Shooters ill-treated, but not for the first time

“The shooter invests his whole being into his craft, the bureaucrat waffles. There is no synergy here. For the shooter, detail, as tiny as how many grams his trigger must be, is vital; for the official, a major detail like early hotel bookings is shrugged off. Just a room to yourself, no fuss, no changing, settles the mind. At this point, only elbow, gun, trigger, sight should matter. Not where the hell are we staying.”

Gagan Narang

This is what India’s lone Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra says in his book A Shot at History. On Saturday, his fellow shooters Gagan Narang and Ronjan Sodhi were at the receiving end of the kind of inefficiency Bindra talks about in the above excerpt of his book that was published by Harper Sport last year.

Narang and Sodhi, both Olympic medal hopefuls, were asked to vacate their rooms by the Grange St Paul hotel staff in London after the agency hired by the Olympic organising committee reportedly goofed-up on accommodation arrangements. The shooters had to spend the night in the lobby of the hotel.

Amidst uproar over Saturday night’s accommodation goof-up concerning the Indian shooting contingent participating in the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup in London, former India hockey captain and Olympian, Viren Rasquinha’s heart went out to the ‘victims.’

Ronjan Sodhi

“Athletes representing any country should be given fair treatment. It is our primary duty to ensure that their needs are taken care of. It is absolutely unfair to ask them to vacate hotel room when the payments were already made,” Rasquinha told MiD DAY yesterday.

Rasquinha, the Chief Operations Officer (COO) for Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) wasn’t aware of what exactly happened and hasn’t spoken to any of the shooters in London, but made his point: “I do not have a clear picture of what happened in London. I haven’t heard from Gagan yet. But we should ensure that such incidents do not take place in future,” Rasquinha said.

The incident though has not gone down well with the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI). Senior vice-president Avtar Sethi told PTI that the national shooting body will report the matter to the ISSF, International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Indian Olympic Association (IOA). “We will write to the ISSF, IOC and IOA to protest. Whenever foreigners come to India, we make sure that their stay is comfortable and we expect the same from other countries,” Sethi said.

Viren Rasquinha

Nothing new...

Gurmeet Singh, a member of the contingent, said that the keys were not handed over to them following a goof-up with hotel bookings. “The way they treated us was like as if it’s 1940s, as if they were still ruling us. This has happened with the team even before during the shotgun World Cup, even then they treated us in a similar fashion,” Gurmeet told NDTV.

However, this isn’t an one-off incident as it is followed by a racism row in 2010 where Indian shooters had complained of harassment at the World Cup in Dorset. “The sad thing is that it’s not the first time it has happened. It’s the third or fourth time it has happened, that too only in England. It never happens in any other country,” team official Deep Bhatia told the television

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