The Shooting World Cup was set to take place from March 15 to March 26 in New Delhi.
The surge in novel coronavirus cases in India has led to the postponement of the shooting World Cup and has also put the India Open badminton in jeopardy. Both events were scheduled to be held in Delhi this month. The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) approached the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) with a request to postpone the World Cup, scheduled from March 15-25, in the wake of new travel advisory issued by the Indian government, putting restrictions on Italy, Iran, South Korea and Japan. Visas granted to nationals of China, issued on or before February 5 already stand suspended.
According to the NRAI, 220 athletes from 23 countries had already pulled out of the World Cup before a decision was taken to shelve the tournament.
The NRAI has proposed fresh dates in May and June when the situation with COVID-19 is expected to improve. The hosts want the World Cup to be divided in two parts—the rifle and pistol competition from May 5-12 and the shotgun competition from June 2-9. While the Olympic qualification events in shooting are over, there are still a few berths to be allocated based on world rankings. India is expecting to win at least one quota place in trap through these rankings.
The (ISSF) has also requested the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to extend the Olympic qualification period in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak. “Taking in consideration the global extraordinary situation preventive measures undertaken on the government level in many countries, ISSF has requested the IOC to prolong the internal Olympic qualification period in the shooting,” the ISSF said in a statement.
The original deadline of allocation of quota places through the world rankings system is May 31. In case the IOC rubber stamps the ISSF request, the upcoming World Cups from June 2-9 in Munich (in rifle and pistol) and in Baku (rifle, pistol and shotgun) from June 22 to July 7 can also influence the outcome of the Olympic qualification. The Olympics are scheduled to be held in Tokyo from July 24 to August 9.
The Olympic Games test event in rifle, pistol and shotgun, scheduled in Tokyo from April 16-26, has also been put on hold. In March, the Indian squad had skipped the shotgun World Cup in Nicosia, Cyprus.
India Open in empty stadium?
The turn of events means that the India Open, an Olympic qualification event in badminton scheduled from March 24-29 in New Delhi, is also doubtful.
“We are continuing our preparation but we can’t say anything right now. The scenario has changed after the new travel advisory. The shooting world cup is also cancelled. We have intimated the BWF of the current situation and that we have to follow the guidelines of the government,” said Badminton Association of India (BAI) secretary general Ajay Singhania.
Shuttlers from China and South Korea have been camping in England and will be coming straight from there. The BAI is therefore hoping that they will get their visas on the basis of their travel history.
The BAI is keen to host the event as it could be one of the last in the Olympic qualification period and players like Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth are close to making the cut off. After the All England Open (March 11-15) and the India Open, the next Olympic qualifying events in the schedule—Malaysia Open (March 31-April 5) and Singapore Open (April 7-12)—are widely expected to be cancelled.
The last event of the qualification period—the Badminton Asian Championships—has been shifted from Wuhan to Manila and will take place from April 21-26. However, countries affected by the outbreak are barred from competing and it seems Indian shuttlers will have to give it a miss. India Open may prove to be their last chance to win valuable points.
“The event is very important for us and we are looking at various options like keeping it low key and hosting it in an empty stadium. We will discuss the proposal with the sports ministry,” said Singhania.