The coronavirus pandemic has altered the way most people have had lived their lives, with sportspersons being no different. As covid-19 forced the Tokyo Olympics to be postponed to next year, athletes have been forced to stay home, away from training and preparations for the quadrennial event.
With intermittent lockdowns from state governments to manage the virus to safety of individuals so that Tokyo Olympics hopefuls are not exposed, Sports Ministry has had a tough job managing the return to training.
Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju in a recent interview shed some light on the plans regarding athletes given the rising coronavirus cases and ensuing lockdowns.
"We are passing through an extraordinary situation due to the pandemic and therefore, the government’s approach to commencement of training for our Olympics-bound-athletes would be to tread with caution, keeping their health and safety in mind," Kiren Rijiju told TOI in an interview.
"However, we cannot put them at a disadvantage by delaying their training. Therefore, camps will have to be held, while making a thorough situation appraisal. Decisions will be made on a case-to-case basis. The lockdown in many states is an added challenge, like in Bengaluru, where our athletes have not been able to join the camp. We have to work keeping all these factors in mind," the sports minister added.
Kiren Rijiju also said that nationals camps are being restarted with Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) being followed to minimise risk.
"The camps are being resumed in phases as per the situation in the states. The boxers are already in Patiala, but are going through an extended quarantine. Once the quarantine is over, they will resume training as per the SOP laid down. The shooting facility has been opened up and all Olympic-bound shooters are free to resume their training. The other camps will surely start but the training of athletes bound for Tokyo is our priority at this juncture," Rijiju said.
When asked about if the SOPs and quarantine rules needed to be reviews in the light of the recent Covid-19 positive cases and protocol breach by boxers at NIS Patiala, Kiren Rijiju said he had personally spoken to athletes to enquire about the situation in the camps.
"Due care is being taken of athletes at Patiala and Bengaluru centres. I had personally interacted with athletes and coaches of hockey, athletics and weightlifting while they were in the camps. They were very happy with the steps taken by SAI to maintain a sanitised atmosphere in the camps," Rijiju said.
"The breach of protocol by someone and the doctor contracting Covid-19 while in quarantine shouldn’t deter us, nor should these be seen as a shortcoming of the SOP document prepared for the camps. At the same time, all elite athletes are our national assets and role models for the nation. Athletes are conscious of the fact that they are setting an example for others. SAI will do whatever is best for athletes. The comfort and feedback from athletes is of paramount importance to us," he added.