status of the specific event," it added.

However, National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) secretary general D.V.S. Rao opined that Indian shooters will not be affected by the IOC decision.

"Our shooters will not be affected in any manner. We will go and take part in World Cups outside India. I am sure our shooters will win more Olympic quotas and we will play at the Tokyo Games next year. So our international performances will not be affected in any manner," he asserted.

Pointing out that the issue will have to be dealt with at the government level, Rao hoped that the impasse will be resolved soon.

"The IOC has said the ban will be there until such time the Indian government gives a guarantee. That is not in our hands. This World Cup is going on very well. By the time we host any World Cup in future, the situation will change. Everything will become normal by then," Rao told IANS.

"For the time being, we will not be able to host this type of events if the government decides not to issue visas to particular nations. That is at the government level. That is not in our hands. We are helpless," he added.

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