Indian shooting great believes that the athlete community will accept the latest development in a sporting way and rejig their plans to prepare themselves for the Olympics.
Ever since retiring from a glittering career in 2016, Indian legend Abhinav Bindra has been contributing to the Olympic cause in a multitude of ways.
Be it through his foundation or in the capacity of a mentor to some of the top athletes in the country, the former Indian shooting ace has been working tirelessly to help his compatriots realise their Olympic dream.
And since being appointed to the IOC Athletes’ Commission in 2018, the 37-year-old has also been working towards athletes’ welfare and contributing to their journeys in many more ways.
With the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics hitting the athletes and their preparations the most, the Olympic Channel caught up with India’s only individual Olympic gold medallist to get his thoughts on the unprecedented scenario.
Question: What are your views on on the postponement of the Olympic Games?
Abhinav Bindra: This is an unprecedented situation that the world is facing. The IOC has always been guided by the principle that the health of all the athletes and of all who are associated with the Games is paramount and had to act responsibly in the containment of the virus. The situation in the last couple of weeks has changed dramatically. The health of everybody around is paramount and it’s absolutely the right decision that’s been taken.
It is nice to see that the decision was taken quite promptly because there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding whether the Games would happen or not. The athletes can now calm down a little bit and firstly make sure that they stay healthy and people around them stay healthy. That is the most important thing.
The IOC's Athletes' Commission, which I am a part of, has been very actively involved in the past couple of weeks on all that’s been happening. We had a call with 200 athlete representatives recently. We have been in constant touch with the entire athlete community. Whatever the athletes desired, it was overwhelmingly towards the postponement of the Games which was duly conveyed further to the IOC and it's nice to see that the welfare of the athletes has taken precedence
Question: How have the athletes taken to the news?
Abhinav Bindra: I think they all understand what the situation is. It's a global pandemic, a global crisis that the world is facing. Everything else, at the moment, is secondary. Life has come to a complete standstill. And they all realise that the health of everybody is paramount and everything else comes secondary. The athlete community as a whole has taken the decision very well.
I believe athletes -- not only in India but on the whole -- are the most resilient people I know and they will take this scenario, this challenge in a sporting way and rejig their plans. But of course, the priority for everybody remains to take care of their health, make sure everybody around them remains healthy and be socially responsible people and contribute towards slowing down the (COVID-19) spread and towards the containment of the virus.
Question: How would the postponement of Tokyo 2020 affect an athlete’s preparations for the Olympics?
Abhinav Bindra: Sports career is all about adaptability. You know, there's still a year to go now and I think, the athletes can take heart that it's more than enough time to rejig their plans and their training so that they are in top shape going into the Games.
I think the worst would have been that the athletes were not able to train for a few months and then suddenly the Games would have been there. I think that would have been much more unfair because the athletes wouldn't have had an equal opportunity to train. Also, the qualification process is complicated. But now that there's enough time, once everything calms down - hopefully soon - the athletes can go back to training and plan their year ahead.
Question: How does the uncertainty affect the mental preparedness of the athletes?
Abhinav Bindra: There was a lot of anxiety building within the athlete community whether the Games would happen or not. A lot of them were risking training given the current circumstances. That's why I think there will be a sense of relief among them.
In today's times when there is so much crisis, a situation that the world is facing, people can perhaps deal with bad news but I think people can't reconcile to no-news at the moment, so I think the decision was taken timely. It is a very complicated decision which had to be taken.
To organise an Olympic Games is probably the most complex thing on the planet because it has so many moving parts. It's a very complicated scenario with several stakeholders involved, you have an organising committee involved, you have a government involved. So you have to get all the stakeholders on board before a decision could be taken. I think the decision has been taken quite rapidly and in the best interest of everybody involved.
Now that the decision has been taken, there would be a lot of relief within the athlete community and once things settle down you can calmly go back to training.
Question: What would be an athlete’s responsibility in times of a pandemic?
Abhinav Bindra: I think the athletes are great ambassadors and this is the time you need to act socially responsible. Adhere to all the regulations and advisories that different governments have put out and follow them to the 'T'.
You know, athletes can also be a great inspiration. When everybody is locked up at home, (they can show a way) on how to be healthy, how to stay fit. Everybody looks upon the athlete community and this is an opportunity to be great role models.
Especially when you talk in the India scenario, we have a very young population. The athletes who are going to be Olympians have a great responsibility. They are great ambassadors and they can help in spreading the message.