March 2, 2017 1:09:04 am
Last week, the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) decided to scrap three events from the Olympics — 50m rifle prone, 50m free pistol and double trap. The recommendations have been forwarded to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who will take a final call. Abhinav Bindra, who is the chairman of ISSF’s athlete’s commission, has received brickbats for the decision from Indian as well as international shooters.
In an interview with The Indian Express, the Beijing Olympic gold medallist explains the rationale behind the decision and says the change was inevitable to ensure shooting continued to have 15 events at the Olympics. Excerpts from an interview:
There are murmurs of the position of shooting as an Olympic sport is under threat. Are the event changes a way to ensure the sport stays a part of the Games?
Since he has taken over, (IOC president Thomas) Bach’s statements over the period clearly indicate to the international federations that ‘change or be changed’. There are several sports who want to come into the Olympic program.
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The youth is going into completely different direction in terms of interest. If you look at the five new sports which are coming in for 2020, climbing for example, it shows. So one has to evolve over a period of time and the immediate task for every international federation, including the ISSF, was to comply to the Agenda 2020 (the roadmap released by the International Olympic Committee for all international federations).
Particularly for the ISSF, this has been a very challenging situation because it was one of the nine international feds which did not have gender equality. This is too delicate and important a scenario to allow emotion and personal biases to affect the decision. The most important thing is to maintain integrity and presence of the sport in the Olympics. That’s the priority.
Was there any other option available for the committee instead of scrapping the events?
There was no running away from the change because we were mandated with it. Previously, the IOC used to make a sport-based evaluation. Now, it is event-based. So they did that for all 15 shooting events across different verticals. The evaluation is confidential but whatever recommendations were made by us to the ISSF were in line with the evaluation made by the IOC.
We have three extra men’s event in shooting — prone, free pistol and double trap. Out of the 390 quota places that were on offer at the Rio Olympics and the previous ones, there was a big difference in the men-to-women ratio. Agenda 2020 clearly says it has to be 50-50.
Mixed events are being encouraged by the IOC and have come into play at the Youth Olympics and at the European Games in Baku a couple of years ago. It was most watched event.
Many shooters are upset with you, considering you were the chairman of the committee.
The athletes committee is just one structure in ISSF. It is not the decision making body. There are several other committees as well. The ISSF leadership had several rounds of discussion with IOC sports department, presidents of both federations met. It’s a very complex scenario.
I completely understand the emotion they have. Nobody likes a change. Unfortunately, this is the reality we are faced with. There is no easy solution and this was inevitable.
The discussion which happened between the ISSF and IOC was taken into consideration. There were environmental issues that come into play and it was a topic of discussion as well. The report on laser shooting at the Olympics confirms that because lead is a big issue.
What kind of environmental issues occur due to shooting?
Bullets are made out of lead, which isn’t considered to be good for the environment. But at the moment, shooting isn’t changing to laser. The ISSF is totally committed to not go that way.
We understand the whole essence of shooting is real bullets. But these are the challenges one has to face. At the end of the day, it is the IOC programme’s commission and executive board which has the final call on the programme for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
What if IOC forces ISSF to move to a laser gun scenario in the future?
It’s a huge concern for the ISSF. The body is doing everything to maintain the essence of shooting. The ISSF recognizes that shooting with laser is just not compatible to what the sport is all about. Environment and sustainability are issues which came up and the ISSF has just last week set up a committee to look into these issues.
The Indian shooters are unhappy that events they are strong in — prone, free pistol and double trap — are going to be excluded and that you, as chairman of the commission, should’ve acted in their interest.
I haven’t heard anything from them. We continuously asked for feedback and did not receive any from India per say. Firstly, I didn’t have any final say so there’s a complete misconception. My position does not allow me. Yes, I am from India but as chair of the committee, I cannot take an India view of the scenario.
This is something which had to come through from the federation. The NRAI is well-represented in the ISSF. The president of the NRAI (Raninder Singh) is a member of the ISSF executive committee and the administrative council. If he feels his athletes are losing strength by deletion of these events, it is more appropriate for him to bring it up. I cannot do that.
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