IPL blocks all roads to Beijing Olympics

Published: Friday, February 22, 2008, 3:35 [IST]
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Bangalore: With franchisees and sponsors pumping money into IPL, it's other sports in the country who are going to feel the heat, believe many in Indian sports fraternity. According to them the money that would have gone to the sponsorship of athletes participating in Beijing Olympics will now flow to BCCI's Twenty20 tournament.

The cricket extravaganza initiated by world second richest sports governing body will get underway on April 18 and if speculations are to be believed, it's going to be the most lucrative sports event in India.

World billiards champion Geet Sethi, a promoter of a sports fund dedicated to funding athletes with potential of winning India a first individual Olympic gold medal, voiced his concern in a newspaper article on Thursday.

"The fanatical obsession called cricket has just joined hands with the film world to create a new pastime (I consciously refrain from calling it sport) where it will gain even further visibility and media hype fuelled by both cricket and Bollywood," Sethi wrote.

"This in turn will almost certainly divert sponsorship which could have gone to disciplines with a genuine chance of winning India that Olympic gold."

Lalit Bhanot, secretary of India's athletics body, believes the IPL will impact other disciplines in the long run.

"Sponsors will like to partner the premium cricket league for visibility," he was quotted as saying by Reuters. "It will no doubt affect all other sports in terms of funding."

"This fantastic success of cricket packaging is being played out at a time when our Olympic medal hopes, who will pit their skills against the best in the world in only five months at Beijing, are starved of funds," Sethi said.

"But pragmatism lies in understanding and accepting that we live in an unequal world," he added.

Despite being the world's second most populous nation, India has only won four individual medals in Olympic history since they sent their first official team to the Summer Games in 1928.

India's medal hopes for the August games are in shooting, where they have several prospects led by Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore who won a silver four years ago.

A mix of athletes from archery, boxing, athletics, wrestling and swimming have already qualified for the Games while a few more are hoping to make it.

Most of the athletes are finding in difficult to put together a budget for training and international competition in preparation for the games.

"I would like to say many things, but things don't matter in India," Reuters quotted Rathore as saying. "I'd rather conserve my energy."

with inputs from Agencies

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