How India went from being on the brink of boycotting 2022 CWG to hosting shooting, archery events

Mihir Vasavda
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The exclusion of shooting from the 2022 CWG would have severely impacted India’s medal count as it accounts for nearly one-fourth of the country’s medals at the event. (Representational Image)

Six months before they will officially be declared open in Birmingham, the 2022 Commonwealth Games will get underway in Chandigarh. This, after the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) approved India’s proposal to host shooting and archery after they were omitted from the event programme.

India will spend crores to host the two sports — that lack competitiveness in the Commonwealth — in which they are expected to win more than a dozen medals. These will be added to the final tally after the Games conclude in Birmingham.

The solution was arrived at after months of posturing and negotiations and according to CGF chief executive David Grevemberg, 2022 Games will be a ‘pilot programme’ to check the feasibility of hosting future Commonwealth Games in different cities, and countries even.

“Not every sport is not widely and regularly practiced in all countries. So we need to find sustainable ways to hosting games,” Grevemberg told The Indian Express after the meeting of CGF’s executive board, which gave its nod. “So this innovation will be a great pilot programme to future hosting process.”

Here is a low down on how India went from being on the brink of boycotting the 2022 Games to now hosting a couple of events.

Why are shooting and archery held in Chandigarh and not Birmingham?

Simply put, because the organisers of the 2022 Games were not interested in hosting these two sports. Shooting and archery are two of the several optional sports in the CWG programme. It is a standard practice for the hosts to choose events in which they are strong. For example, India excluded popular sports like basketball and triathlon from the 2010 Games, adding tennis, archery and wrestling instead.

So if India dropped some sports as well, why did they object to shooting and archery being omitted from 2022 edition?

That’s because India wins a chunk of its medals in these events. In fact, archery was a last-minute addition to India’s demand. The sport has featured in the CWG just twice – in Brisbane 1982 and Delhi 2010. But shooting’s exclusion would have severely impacted India’s medal count as it accounts for nearly one-fourth of the country’s medals at the event.

Did the organizers give any reasons for dropping these sports?

It is believed that the decision to drop shooting was taken primarily because the organisers were keen to include those sports for which Birmingham and the wider West Midlands region had the facilities. The closest Olympic-standard shooting range to Birmingham is in Surrey, roughly 150 miles away. The organizers were not keen to spend money on constructing a new range just for the Games. Britain's tough gun laws, which make it very tough for athletes to enter the country with weapons, were a deterrent as well.

So who will foot the bill now?

India have said they will take care of all the expenses for hosting these two events. According to the Indian Olympic Association, the budget for shooting is estimated at Rs 10 crore while Rs 3.5 crore will be set aside for archery. The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) president Raninder Singh has said they will pay for the shooting event. The cost includes return airfare, accommodation, meals, local transportation and training costs for the athletes and support staff.

Why did India propose to host the two sports?

Recently, sports minister Kiren Rijiju said: “If you are getting medals, whatever the way it has to be, I think it is justified…”

From the federation and Indian Olympic Association’s point of view, the official line has been that ‘athletes should not suffer.’ Indian athletes are entitled to a cash prize, government jobs and even promotions for a medal at CWG. Also, the sports that are included in the CWG get an additional budget from the government for preparation.

Will medals won in Chandigarh counted in the overall tally?

Yes. That was the Indian Olympic Association’s primary condition. The CGF has said they will issue a “medal table that includes results from the Chandigarh 2022 Commonwealth Archery and Shooting Championships, as a further and final legitimate ranking of competing nations and territories.”

How many countries and athletes are likely to take part?

Roughly 38 countries will take part in these two events. According to Raninder, 418 athletes, officials and CGF dignitaries are likely to be a part of the Chandigarh event. It will include 281 shooters. In archery, 175 athletes and officials are expected.

Does this mean India are the co-hosts of the 2022 Commonwealth Games?

It may feel like it but the CGF has said that is not the case. They have been very careful in their words, calling the event in India merely a ‘Commonwealth Championship’ for shooting and archery. “We need to be careful that it’s not a co-hosts arrangement. It’s organised separately. We have our arrangements, agreements and contracts with Birmingham. We will have a separate licensing agreement with Chandigarh,” Grevemberg said, adding that there will be co-branding of the Chandigarh and Birmingham events as well.

Will this become a norm in the future, where CWG will be held in multiple cities or countries?

Grevemberg did not rule out the possibility. “What we have done is similar to what FIFA has done in the past with Japan and Korea (co-hosting the 2002 World Cup) or with 2026 World Cup, which Mexico, USA and Canada will co-host. For future, this allows us to explore and consider options – it has let the creative juices flowing,” he said. It is worth mentioning that India has also expressed willingness to host either the 2026 or 2030 CWG.