Birmingham. The absence of a shooting event will make it difficult for India to finish in the top five at the Commonwealth Games but the organizers of Birmingham 2022 will try to organize a successful sports tournament after challenging preparations. These games will start with the opening ceremony to be held at Alexander Stadium on Thursday evening. These games are organized on a large scale but are struggling to stay relevant. Britain is hosting the multi-discipline event for the third time in 20 years as the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) has been unable to attract new bidders from among the 56 countries due to cost constraints associated with the Games. These countries are part of the sports body. Although there are 72 members in the CGF, they belong to these 56 countries only.
Birmingham was also a late addition to the bid for the 2022 edition after South Africa expressed its inability to host it in 2017. “We need to make these Games more affordable and take them to cities that haven’t hosted them before,” said Ian Reid, chief executive of Birmingham 2022. These are going to be the biggest and most expensive sports tournaments in Britain. However, despite dealing with the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, these Games budget 778 million pounds have been made so far.
This amount needs to be reduced for smaller countries interested in bidding for the event. India is still far away from becoming a ‘sporting superpower’ but the Commonwealth Games is proving to be a good medal-winning tournament for the sportspersons of the country, which is one of the largest among the Commonwealth countries. India has been among the top five since the 2002 edition, with the country’s heaviest reliance on shooting, which was controversially dropped from the events at the Birmingham Games.
Four years ago, India won a total of 66 medals in the Gold Coast Games, in which 25 per cent contribution was from the shooters and seven gold medals were won in this game. The big question is that how will India be able to make up for the absence of the shooting event? Weightlifting, badminton, wrestling and table tennis are expected to garner a good number of medals, but these may not make up for the lack of medals due to the absence of the shooting event.
In athletics, India has won only 28 medals in the 72-year history of the event and this time the country is expected to be the best in this event but Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra has suffered a setback due to injury at the last minute. World Championship bronze medalist long jumper Anju Bobby George also agreed, saying, “He was the captain of the athletics team, it will have a big impact but the athletes are focused on their work.” The absence of shooting event will put us at a disadvantage but it can be compensated to some extent by winning seven-eight medals in athletics.
Anju is hopeful of a medal in events like women’s javelin throw, long jump, while some players of the team were found to have failed the dope test. Sekar Dhanalakshmi and Aishwarya Babu had to withdraw from the 36-member squad after failing dope tests. Many medals are expected in wrestling. All 12 participants are medal hopefuls, with gold medal hopes from defending champions Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia. In Gold Coast, wrestlers won 12 medals including five gold.
In weightlifting too, four years ago, nine medals including five gold came and they would like to repeat the same performance. This team will be led by Olympic silver medalist Mirabai Chanu. Badminton players, led by superstar PV Sindhu, are expected to win medals in the women’s singles, men’s singles, men’s doubles and mixed team events. Other stars in the team are World Championship medalists Kidambi Srikanth and Lakshya Sen.
Hockey will be the most important sport from India’s point of view and both the men and women players will be looking to make amends for the disappointment of the last Gold Coast edition in which they returned home empty-handed. After a historic bronze medal performance at the Tokyo Olympics last year, the Indian men’s team will look to end the Australian dominance while the women’s team will also try hard to finish in the top three.
In table tennis, India topped the medal table by winning eight medals in Gold Coast, out of which four medals were won by Manika Batra alone. Although it will be difficult to match that performance, but still there is hope of at least two gold medals. India’s veteran Achant Sharath Kamal will compete in his fifth and final Commonwealth Games and will be looking to repeat the singles gold he won 16 years ago.
The boxers got nine medals in the previous edition and they will make a big contribution to the medal tally this time too. While Amit Panghal will be eager to shake off a disappointing campaign at the Tokyo Olympics, Olympic bronze medalist Lovlina Borgohain will be looking to bounce back from the World Championship disappointment. All eyes will be on the performance of the current world champion Nikhat Zareen. Squash will be looking for its first medal in the singles category at the non-Olympic Games. There are possibilities of two gold medals in mixed doubles and women’s doubles.
FIRST PUBLISHED : July 27, 2022, 17:08 IST