With top Indian athletes either confined to their homes or cramped at the Sports Authority of India facilities, since the lockdown was enforced, training has been discontinued. Regardless of their location, access to equipment and facilities has been cut off leaving them reliant mostly on improvised training regimens to stay fit.
Even in the event of the lockdown being lifted on May 3rd, it is highly likely that most Indian athletes will be confined to their homes for some time in lieu of safety. In anticipation, SAI and its Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) secretariat have come up with a plan to provide these athletes with necessary equipment at their doorstep and ensure they have everything they need for their training.
The equipment will be granted to athletes under TOPS schemes along with a core list of probables of the Tokyo Olympics.
“A total of 107 athletes (including para-athletes) were mapped for their requirements towards their training at home. The equipment requirements of all the athletes were collected and mapped according to SAI regional centres,” a SAI official told the Times of India.
“Around 43 requests were received from athletes, half of which have been fulfilled with the help of SAI regional centres, state governments and NGOs,” the official added.
Also Read| FIFA Starts Financial Support for Member Associations; Norwich City Defends Furloughing of staff and More (Football Round-up)
Some of the top athletes already enjoying the perks of the initiative are wrestler Bajrang Punia, shooters Saurabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker and boxers Lovlina Borgohain and Ashish Kumar.
“I had requested for target papers and pellets and received those on Sunday,” Manu Bhaker, currently training at the range her father constructed at their residence in Garia, Haryana, told the Times of India. “SAI delivered those at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range in Delhi, and my father arranged for it to reach us. It took 3-4 days, but I have it now.”
“It (pandemic) is a situation that none of us saw coming. So I thank SAI for helping me out with this so that I can continue to train,” she added.
Wrestler Bajrang Punia has been facilitated with a kabaddi mat which he uses to train. He said, “Yes, I have been provided that from the SAI centre. It's not a wrestling mat, but the one used in kabaddi. Still, it will help me."
Pistol shooter Abhishek Verma has also summarised his requirements and expects them to be delivered after May 3, once the lockdown is likely to be lifted in certain parts of the country.
Also Read| The Price of Power: Modesty, Decadence And Inevitability | Outside Edge
The Sports Ministry has requested the Ministry of Home Affairs to allow athletes at SAI centres like javelin-thrower Neeraj Chopra (NIS Patiala), weightlifter Mirabai Chanu (SAI Bengaluru) and the men’s and women’s hockey teams (SAI Bengaluru), to resume their training at the facilities.
CUT IN CSR FUNDING
While athletes may receive some relief in the form of training equipment and a relative easing off of restrictions, the pandemic has caused concern for several federations and their budget plans for the year. Chief among them are the Cycling Federation of India (CFI) and Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) who are anticipating reduction in assistance from the CSR funds for the year.
All national sports bodies, except for the BCCI, receive funds from the Ministry under the Scheme of ‘Assistance to National Sports Federations’. The budget set aside for them this year is an accumulated Rs 245 crore.
Also Read | Coe Suggests Strict Action On Doping In Quarantine, NADA Has Zero Samples In April
The budget covers, among other things, athletes’ training and equipment needs, participation in international tournaments, exposure trips abroad and hoisting of national and international events in the country.
The NSFs submit their Annual Calendar for Training and Competitions (ACTC) to get their shares from these funds every year. However, a lot of NSFs do not purely rely on the government and are also open to private sector funding to host additional events or organise tournaments on a bigger scale. There have been many provisions imposed by the government to enable corporate houses to spend money from their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds for sports activities.
“Certainly, there is going to be a reduction in the CSR fund component which we get from the private sector due to this coronavirus outbreak. The private sector is hit hard and it will have an impact on corporate funding in sports,” CFI Chairman Onkar Singh said.
Honda Motors is one of the biggest contributors to CFI’s funding (more than Rs. 1 crore a year) and Singh expressed his apprehensions for the new cycle. “We submitted project proposal for this year in February but they (Honda Motors) are yet to approve it,” he said.
Furthermore, the status of CFI’s most prestigious international event, the Track Asia Cup approved by the world body UCI, remains unclear. “...we will know more about this event depending on how this pandemic unfolds. All the international events have been postponed as of now and UCI will take a decision in June on the future course of action,” Singh said.
PCI Secretary General Gursharan Singh, acknowledged that the federation expected a reduction in funding, citing an economic slowdown as chief among the reasons, but also stressed that there is no need to be alarmed. “Most of the corporate houses have already exhausted their CSR funds due to their generous contribution to the PM CARES fund, the contribution to sports bodies will not be a priority,” he said, “But PCI has already chalked out its financial plan for the year 2020-21 very meticulously since the Tokyo Paralympic Games are now to be held in 2021 and therefore we hope to sail through,” he added.
Read more sports stories from Newsclick