New Delhi : National camps will be re-opened in a phase-wise manner starting at the end of this month, Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju said on Sunday.
Speaking at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry's (FICCI) webinar 'Corona & Sports: The Champions Speak,' Rjiju said that while there won't be any competitions in the near future, the ministry is drafting a plan to implement relaxation of restrictions in national camps.
Rijiju said the ministry had initially planned allowing athletes who are at the National Institute of Sports (NIS) in Patiala and at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre in Bengaluru to resume outdoor training from May 3. But they were forced to shelve that plan after the government extended the lockdown till May 17.
"We have to go phase-wise. First of all we will allow on-field practice in Patiala and Bengaluru. Our top athletes, many of whom have qualified for the Olympics, are mostly there in NIS Patiala," said Rijiju.
Rijiju said athletes who will be initially allowed to train will be those who have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics or are slated to play qualification tournaments. The Olympics has been postponed to July 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"Tomorrow or day after I am going to draft the way forward. First of all we will identify those players and teams who have qualified for the Olympics. Second, those who are going to play the Olympic qualification competitions, We will allow these athletes to practice.
"Third, we won't be able to open camps for those who are not in qualification reckoning soon. Maybe that will go beyond August or September."
Rijiju said in the webinar that included Indian women's hockey team captain Rani Rampal, who has been at the Bengaluru SAI centre since the lockdown began, that they can expect to be able to resume practice "by the end of this month."
The Indian men's and women's hockey teams have been in Bengaluru while javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra and weightlifter Mirabai Chanu are among athletes stuck in NIS Patiala.
The Indian Olympic Association said earlier that it will be requesting the Sports Ministry and SAI to allow resumption of outdoor training for those athletes in the camps. It also said that "discussion should be taken up with SAI and MYAS as to how other SAI centres can also be opened for other Olympic Sports by following & respecting all the required restrictions and protocols."