The Sports Authority of India (SAI) released a 45-page Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on Thursday, laying out the protocols for resumption of sport in India after an almost two-month lockdown due to Covid-19.
Union sports minister Kiren Rijiju announced that sports facilities are open again. “Khelo India Phir Se. All stadia and sports complexes are open again. However health of athletes and other stakeholders comes first. A detailed SOP has been prepared to ensure that,” he tweeted.
A six-member SAI panel headed by secretary Rohit Bharadwaj has framed the guidelines. It has drawn from various documents including The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) Framework for Rebooting Sport in a COVID-19 Environment. The Australian guidelines were mentioned in a HT report on May 7.
“The SOP incorporates the best practices being followed across the world and is customised to the Indian context,” Bharadwaj said while releasing the SOP. “The committee went through all the possible aspects of starting sports activity and submitted its report to the government; (it) has approved the SOP based on the report.”
Respective state governments must be consulted while resuming activities. “It is meant for all the stakeholders—athletes, coaches, support staff, admin staff. We have tried to cover all. Everything should be done in consideration with local authorities,” he said.
He did not say when training will resume at SAI centres. Athletes at the Patiala and Bengaluru centres have been in isolation since the lockdown began on March 25. A coach in Patiala said there has been no official word on resuming training. “I thought there will be some indication during the SOP release,” he added.
The SOP lists permitted activities in 11 sports—athletics, hockey, weightlifting, archery, badminton, boxing, cycling, fencing, shooting, wrestling and table tennis.
It also mentions restrictions. In athletics, use of the high jump/long jump/triple jump/pole vault pit is permitted only if available for personal use. Baton exchange is barred during relay training. Tackling is prohibited in hockey while badminton training is restricted to singles to ensure social distancing.
In boxing, sparring and even use of the ring won’t be allowed. Only skill training using personal bags will be allowed, adhering to minimum social distancing of 2 metres. Wrestlers will have to use personal dummies (name tagged) for sparring, one wrestler per mat at a time. “Mats/dummies to be sanitised pre and post every use and human sparring of any form or contact is prohibited,” says the SOP. Shooters can do dry and live training with alternate gap (in the range) but there shall be no equipment or ammunition sharing.
Athletes, chief coach as well as the respective national federations must sign consent forms acknowledging the risks associated with the resumption. “All activities should be consistent with the government guidance regarding health, social distancing and hygiene,” it says.
The SOP also provides for quarantine facilities, for existing and new/returning athletes and staff in a building separate from the hostel.
A Covid task force, which will include the chief coaching staff from every federation, shall be constituted at each training centre to guide and monitor the trainees and staff. “The centre-in charge is the ex-officio chairman of the task force and is responsible for overall implementation of protocols outlined in this SOP,” it says.