The COVID-19 pandemic of the last four months have disrupted world sports to an astounding scale. It has been the longest hiatus for a number of athletes, who have resorted to training drills at their homes, as all events, tournaments and fixtures were met with either postponement or cancellation. As India is observing its unlock phases, restarting sports after such a long gap is a challenging task. However, Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju oozes confidence, as he outlines the plans of resumption of sports in the country in the coming months.
On one hand rebooting sporting activity and on the other hand boosting the morale of athletes who were confined away from their career for such a long time, Kiren Rijiju has been tackling a rough patch in the past few weeks.
From dealing with the initial hit from the COVID-19 lockdown, to adapting to the pandemic scenario, and looking forward to restoring sports back to normalcy, Rijiju speaks about how the sports ministry is dealing with the current scenario.
In an exclusive interview with Sportstar, the Union Sports Minister opens up about the Indian sports scene’s initial reactions to the virus crisis, which was the safe return of many athletes, coaches and staffs back to their homes.
“The only athletes who stayed back were the men’s and women’s hockey teams at our National Centre of Excellence in Bengaluru and a few of our Olympic-bound athletes in NCOE Patiala. So, we ensured that these two centres were completely safe and sanitised,” Rijiju said in the interview.
Rijiju further added that all elite, junior and sub-junior athletes, who have been away from on field training for quite some time now, are now receiving online mentorship, as to keep their physical fitness and mental motivation at peak. Many high-performance managers and sports pschycologists have been assigned. SAI (Sports Authority of India) also delivered the necessary training equipment for the athletes in need.
“Our priority was to ensure that our elite athletes, especially those bound for Olympics next year, could be kept in top form, and all their requirements were fulfilled,” the Sports Minister acknowledged.
A complete restoration back to normalcy is still a far cry in the country, which is seeing high number of COVID-19 cases each day currently. While Rijiju termed the return of sports as “still unpredictable”, he revealed the initial steps that have been taken to attempt to resume sporting activities in the near future.
“I have already spoken to all NSFs and told them to prepare a roadmap for competitive events, possibly September onwards,” he continued, “These will be events conducted in controlled atmosphere and we can’t have any spectators.”
“These events are important not just to bolster the morale of the athletes, but also to create a sense of normalcy. If sports begins, it gives the message that things are slowly returning to normal,” Rijiju added.