In a bid to convince the Birmingham Commonwealth Games organisers to include shooting at the 2022 Games, the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) has made an extraordinary proposal to bear the financial burden of all the 'field of play' expenditures at the Games, according to National Rifle Association of India President Raninder Singh, who is also one of the four Vice Presidents of the ISSF.
Shooting, which is an optional sport in the Commonwealth Games program, has been a regular feature of all editions since Kingston 1966, barring Edinburgh 1970. However, the decision by Birmingham organisers to ignore shooting caused a furore, particularly in India, which has won nearly one-fourth of its medals at the CWG in the discipline.
Raninder revealed that the ISSF had prepared a proposal for the Review Committee of the Birmingham Games in a bid for re-induction of the sport where one of the biggest commitments was that "everything will be free of cost on the field of play".
"Essentially, we were offering to organise ammunition, targets and all the other things needed for the event at our cost. The only cost to the organisers for having the shooting competition would be transportation besides accommodation for athletes and staff," Raninder told Firstpost on the sidelines of an event to announce a strategic partnership between NRAI and JSW.
"If everything is being done for free, then there's no expense for the organisers," Raninder said before outlining how shooting's governing body would make this possible. "We went to the manufacturers of shooting equipment and told them what the Bisley range needs. They will sign a lend-lease agreement with the facility or will donate the equipment. Similarly, we went to manufacturers of equipment too and asked them to provide shooting equipment like ammunition for free for the event. Meanwhile, ISSF will bear the cost of the jury members."
Raninder said that the ISSF had suggested that the event be held at Bisley Shooting Centre in Surrey, which hosted the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002.
"At Bisley, you don't have to develop the infrastructure, you just have to do upgrade the targeting systems. It's a Tier 3 military base, so it has inherent security systems already in place. One of their requirements was fencing off the whole area. That would require us fencing 400 acres. That cost could have gone up to £10 million. This was not even the cost for the security of the entire CWG at Gold Coast."
Raninder pointed out that while concerns had been raised about there being no shooting ranges in Birmingham to host the event in 2022, the track cycling event would be held at Lee Valley VeloPark at London, some 136 miles away.
The Bisley shooting range in Surrey, by contrast, is 130 miles away.
"This is too far, that is not? No logic!"
D-Day on 16 February
"We have done everything humanly possible to bring back shooting at Commonwealth Games. It is not possible to do more. We fought it well. I'm very hopeful of shooting coming back at the 2022 Games. 16 February is the D-Day," said Raninder.
"When they announced the decision to drop shooting from the Commonwealth Games, I was the first one to call for a boycott of the Games. That was only to bring the issue to everyone's attention. I do not believe in boycott tactics," he clarified.
"But I believe the decision was an affront to India. Besides India, many of the home nations don't have anything other than shooters. If shooting is out, their flag won't be at the Games!"
Since the sport has been dropped from the 2022 edition, the ISSF has lobbied extensively to get the sport reinstated. There have been political efforts from India as well, which included Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussing the issue with British PM Theresa May in May this year and Minister for Youth and Sports Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore writing letters to Commonwealth Games Federation President Louise Martin and British Member of Parliament Matt Hancock, who is the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
"In conjunction with some friends in the United Kingdom, we also got a debate organised in the House of Commons. We took the government by surprise," said Raninder. "We got a commitment from the minister of sports on the floor of the House that they want shooting put back and they will do everything to have it put back," said Raninder.