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IOC seeks pathway to let Russians compete at Paris Olympics

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The IOC made clear Wednesday it wants Russians to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics as neutral athletes, in defiance of Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s call to exclude them entirely.

Citing a “unifying mission” during a time of war, the International Olympic Committee said no athlete should face discrimination based only on the passport they held.

“A pathway for athletes’ participation in competition under strict conditions should therefore be further explored,” the IOC said in a statement published after an executive board meeting.

IOC president Thomas Bach did not hold his usual news conference after the meeting.

Russia was not directly condemned in the statement though athletes who have been “actively supporting the war in Ukraine” face being excluded from the Paris Olympics that open in 18 months’ time, the IOC said.

The IOC cited the example of Yugoslavians competing at the 1992 Barcelona Games — as “independent athletes” while the nation was under United Nations sanctions during a civil war.

The willingness of Olympic leaders to involve Russia and its military ally Belarus is likely to be met with dismay and anger in Kyiv.

Zelenskyy addressed the issue Tuesday after speaking with French president Emmanuel Macron, who helped campaign for the Paris Olympics when it was a bid candidate in 2017.

“I particularly emphasized that athletes from Russia should have no place at the Olympic Games in Paris,” Zelenskyy wrote on his Telegram account of his talks with Macron.

Russian Olympic Committee president Stanislav Pozdnyakov said in a statement later Wednesday that “the voice of common sense has been heard.”

“The priority for us remains the same — to secure the rights and interests of our athletes,” Pozdnyakov said.

The IOC board met to formalise a position after rounds of conference calls last week with global groups of Olympic officials, sports governing bodies, IOC members and athlete representatives.

Despite some pushback in those calls, including from the Ukrainian Olympic body, the IOC claimed Wednesday its stated aims were backed by a “vast majority” of those who took part.

Russians would be classed as “neutral athletes” and “in no way represent their state or any other organisation in their country,” the IOC said.

Russian athletes have not competed under their country’s name at any Olympics since the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games because of the fallout from a prolonged doping scandal.

While Russian athletes are banned from most international sports, tennis has been the highest profile example in the past 11 months of Russians continuing to compete without symbols of national identity such as flags and anthems.

However, tensions have flared at the Australian Open with provocative flags, chants and t-shirts in support of players from Russia advancing to the semifinals this week.

The IOC noted Wednesday that its advice was to prevent such displays across “the entire venue.”

One point raised in Ukraine as a sensitive issue is that some Russian athletes are funded and supported by the military and have been awarded ranks.

The Olympic statement suggested responsibility would lie with individual sports governing bodies to ensure that any Russian athlete supporting the war is removed from competition, suspended and reported to the IOC for further action.

One possible route for Russians trying to qualify for Paris is competing in Asia rather than Europe where they would face boycotts and hostility from other athletes.

The IOC said it “welcomed and appreciated the offer from the Olympic Council of Asia,” though did not commit yet to the plan.

The Olympic body did also call on sports bodies to strengthen “full and unwavering commitment to solidarity with the Ukrainian athletes” preparing for the Paris Games. (AP)

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A ₹724 crore boost in union sports budget

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In the year of the Asian Games and qualifications for the 2024 Paris Olympics, the union sports budget saw a significant jump in allocation on Wednesday. The sports ministry has been allocated 3397.32 crore for 2023-24 – an increase of 723.97 crore from the previous fiscal. The budget for the previous financial year was 3062.60 crore (revised: 2673.35cr).

The Asian Games, postponed last year due to Covid, are due to be held in Hangzhou, China from September 23-October 8. India’s elite athletes have also started preparing for various Olympic qualification events.

Also Read | Sai Praneeth, Kiran George in men’s singles second round in Thailand Open

The allocation for National Sports Federations (NSFs) and Sports Authority of India (SAI) have gone up. Assistance to NSFs has been increased to 325 crore from 280 crore in 2022-23.

SAI has been allocated 785.5 crore, an increase from last year’s revised budget of 749.43 crore. It was originally allocated 653 crore in the last financial year. SAI oversees the preparation of national teams, manages national camps, provides infrastructure and other facilities to athletes besides appointing coaches, including foreign experts.

