ISSF World Cup: India’s hosting rights under threat

Visa refusal to Pakistan shooters irks international shooting body; possibility of sanctions looms.

On the eve of the opening ceremony of the Delhi World Cup, the International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) threatened ‘consequences for India as a host country for future international competitions’ since it failed to provide visas to Pakistan shooters. National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) president Raninder conceded this is a violation of Olympic charter but refused to speculate on the possible sanctions the country could face.

The world body had sought a meeting with sports minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore on Wednesday evening to resolve the ‘urgent situation’. At the time of going to the press, though, there was no confirmation if the meeting took place.

In a strongly-worded statement, the ISSF said: “ISSF World Cup in New Delhi faces an urgent situation as Pakistani athletes cannot get entry visas to participate in the competition, due to the terrorist attacks happened last days in India. The ISSF and the Organizing Committee of the competition are taking all efforts to solve the situation to avoid the discrimination of the Pakistani team. Besides that, the ISSF and the Organizing Committee are discussing the possible consequences for India as a host country for future international competitions, in all sports.”

A three-member Pakistani contingent, including two pistol shooters and a manager, was scheduled to arrive in Delhi on Wednesday. However, they claimed they haven’t received visas from the Indian embassy. Consequently, they could not be sent shooters to Delhi. The development took place days after a terror strike in Pulwama, in which 40 soldiers lost their lives.

Consequently, Pakistan wrote a letter to the ISSF on Wednesday, urging them to withdraw the Tokyo Olympics quota places on offer in the 25m rapid fire pistol event at the Delhi World Cup, which begins on Saturday. ISSF secretary general Alexander Ratner said Pakistan have suggested shifting the quota competition for the said event to the World Cup in Beijing, which is scheduled to take place in April.

Such a change, Ratner added, can be made only by the IOC, who have been in touch with them regarding the issue on Tuesday. “Pakistan has requested us not to distribute Olympic quota in rapid fire pistol in Delhi, where Pakistani athletes were supposed to take part. They have asked us to distribute it in the next World Cup in Beijing,” Ratner said..”To change (the format) is the authority of the IOC, we can’t do it. We are trying to find a solution with the Indian authorities. We have sent a letter to the minister and hope to meet him.”

The 25m rapid fire pistol is one of India’s key events with respect to Olympic qualification. The hosts will be represented by three shooters – Commonwealth Games gold medalist Anish Bhanwala, national champion Adarsh Singh and Arpit Goel. The top two shooters in every event will secure quotas for next year’s Olympics.

NRAI president Raninder Singh they have requested a status report from the Indian high commission in Islamabad but there has been no response. “We know that they were granted a visa. We know that they’ve received a phone call to say that’s a mistake. Thereafter, we are asking for a status report from the high commission and we haven’t received one despite our written requests,” Raninder said.

He, however, insisted they haven’t been informed about any change in format. “It is unfortunate that the team has, for whatever reasons, not been granted visas despite all our efforts. However, the format of the competition has not been changed. What other consequences follow based on the decision of the government of India on this issue, we will see when they come up. Why to speculate…” he said.

The ‘other consequences’ can be severe. Ratner cited the recent case, where the IOC stripped Malaysia of the hosting rights for the World Para-Swimming Championships after they refused to let Israelis compete in the event. “Just over three weeks ago all international federations have received a circular letter from the IOC… (in relation to) the case. We can’t make parallels (but) let’s try to find a solution,” Ratner said. “In the end, it’s up to the IOC. We know the organising committee has done everything possible so it’s not a question of shooting. It’s about the situation in general.”

Raninder, too, did not rule out sanctions from the IOC but chose not to speculate. “The IOC’s stand on violation of Olympic charter in terms of denial of opportunity is very clear. All federations across the world have received advice on what the Olympic committee’s views are on this. Beyond this, it’s not for me to speculate it is for Mr Batra (IOA president Narendra Batra) and sports minister to comment,” he said.

India is scheduled to host a World Cup again next year. That, however, is now in jeopardy. Raninder said his federation ‘cannot comment on government’s decision’. “The NRAI sympathises with families of our soldiers. As a custodian of international federation’s responsibilities, and the Olympic charter, we have made every possible effort to ensure that all nations receive visas. But NRAI is not the government of India. And it cannot comment on the reasons or wisdom of the government. It simply accepts them with all humility given the circumstances. However, what consequences follow from the international federation is something I cannot comment on.”


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