Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Monday said training of elite athletes will resume after the lockdown to contain the COVID-19 pandemic is lifted, urging sportspersons and stakeholders to be patient.
Reiterating a position he first took on May 3, Rijiju said health of the athletes is his top priority. The lockdown is set to end on May 17 after rising cases forced two extensions.
“Once the lockdown is lifted, we will resume the training of our elite athletes followed by other SAI Training Centres in phased manner. I appeal sportspersons and all stakeholders not to rush because health and safety is our top priority presently,” he tweeted.
The national camps at Sports Authority of India (SAI) Centres have been shut since mid-March to contain the virus, which has infected over 65,000 people and caused more than 2,000 deaths in India.
Rijiju, on May 3, had stated that camps for all athletes will resume by May end. He said at first, training will be restarted for the Olympic-bound and those who are close to gaining qualification.
“I thought of starting training of athletes at SAI centres from May 3 (the earlier stated end for the lockdown). Now we will have to do that in a phased manner by the end of this month.
“Sports events don’t get any relaxations under Disaster Management Act. We don’t fall under the category of essential services,” he had stated.
Track and field athletes have been requesting the ministry to allow them to train within the campuses of the SAI centres they are based at but haven’t got the nod so far.
The ministry is also deliberating on ways to restart training in contact sports such as boxing and wrestling.
Both cannot do without sparring, which might be considered a health risk at a time when even a touch of the hand is being seen as potentially infection-causing.