A big chunk of the sports budget will go for government’s flagship programme, Khelo India. It gets 1,000 crore, an increase of 400 crore from the revised allocation of 600 crore set aside for it in the previous budget. Under the scheme, Khelo India Youth Games and Khelo India University Games are organised. It has become the platform for talent identification and nurturing through its various schemes. The budget for Khelo India has steadily risen since its inception in 2018.

A major allocation of 107.84 crore has been made for the National Sports University in Imphal. Set up in 2018, NSU is a first-of-its-kind institution which imparts studies in sports science and medicine, coaching, sports management and technology.

The National Centre of Sports Science and Research, under which financial assistance is given to medical colleges and Universities to develop centres of sports science and research, has been allocated 13 crore.

There has been a 10 crore dip in incentives to athletes, from 55 crore last year. To fight the doping menace, the National Anti Doping Agency has been allocated 21.73 crore. The National Dope Testing Laboratory in Delhi, whose accreditation was restored by the World Anti-Doping Agency in December, 2021, gets 19.50 crore. A National Anti-Doping Bill was passed last year to create a statutory body for regulating anti-doping activities in sports.

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Sai Praneeth, Kiran George in men’s singles second round in Thailand Open

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Indian shuttlers B Sai Praneeth and Kiran George advanced to the second round of the Thailand Open Super 300 badminton tournament with contrasting wins over their respective opponents on Wednesday.

Praneeth beat Mads Christophersen of Denmark 21-13 21-14 in a battle lasting 31 minutes. He faces Hyeok Jin Jeon of South Korea in second round.

George, on the other hand, staved off a tough challenge from Lee Chia Hao of Chinese Taipei before emerging 21-17 19-21 23-21 victorious. He is up against third seed Cheuk Yiu Lee of Hong Kong in the second round.

However, Sameer Verma, Priyanshu Rajawat and Mithun Manjunath lost their first round matches. While Verma suffered 14-21 16-21 defeat against sixth seeded Chinese Shi Feng Li, Rajawat lost to Kwang Hee Heo of South Korea 21-14 19-21 25-27 and Manjunath was beaten 18-21 12-21 by fifth seeded Kenta Nishimoto of Japan.

In women’s singles, Ashmita Chaliha beat compatriot Anupama Upadhyaya 21-16 21-19 to reach the second round where she will face sixth seed Line Hojmark Kjaersfeldt of Denmark.

The pair of Simran Singhi and Ritika Thaker lost to sixth seeded Sheng Shu and Shu Xian Zhang of China 8-21 10-21 in the women’s doubles.

In mixed doubles, Rohan Kapoor and Sikki Reddy beat Canadian pair of Ty Alexander Lindeman and Josephine Wu 21-11 21-16 to enter the second round. But the pair of B Sumeeth Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa lost to fourth seeded Indonesian pair of Rehan Naufal Kusharjanto and Lisa Ayu Kusumawati 11-21 17-21.

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Djokovic played Australian Open with 3cm tear in hamstring, says Tiley | Tennis News

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Novak Djokovic played with a three-centimetre (1.2 inches) tear in his hamstring during his run to a record-extending 10th Australian Open title, tournament director Craig Tiley said on Wednesday.

The Serbian, who suffered the hamstring injury en route to winning the warm-up title in Adelaide, won the season-opening major after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday’s final for a men’s record 22nd Grand Slam title, matching Rafa Nadal’s haul.

“This guy I did see, he had a three-centimetre tear in his hammy,” Tiley told SEN Sportsday. “Absolutely (I saw the scans), the doctors are going to tell you the truth.

“There was a lot of speculation about whether it was true or not, it’s hard to believe that they can do what they do with those kinds of injuries.

“He’s remarkable, to deal with it extremely professionally.”

Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic said after the final that the world number one battled the injury, which would have forced most players to quit.

“He’s so focused on everything he does, with every single minute of the day,” Tiley added. “That’s what he eats, what he drinks, when he does it, how he does it.

“There’s no breakdown or mental breakdown in anything that he does. He’s been through a lot and to win 10 Australian Opens, I don’t think that’s ever going to be repeated… He’ll hold a significant place in the history of the Australian Open.”

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