The Commonwealth Shooting and Archery Championships will be staged in Chandigarh in January 2022, six months ahead of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and will count towards the official medal tally.
The proposal for India to host competitions in both the sporting disciplines was approved by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) executive board in its February 21-23 meeting and "the decision confirmed that Chandigarh 2022 and Birmingham 2022 will be two separately organized and funded Commonwealth Sport events".
"One week following the closing ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, the CGF shall issue a medal table that includes results from the Chandigarh 2022 Commonwealth Archery and Shooting Championships, as a further and final legitimate ranking of competing nations and territories from the respective competitions," the CGF said in a release on Monday.
This move to stage a few culled events at a venue other than the designated Games host and at no cost to the original hosts is both unprecedented and unusual. Starker still has been India's stance on the matter -- swinging from protest over shooting being excluded from the 2022 Games programme, abstaining from the CGF General Assembly last September, threatening to boycott the Games, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Narinder Batra calling into question the relevance of a Games rooted in a colonial past and going public with his views on pulling out of all future editions, to jumping to offer to bid as hosts for the 2026 or 2030 Games and readily offering to stage shooting and archery competitions at its own expense.
The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) will be the primary organizers of the Chandigarh event, footing the bill for food, hotel and flights for over 300 athletes and officials from all over the world who are expected to turn up for the competitions. The total cost of hosting the shooting event is expected to be around Rs 10 crore and will be borne by the NRAI, while the government (read: taxpayer) will fund the archery competition that could cost about Rs 4 crore.
"We will raise the required funds to host the event," NRAI president Raninder Singh had said earlier. "It shouldn't be a problem since the status of the event will be that of being adjunct to the Games itself, with the medals being counted towards the official tally."
Both shooting and archery, optional sports in the Games programme, were left out by hosts Birmingham from the 2022 edition scheduled to be held from July 27 to August 7, to make way for women's T20 cricket, beach volleyball and para table tennis. The host city cited lack of "appropriate facilities" to stage competitions in the sports.
Shooting was excluded from the Games for the first time since 1970. India -- who had topped the table for shooting at the 2018 Gold Coast Games, bringing home 16 medals for a total tally of 66 medals, finishing as the third-best performing nation -- had threatened to boycott the Games over the exclusion of shooting.
Archery -- though also existing as an optional sport in the Games programme -- has only featured twice, 1982 Brisbane and 2010 Delhi, in the competition history.
The Archery Association of India was itself suspended by World Archery last August over warring factions carrying out parallel elections in defiance of the guidelines. The sport was being managed by a transitory committee and in accordance with the Delhi High Court order fresh elections took place this year, with Union minister Arjun Munda coming to power. The ministry and the court would have to accept the result of the elections following which the federation will be offered recognition as a national sports federation.
What may have, however, emerged from this hullabaloo and the CGF's willingness to hastily agree to a secondary venue and harness itself to the programme is the message that arm-twisting is more welcome than abhorred and a sense of devaluation of the idea of the Games itself.